Show Daddy Your Muscles

I read the story that follows at Ruby’s viewing. Friday, July 19, 2013, would have been her sixth birthday, and I thought sharing it again would be a fitting tribute to her.

The words I am about to read are the most important ones I will ever share, so please bear with me. First, thank you all for being here with us tonight. Our family is heartbroken. Ruby was Mary’s whole world, and she demonstrated that every day. When Roo was about a year and a half old, she had a bout with pneumonia and Mary spent something like 60 straight days sleeping in a chair at Children’s Hospital.

Ruby’s grandfather, Paul, had one of the most unique relationships with her that I have ever seen between grandparent and grandchild. They spent every Monday evening together taking walks, going to the park, and eating ice cream. Everyone who knew Roo and spent time with her is hurting, and many who didn’t know her are hurting because they know us and feel our pain.

But in some ways, this is the easy part. We're surrounded by family and friends and enveloped in their love as they grieve with us. A few days from now, when everyone returns to the normal routines and there are too many quiet hours for those closest to Roo to sit and reflect, filling the immense void will get even harder. So I ask that you continue to keep us in your prayers next week and next month and next year and maybe forever.

Now, I would like to tell you a little about Ruby. Though she died of pneumonia, and had a couple bouts with it, she was anything but a sickly child. Yes, she was tiny – the smallest child in her kindergarten class by far – but all who knew her will confirm her outsized personality. She was full of energy and life, running around with a huge smile on her face and exhausting all of us with her passion for spending time with her family and friends. Her Aunt Toni commented to me that when you looked at Ruby you could see her spirit glowing. And you could. I once saw her wake her uncle Paul up before seven on a Saturday morning by enthusiastically running to the couch where he was sleeping while carrying his guitar and plopping it on his prone body. The sun was up and Roo was ready for a song!

My favorite story about my relationship with my little girl also happens to be the one I think captures her spirit best. I pulled it from an email exchange with a friend a couple weeks ago.

My Friend: How's fatherhood? Still spending tons of time with your daughter while she's still very young? It will change big time, probably when she goes to high school. It sure did with my two. Make the absolute most of the young years. And have a few trips to Disneyworld. Some of the best memories I have of my daughters are from Florida.

My Response: I love being a dad! My peanut is so cute and she's my best little buddy. We do all kinds of stuff together. She's a little behind her peers and not quite ready to fully enjoy Disney, but I actually saved an email you sent me a few years ago that advised us to go there. Don't worry; we will in a year or two! Tonight we'll go to the park to swing and go down the slide. I actually do the slide with her. Then we'll get ice cream. Of course, I partake of that as well! Finally, I'll give her her bath, put her in her jammies, and snuggle her to sleep.

When I'm undressing her and she's standing there without her shirt on, she doesn't have an ounce of muscle. She's just a cute little cylinder topped with a big round head and perpetual cheesy grin. She's about the same circumference all the way around with spindly little arms dangling from that torso. But, she's a show-off like her dad with a twinkle in her eye. So when I say, "Roo, show daddy your muscles," she enthusiastically does her best double biceps pose – her little hands flop straight to her shoulders because she doesn't really have any muscle mass to get in the way – and tops it off with a cute little growl like a pro wrestler!

That was the end of the email. Now, I’ll add the part of the story that occurred in the Emergency Room on Friday, May 10, 2013. Mary was sitting on the hospital bed, and Roo was sitting between her legs, reclining against her chest. Mary was holding an oxygen mask over Roo’s nose and mouth to help her breathe. The doctors had made the decision to intubate her and put her on the ventilator. Of course we all hated to see this step, and hadn’t seen such drastic measures since her hospitalization as a baby, but we agreed it would be the best and fastest way to help her. I walked to the side of the bed, tears streaming down my cheeks, leaned over my little angel, kissed her precious forehead, and said, “Roo, show daddy your muscles.” My beautiful peanut lifted the back of her hand, shoved the mask out of the way, and did a perfect double biceps pose complete with her signature growl. Everyone in the ER paused to laugh for just a second in the midst of this crisis. Ruby’s last conscious act was one of strength, courage, hope, and most of all, love. I love her. I'll love her forever.

Celebrating Grandad's Birthday!
Best Buddies
Impromptu Concert with Elvis
The Pick Uncle Paul Used to Play "King of the Road" and "Rainbow Connection" at her Funeral
Church Day!
Crash Those Cymbals, Mimi!
West Virginia Friends :)
Meow... Halloween Cat Ears with Mommy
First Day of School
Silly Together
Touch Heaven, My Angel


  1. That's beautiful, Chuck. Well done.

  2. Just read this again, gathering my strength first. Thinking of you every few days, wondering how you are. If you want to get away, Pat and I have a cool guest room (cool by temperature, I mean) and a few decent restaurants. We'd love to see you!

  3. Can't help but read this every few weeks. Thanks for sharing such a touching story. Punches me in the gut every time, and makes me so thankful for Kaitlyn.

    1. Thanks so much, Adam. I was thrilled to meet your little girl yesterday. She is beautiful.