I hope, if you live in Fort Stockton, you already know. If not, it is with great sadness I must tell you Matthew Quiroz, 10 years old, laid down the heavy burden of his third and final battle with cancer early Sunday morning.
I will let your religious bent tell you what is next, but every faith I’ve ever known believes God is holding him in His arms now, protecting him eternally, with no more hurt or sorrow—that Matthew finally rests in peace.
Our police department escorted him home, with helicopters overhead to honor his life. His obituary is here in the paper, and I will let those who loved him most tell you of his life, because it should be celebrated, it should be shouted.
I did not get a chance to meet Matthew—like many, I thought I’d have time. I did not. So I can’t tell you about him from my own experience.
What I can tell you is that, like so many, I have never been prouder of the people of Fort Stockton than I was the day you welcomed Matthew home.
All he thought he would see was his brother and sister’s baseball games, but what he saw first was you. Standing in the streets, holding up signs, waving, cheering, and shouting his name. Men, women, children, without thought to race or culture or creed, embracing him with your smiles, flooding his fleeting moments with happiness.
The tears are making it hard to write—but I’ll leave you with a couple thoughts. First, hug your children, whatever age they are, and know how blessed you are that you still have them in your life.
And for the Quiroz’s and anyone who has lost a child, the tears are for you, and the grief you carry. No one should have to bury a child—there is no justice in this kind of loss.
For the rest of you, now you know that we are this kind of town, it’s up to you to carry that legacy forward. For those now serving as mayor, city council, county commissioners, and every public servant, help us preserve and defend what Matthew left behind.
And for those who’ve never stood up to make this city better, it’s time.
To honor Matthew, we left two columns of blank space in our print version. Newspapers do not ever leave blank spaces. It is something we’re taught in J-school. Space is money. White space in a newspaper makes editors’ teeth hurt.
That empty space symbolized many things to us. The gaping hole left in the hearts that loved him. An indrawn breath, so hard to release. But most of all, it is our way of observing a moment of silence for Matthew.
And it is to honor those who loved him so much.
Finally, and forever, it’s also for this city.
Matthew held up a mirror to Fort Stockton, and for a far too few, brief moments, we saw ourselves as a strong, joyful and generous place. A place where all children are valued and loved, treasured, supported.
I’m thinking out loud that we are so much richer to have had him in our lives, and infinitely poorer for his loss.