New York's Irish American community rallies around an ordinary boy in an extraordinary way.

A few days ago I read a column in the Irish Central online version. The author Niall O’Dowd said it was the hardest column he had ever written. Upon reading it, myself in tears I knew why.  He wrote of coming to the United States, of his brother in law, sister and nephew following him from Ireland. Of the family settling, at full thrust into the American way of life, forever loving their Irish roots.

The star of his life was Rory his 12 year old nephew. Uncle Niall wrote that Rory was more of a son than a nephew. On weekends he would “steal” him from his parents  and the two had grand adventures.

Rory was a popular lad. The many pictures of him showed a red haired boy surrounded by friends. Pictures of an ordinary boy doing ordinary things living an exquisitely ordinary life.

Rory died in a New York hospital on Sunday last. Toxic bacteria attacked his body through an scrape on the elbow received at a basketball game.

Over 1,200 attended the funeral, so many in fact that they stood outside watching the ceremony via an outdoor viewing link.

Many in the crowd adults and adolescents were weeping. Rory’s parents were “distraught” almost unable to walk,in their grief. The funeral was held at St.Mary’s. The church was built in 1860. Generations of Irish worshipped, prayed, married, and were buried out of that same church. Rory Staunton was the latest.

What brings out ordinary strangers to the funeral of an ordinary boy in New York City of all places, famous for so many things, (perhaps wrongly) not usually kindness?

In that same New York City Rory had attended his friends’ bar mitzvahs.  Rory’s Jewish friends helped trim the Christmas tree. His uncle said that “the place is an anti-Semite's nightmare”. 

Rory’s father, Ciaran remembered how Rory had excelled at the local non-denominational school. It provided him an education that opened intellectual windows on the world. He found a letter Rory wrote to the North Korean government. Rory demanded that they explain their hideous policies. He eulogized his son as his “pal” and his “co-conspirator”. They were inseparable. His mother Orlaith often found loving notes Rory left for her around the home. His sister, Kathleen struggled to understand and cope.

The entire community, regardless of creed or denomination rallied around the stricken family.  Their beloved Rory was dead and according to his uncle, the funeral would be “a day of sorrow with no peace or joy.”

Yet at the conclusion of the ceremony, in the midst of shared unabashed grief where the Irish and American community stood shoulder to shoulder with a family in grief, and through the rituals and prayers of the church they felt uplifted if not comforted.

Rory’s earthly remains will be taken “home” to be buried besides his beloved grandmother in Drogheda, Ireland on Easter Monday.

Uncle Niall hopes “Ireland and family there will work its magic, as if often does, and ease their pain”.  We pray that for you too and Ciaran, Orlaith, Kathleen and Niall.

Rest in peace Rory. I thank Uncle Niall and Irish Central for sharing you with us.

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