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Sunday, April 17, 2011

A gift from Joaquin Benito Ruiz

In January I attended the funeral of a six-year-old boy named Joaquin Benito Ruiz.

I didn't know him, but his mom used to be my sister-in-law. And his sister is my niece.

Joaquin died of complications from congenital heart disease, but he had other problems too--problems with long names that I can't pronounce or remember--and he actually lived three years longer than expected.

As soon as I showed up at the funeral I immediately fell in love with Joaquin and his family. Joaquin's many brothers and one sister (my niece) touched me deeply as I watched them gathered around his casket, stroking his hair lovingly. And longingly. The image of it lingers with me even three months later, as do the life lessons I scribbled down on a piece of yellow card stock during the service.

The funeral felt like a spiritual eye opening somewhere in the corners of my heart. My sister and her husband, who lost a child 12 years ago, agreed and later said it was life changing for them.

Joaquin's father gave such a beautiful tribute to his little's boy's life, that I dug into my purse for a pen and paper to write down the poignant insights to share here on The Magic Quilt with those of you who have lost your own children.

I have been wanting to record my experience at the funeral, but somehow, somewhere the yellow card disappeared into thin air. I searched high and low for weeks, but to no avail. Finally yesterday I said a silent prayer, asking God to please, please help me find the yellow card so I wouldn't lose those comforting messages. And then I stopped searching.

Later in the day I started moving some bookshelves around and transferring books from shelf to shelf. Just as I was completing the project, the yellow card fell from one of the books and landed at my feet.

I wasn't surprised.

Allow me to briefly share exactly what I jotted down during the funeral. (I promise to expound on these ideas at a later date):

1. From death we learn about life.

2. You haven't lost a child, you've gained a guardian angel.

3. A touched heart is not a changed heart.

4. Sometimes you have to break a heart to change it.

5. Some souls don't come here to learn, but to teach.

The most powerful message came when Joaquin's father talked about how stunned and discouraged he and his wife were after the sonogram revealed his son's physical deformaties. They prayed to God saying, "Lord, this wasn't supposed to happen to us!"

Six years later, after loving and losing Joaquin, they have changed their prayer to "THANK YOU, Lord, for allowing this to happen to us."

Love is never wasted or lost. No matter how fleeting.

Even the most painfully fleeting moments of loving, and being loved in return, are abundant blessings.

I wrote down a quote by Winnie the Pooh, that was framed and displayed among all the family pictures at the funeral. It felt like a direct and personal (yet universal) message from Joaquin:

If ever there is a time when we're not together, there is something you must always remember; you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think, but the most important thing is that, even if we're apart, I'll always be with you.

I am going to ask Joaquin's parents to donate some flannel in his honor to our magic baby quilt.

(By the way, I am still receiving fabric from mother's who have lost children and will continue posting photos throughout this week.)


Amanda said...

chicken skin and sweating eyes...Thanks :)

Amy said...

I wept as I read this.

sariqd said...

Do you need help with this project? I'll gladly help in any way I can.