Katie McQuaid's Scene in Manchester: Parents share what 'CJ' taught them
March 16. 2014 9:20PM
The following "Lessons Learned" were written by Drs. John and April Kosinski. Please read them and then I will share their story.
1. Life is not about the past or the future — it is all about maximizing the present moment.
2. People are inherently good, thoughtful and loving and want to help.
3. No matter how bad you think you have it, someone is going through something worse.
4. Routines have a place in your life to maintain order, but don't get so caught up in them that you forget to stop and smell the roses (even if that's not on your to-do list).
5. God doesn't necessarily answer your prayers the way you want them answered. He answers them according to the plan He has for your life.
6. Opposites exist in this world in order to give you perspective. As an example, you cannot experience pure joy without having experienced deep sorrow.
7. Human beings have a deep sense of community and will help take care of each other when the chips are down.
8. It's not about how tall you are, how handsome or beautiful you may be, how rich you become, or how long you live. It's all about how many lives did you have a positive impact on while you were here.
9. Family bonds are stronger than steel! Forge those bonds every day and nothing can destroy you.
10. You are stronger than you think you are. There is literally nothing in your life that can defeat you if you just keep taking ONE more step.
I met Drs. John and April Kosinski when they first opened East Coast Chiropractic on Elm Street. My life eventually got too busy for chiropractic care, but I kept up with the Kosinskis and their growing family through Facebook. The couple had their first child, Kayla, four years ago, followed by Cameron John "CJ" 9 months ago.
CJ died on Feb. 23 after a sudden and unknown illness. John and April posted these "Lessons Learned" to Facebook 12 days later.
If you are a Facebook user, there is a good chance you have come across the Kosinskis' "Lessons Learned" or one of the many other Facebook posts about their family's heart-breaking but beautiful journey over the last two months. Their words of sadness and celebration — wonderful reminders of how short and precious life is — have been read, shared, and re-shared by friends and strangers all over Manchester and beyond. Parents, especially, are slowing down, putting down their phones and spending more quality time with their children.
The Boston Burrito
In early January, the Kosinskis shared with their Facebook networks that CJ — affectionately called "The Boston Burrito" — had suddenly stopped breathing and had been rushed to the ICU at Elliot Hospital.
About a month later, when doctors here still couldn't figure out what was wrong, they carefully transported him and all his life-sustaining machines to Boston Children's Hospital in hopes that specialists there could solve the mystery. They couldn't. John and April learned that CJ would never recover from the damage of this unknown illness. He died on Feb. 23, dressed as a king, with his loving parents by his side.
"Hospitals usually have people in a gown when they pass away but we told them we wanted him dressed as a king because he was going to meet the King of Kings shortly," they wrote.
I write about CJ and his family today because I am so grateful to them for being unafraid to share their story and incredible faith. Death, especially a child's death, can be a scary thing to talk about. But through John and April's words and pictures, we got to see how beautiful and purposeful CJ's life was, right up until the end.
I never met CJ, but his short life affected me in ways I can never properly put into words. April said writing was therapeutic. And because the doctors still had to keep their practice open throughout the ordeal, it helped answer their patients' many questions.
"I just wasn't in a state of mind to have someone ask me about my son in the ICU," she recently wrote to me. "Of course we thought CJ was still coming home. Little did we know that his condition continued to progress. We didn't know that we would end up chronicling his last days."
"Lessons Learned" was prefaced by John with this: "During the last two months April and I have continually said that this whole tragedy can't be just about the grief, that there had to be big lessons to be learned with CJ's illness. I'm not sure that they have all come to the surface yet, but here are 10 Lessons that I know my son CJ taught me."
One lesson the Kosinskis are certainly learning is how much love their community has for them. People they have never met are reaching out to them.
"I tell people that every 'like, comment, post, message, email, phone call, text, prayer, card, etc.' does not go unnoticed. We see all of them. My husband said that our friends and family and community are giving us the industrial strength glue to help piece us back together," wrote April.
In addition to emotional support, the Kosinskis need financial support. After suffering through the illness and loss of their precious baby boy, the self-employed couple is now left with the staggering medical bills from CJ's 50 days in intensive care.
A candlelight vigil at Livingston Park and fundraiser were held on March 8; new fundraisers to help the family with these costs are being planned every day. Here are a few coming up:
• On Wednesday, March 26, Murphy's Tavern is holding a Dine N' Donate event, donating a portion of proceeds earned from 4 to 7:30 p.m. to the Burrito Strong fund.
• On Saturday, April 5, there will be a community yard sale and silent auction from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the East Coast Chiropractic Parking lot at 1361 Elm St.
• On Monday, April 7, 900 Degrees is holding a Raising Dough for CJ event from 5 to 9 p.m.
• On Monday, April 21, Muse Paint Bar will donate a portion of the proceeds from that night to the fund.
If you are unable to attend any of these events, but still want to help, visit GoFundMe.com and search for Burrito Strong.
NH365.ORG Event of the Week
I cannot wait for this Thursday's Dancing with the Stars gala to benefit Manchester Community Music School. As a judge, I get a front-row seat to watch local "celebrities" show off the moves they have learned while training with professional dancers over the last few weeks.
It's not too late for you to get tickets. They are $75 for general admission and $100 for VIP status. A link to purchase tickets can be found at NH365.org or you can call 644-4548.
This year's celebrities are Cathy Schmidt, executive director and CEO at McLane Law Firm; Pubali Chakravorty Campbell, owner of Bikram Yoga Manchester; Alex Walker, senior vice president, operations and strategy at Catholic Medical Center; and Joe Graham, vice president/general manager, Clear Channel New Hampshire.The evening begins at 5:30 p.m. at the new student center at Manchester Community College, and includes a cash bar, food and auction. Music for the Broadway-themed night will be played by the NH Youth Jazz Ensemble conducted by Carl Benevides.
If you have an interesting item for Scene in Manchester, write to Scene@UnionLeader.com.