Dan Stringer

navigating the convergence of faith, culture and the common good

Introducing Vincent

November 20, 2014

As a parent, I love introducing my children to people. It’s one thing to tell others about my sons, but another thing to introduce them personally. The fun part for me is watching the interaction between my sons and my friends.

There’s a unique joy that comes from bringing worlds together, initiating connections between persons who are important in my life. Not only am I enriched by their interaction, I’m also liberated from the limits of my own words. I no longer need adjectives to describe my kids because their energy fills the room. Their presence says it all.

But how do you introduce a child who is no longer with us? What kind of interaction remains possible?

In the four years since Vincent died, we’ve made many new friends who never had the chance to meet him. And because he only lived 18 months, Vincent has many relatives (including a younger brother) who never got to meet him.

This is part of the heartache, part of the loss.

So allow me to introduce Vincent again, perhaps for the first time.

Vin the champVincent Wing Seun Stringer was born on Mother’s Day, May 10, 2009 at 8:41 am at Kapiolani Medical Center in Honolulu. Weighing 7 pounds, 7 ounces and measuring 20.5 inches, Vincent was born full-term after 8 hours of labor and was in perfect health.

Vincent is a name of Latin origin meaning “victorious” or “one who prevails.” His middle name, Wing Seun, means “eternal kindness” in Chinese. Over the course of his life, Vincent was affectionately known by a variety of nicknames including Vinnie, Vince, Vinnie Boy, Mr. Vin Vin and the Vinnamon Bun. Rebecca called him “pumpkin” and I often referred to him as “the good baby boy.”

Vincent took his first plane ride when he was five weeks old, visiting Tampa for Aunty Esther and Uncle Yoon’s wedding. He was extraordinarily well-behaved during the 12-hour flight and charmed his extended family. Despite some minor feeding and reflux issues, Vincent thrived during his first year. He went everywhere with Mommy including work, and many friends loved carrying him to be near his wrinkly-nosed smile.

One of Vincent’s favorite activities was playing a hair-pulling game with his big brother Theo, who would oblige by placing his head close to Vincent’s hands saying, “Vincent, here I am!” He also loved touch-and-feel books, especially Pat the Bunny, which required multiple copies to withstand the wear and tear of his love. Vincent enjoyed spending time with his three grandparents, three aunts and two uncles.

On May 6th, 2010,  a few days before his first birthday party, Rebecca was rubbing Vincent’s belly when she felt what seemed to be a lump. She brought him the next day to her trusted pediatrician. Vincent resisted the examining table and started to cry, which tensed his body and made it difficult to detect any anomaly. Rebecca was instructed to keep an eye on the area.

On May 16, a few days after the party, Rebecca was changing Vincent’s diaper when she noticed the lump had become a distinct bulge. Apparently, it had grown quickly in just a few days. Rebecca met immediately with a surgeon at Kapiolani Medical Center who ordered an ultrasound, confirmed the presence of a growth, and admitted Vincent as an inpatient.

An MRI showed a large tumor in Vincent’s liver, although his blood test results were negative for the most common type of liver tumor. Biopsy samples were sent around the country until it was finally determined to be an extra-renal rhabdoid tumor, extremely rare.

Vincent began chemotherapy in June 2010 and responded very well during the first several rounds. Always a little champion, he initially seemed to have even more energy than before! He crawled, stood up, played with trains, pulled his brothers’ hair, and even learned to say, “kitty.” Over the next three months Vincent continued to grow, eat well, and explore his world.

Vin with trainOne of his favorite things to do was to grab a toy and hand it to you. Then he’d grab another one and hand it to you.  Then he’d grab yet another toy and hand it to you. He was very giving. He loved to give Theo his toys, sometimes accidentally destroying a carefully placed train track in his eagerness to reach his brother.

Everything was on target for the tumor to be removed on September 7, 2010 However, it was discovered shortly beforehand through a CT scan, and confirmed through a biopsy, that the cancer had mutated into a chemo-resistant form, and had spread throughout his liver and to his lungs. 

Vincent’s final two months were filled with ups and downs. He had some good days; going to the beach, kicking the waves, digging his feet into the sand, and visiting Dolphin Quest. Vincent was fearless during his dolphin encounter, lunging directly into the water and petting Hoku the dolphin’s nose. Another highlight was a four-day trip with his parents to visit Bethel Church in Redding, CA.

Soon after returning home, Vincent began receiving morphine every day to lessen his pain. The tumor’s growth made it impossible for him to crawl, but he would still sit up in bed to read stories or play with his trains.

One night, he couldn’t sleep because his feeding tube was getting infected and itchy. Vincent surprised everyone by pulling the entire tube out of his nose, removing the only source of nutrition from his body. He was admitted back to Kapiolani and once there, his breathing became increasingly labored, with a CT scan showing considerable new growth in his tumors. 

By that point, Vincent had endured 6 rounds of chemo, had spent a total of 60 nights in the hospital, and had made 52 visits to the outpatient clinic. Vincent spent his last 11 days at home receiving hospice care. His final hours were filled with love from friends and family members, many of whom traveled great distances to be present.

On the evening of Saturday November 20th, 2010 at 8:25 pm, Vincent died peacefully at home, just after Rebecca had been holding him. As she put him down, God picked him up.

  • tpbaehr

    Beautifully written Dan. Thank you for introducing Vincent again. I wish we could have met him this side of eternity. Vincent has been on my mind recently with a friend here whose 2yo son has leukaemia and isn’t faring well. Thanks for your testimony. Much love from the Baehrs.

    • Thanks Peirce! So sorry to hear about your friend’s son. Blessings and love to your family.

  • heidi collins

    What a beautiful boy. I can’t imagine what it’s like to go through anything like this with one of your children. I pray for you guys and sure appreciate you sharing this with us. Vincent is such a sweetie-I know you guys must miss him so much. God be with you all-love and hugs from Heidi

    • Thanks Heidi for your kinds words. Blessings to you and the Collins family.

  • Sunita Puleo

    Tears for you at the loss of this beautiful baby boy. Thanks for the introduction. I look forward to meeting Vincent, this wonderful member of your family, on the other side.

    • Thanks so much Sunita! Your support means a lot.

    • Thanks so much Sunita! Your support means a lot.

  • ToddHiestand

    This was beautiful man. Looking forward to seeing you guys at Christmas.

  • Joy

    Oh Dan – what a gifted author. I have met Vincent. What a sweet little fellow.

    Something that people often say when they encounter the suffering of others is, “I can’t even imagine what you are going thru…..” Andrew and I disagree with that comment. Jude is just about 18 mo and we can imagine what it would be like. Albeit we can only imagine, the imagining brings waves of pain, tears and even a physical churning of my stomach. The pain of the imagining is sharp and awful and I want to turn away from the thoughts. But, as Randy Alcorn and Richard Foster write, God gave us an imagination that can be used for holy imaginings….and I think this is an instance where imagining can be just that.

    This sort of imagining can bring about deep empathy and compassion. It can bring life to the many Scriptures that talk of deep suffering and pain. Most importantly, it deepens prayer. Prayer for the aching family, prayer for the suffering child, prayer for protection of my children, humbling prayers to remind me that each hour with my children is a treasured gift….all sorts of heart felt prayers.

    We love you Stringers and we thank you for introducing Vincent to us.

    • Wow, Joy. Thanks for this! Your empathy and compassion is the kind that brings true comfort and hope… because you are willing to take the risk of imagining. Blessings to your amazing family.