The following was read yesterday at my nephew Liam‘s funeral service. Thank you for everyone that came to visit with our family. And thank you for all the emails and phone calls to show your love and support. Your words and hugs mean more than you’ll ever know.

Hello and on behalf of D and J, Tyler, and the rest of our family, I would like to sincerely thank each and every one of you for being here tonight.

The loss of a loved one is always a difficult thing to understand. The loss of an infant, a son … a grandson … a nephew is just about incomprehensible. This evening, we are here to try to make sense of such a thing.

When J asked me to say a few words tonight, I admit I was a little hesitant. However, I knew right away in my heart that this was something I had to do; not only for her and D, but for myself as well.

Liam was born on May 19th, 2007. He was born prematurely at 31 weeks and weighed 5lbs and 14oz. But despite the unexpected early arrival, Liam came out ready to live life. In fact, I told Janet that Liam was the perfect name for him. It was a strong Irish name, a fighting name. And that’s what Liam was … a fighter from day one.

Liam born with some imperfections such as a cleft lip and omphalocele, a birth defect in which a portion of the abdominal organs formed outside of the stomach. Nevertheless, to me (and to his mom and dad) he was the most beautiful baby in the NICU. Liam had the first of many procedures, only four days after his birth, to correct the omphalocele. It was one of the biggest that the hospital had ever seen and surgery was a success. He would return to the NICU and unknowingly be loved by all he touched. In fact, I remember one of the male respiratory therapists telling us that Liam was “the miracle baby,” as no one could believe how well he did during and after surgery.

Although he was making small gains here and there, Liam still was having difficulty breathing on his own. Every time they would wean him off the respirator, he would eventually need to be put back on it. After three months of this, J and D made the tough decision to have surgery to place a tracheostomy in the hopes that Liam would eventually grow out of it and be able to breathe on his own. It was to be the procedure that would eventually allow Liam to go home.

For a while afterwards, Liam was doing really well. We were all excited that he was becoming more and more active. He was able to sit up in a bouncy chair. He even started to take his feedings by bottle. On the days I would visit, I would even observe him “flirting” with the nurses and therapists.

And finally after three months of impatiently waiting, I was actually able to hold my nephew for the very first time.

Although I knew I loved him from the day he was born, the moment Liam looked up at me while in my arms with those beautiful brown eyes, I absolutely fell head-over-heels in love with Liam. Just by holding Liam, I could feel the strength that he had within him. I wanted so badly to bottle up this strength and use it for myself.

How could I not fall in love with him? How could anyone who ever came in contact with Liam not fall in love with him? The times I’ve been to the NICU, it was obvious that Liam was quite a popular baby. I jokingly told J and D that even at such a young age, Liam was quite the “Ladies Man.” All the nurses and therapists that I came in contact with just absolutely fawned and fussed over him. They would tell stories of how Liam was such a curious baby, staring at any activity or at any one who was around him with those big bright eyes. He was absolutely well loved and well taken care of by his nurses and therapists and doctors in the NICU.

Sadly, in the end Liam’s little body couldn’t withstand all the curveballs that was thrown his way. As I saw him in his crib this past Thursday, it was pretty visible that he was declining. His color was much paler than usual and he was definitely less active than I was used to seeing him. But despite that, I could still see him fighting to stay with us. His heart continued to beat strongly and his oxygen levels continued to fool us until he took his very last breath.

“Why?,” J asked me many times that day. “Why now? Why after all this time?” That is the incomprehensible thing that we are all still trying to understand.

Now I can’t answer this question for everyone. However, tonight I will give you my answer to that question:

God gave us Liam for this short period of time for a reason. He sent Liam here for four months so we could get to know him and love him. So we could experience his love and witness his excitement for life. But most of all, Liam was sent here to teach us strength… specifically the strength to go on despite adversity.

Tonight and tomorrow … and even during any milestone in life, we will all mourn the loss of Liam and what his life could have been. However, I do think that we should all take comfort knowing that, despite his short life, Liam lived life to the fullest and with all the strength that he had. And we should follow Liam’s lead and do the same.