Loving Rory

Not sure that I’ve ever written about this before.

My son Rory was due on July 18, 1991
one year
to the day
that his older sister Erin
His mom, 
my wife, 
“No way.
I will simply not have my second child
on the anniversary of the day that
my first child
And she didn’t.
Rory came into this wold
6 days later.
July 24, 1991.
I remember feeling
real or imagined
that some folks felt/hoped
that Trici and I were
“all better now”
thinking that Rory’s birth
would somehow erase
Erin’s death.
It did not.
Yes, I was happy that Rory had arrived safely
and in one piece
with all the right pieces
but oh was I sad too.
His presence made me miss Erin even more.
How would I do this?
How would I father my first-born son
while mourning the death of his older sister?

About a week or so after Rory’s birth
on a warm summer evening
Trici and I took him to the Olive Garden.
We knew the place would be air conditioned
so Trici brought an appropriate number of layers
to keep him warm in the restaurant
but cool outside and in the car.
As we were getting ready to pay our bill
Trici turned to me and asked me to feel Rory’s head
“He feels hot to me. Really hot.”
she said.
“What do you think?”
Always one to choose denial instead of reality
and with Erin’s death never far away
I said,
“He feels fine. He’s okay honey. We’ve nothing to worry about.”

There was no denying
once we got home
that he was burning up.
On fire.
Trici took his temperature
called his pediatrician
and within no time
we were in the hospital.
The same place we had initially brought Erin
a little more than a year before.
Same floor
similar room
familiar nurses.

How could this be happening?

Try as we did
it was impossible to stay calm.
We were living proof that life can change in an instant
and that children can die
Once the tests revealed that the temperature spike was due to a bladder infection
and that the appropriate meds would have him back to normal in no time
we were able to exhale.
And in a few days
get him back home.
“No big deal, Mr. and Mrs. Zuba. It happens all the time. Nothing to worry about.”

Until the same thing happened about a week later.
An unexpectedly high temperature
a frantic call to the pediatrician
a drive to the closest major medical center this time
and then we waited.
And waited some more.
His veins were so tiny
they had to stick his IV in his head
and fashioned a futuristic-looking hat for him to wear to keep the IV in place.

“We’re not sure what’s wrong Mr. and Mrs. Zuba.
We’ll have to run some more tests
and then some more tests.”

Standing in the hallway,
I spoke to my folks that night on the pay phone
(this was 1991 and pre-cell phones)
“This can not be happening all over again.
I simply will not survive if Rory dies.
I won’t survive.
This can not be happening again.”

And the next day
when the diagnosis
of a urinary reflux was in
and a treatment plan was described
and we knew this was manageable
and correctable
and that everything would be okay
Trici and I exhaled again.

And after a week’s stay in the hospital
we brought our son home

And it felt like Rory was saying to me,
“I need 100% of you here with me Daddy.
I know that Erin died.
I know that you are sad.
But I’m here now
and I need your full attention.
I need all of you.”

for me,
a shift occurred.

And the most amazing
“You Get to Be Rory Brennan Zuba’s Dad” began.

And while he was in his physical body it was all of that and more.
And those blessed to know him
during his 13 years on earth
know of what I speak.
And my prayer
and my intention
and my hope
is that the rest of the world
becomes a better place
because his work continues.
With and through us.

I will love you forever Rory.


  • This is just beyond beautiful, Tom. Thank you. Much love 💜💜

    Lynne Perras
  • Rory was blessed to have you, as his Dad, as you were blessed, to have him as your son. God bless you

    Bernie Iannotta
  • My daughter Dominique passed 2.16/19 she was just 21 a junior at uri nursing student she went to sleep
    And didn’t wake up they found nothing … I hear you speak
    And know I must go on my heart is shattered but I feel I need to help others because my faith is what I hold onto with all I have I send you much love and prayers for strength and thanks for doing what u
    You do because I need to know I’m
    Not alone!💕🙏

    Gina franco
  • Wonderful reflection Tom. My Mam and Dad , God rest them and all who were close to us and good to us, could have empathised with you.
    Love and best wishes from cousins across the Atlantic .

    Mortimer McInerney
  • wjile you were on live thursday Rory whispered to me to tell you he missed you!!

    Mary Quinn

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