We don’t often go out when it’s dark outside…especially in the winter. I appreciate that all my children are safely tucked in their beds at 8 p.m. every night. I know this will not be the case forever, but it is a comforting feeling right now.
There have been a few occasions since we moved into our new house (almost a month ago) that we have been out after dark. For example, my oldest daughter has Daisies on Tuesday. When we were driving home from Daisies two weeks ago, my daughter, Gianna, noticed this orange O at the house right next door. “Look Mom! Our neighbors left their Christmas lights on and it looks like an orange halo (she had just learned this word at kindergarten)…SO pretty!”
I sighed and felt sad inside. I knew it was time to tell her. This orange O burns brightly in our neighborhood every night. It is to honor Owen Cole Brezitski, the 8-year-old boy who was lived there and was killed almost two years ago on March 17, 2011 while crossing the street with his parents…in the crosswalk…after his sister’s music show at the local Catholic high school. The driver was a distracted teenager.
I did not know the Brezitski family then. Although Owen attended Holy Name of Jesus, where Gianna attends school, Gianna was only 4-years-old when he died. I grieved with the rest of Harrisburg though, and I have prayed for their family daily for the past two years. I never imagined that we would someday be neighbors (as in the house right next door)! By all accounts, Owen was an amazing child. He was preparing to make his first Holy Communion.
So, I told Gianna about Owen. She was sad and she had a lot of questions, but they were mostly about heaven. She told her 5-year-old brother Joseph the next day, so he knows about Owen too. My other kids are too young to understand.
The other day we were passing Owen’s house (which we must do in order to go anywhere!), and Joseph said, “God help Owen!” I told him that was nice, but what did Owen need help for? “He needs help to come back to his family,” Joseph said. I loved that. I told him that Owen can’t come back, but he can say, “Pray for me, Owen! Help your family, Owen!”
I had my own scare with Joseph last year. I was 8-months pregnant, and I was moving a little slower than usual. I picked him up from his preschool classroom and was headed for the door with my children. All of a sudden, Joseph rushed ahead and made a mad dash for the door…and didn’t stop…right out the front door of the school. He definitely knew better!
Next thing I know, I heard commotion and another mom leading Joseph back into the school…sobbing and terrified. There were a bunch of moms gathered at the door to tell me what happened. With my heart in my throat, I listened to how Joseph was very nearly hit by a black SUV backing onto the sidewalk. Yes, the vehicle was backing onto the sidewalk. Joseph should not have left the building without me (and he hasn’t done it since!), but he stayed on the sidewalk…where he was almost hit.
The man who almost hit him was notorious for parking wherever he felt like it. Earlier that year, he had blocked me into my parking spot by parking illegally behind me. Thankfully, the moms who witnessed this called the preschool director who took it seriously. When we returned to school the next day, there were cones and signs to ensure no one parked on the sidewalk…or anywhere illegal. I felt so grateful that steps were taken to ensure that this should not happen again.
I still see the father who drives that black SUV at school almost daily. I still cannot make eye contact with him. Ironically, Joseph likes to run around with his kids sometimes. I just pray silently when I see him.
I remember the myriad of emotions that came over me the day that Joseph was almost hit. In fact, they all came rushing back when my baby Lucy fell down the basement stairs last week (thank God, she was completely fine). I immediately turn to God in these situations as it hits me over the head (again) that I am not as in control as I’d like to think. And, these precious children are His…only on loan to me. I sometimes question whether it was wise to have so many children so close together…I am only one person, after all, trying to keep five young children safe. But then, I remind myself (again)…they are His children, and He never leaves me alone with them (and He even gave them their very own guardian angel!).
Though still in great pain, Owen’s family has moved forward by creating a wonderful foundation in his honor. It is called Owen’s Foundation, and the information can be found at orange4owen.org (orange was Owen’s favorite color). The mission is to promote safe driving. Vehicles all over Harrisburg (and many other places as news of their foundation spreads), including my minivan, sport the Orange for Owen bumper stickers (Slow Down, Be Alert, Save A Life!) as a daily reminder of our obligation behind the wheel.
I am sad that we did not meet Owen. But, I pray for his intercession every time we pass that orange O. Maybe he can, by his prayers, help me watch over my children! God, please bless the Brezitski’s as they approach Owen’s “Second Heaven” date, and please comfort all families who have lost children. Amen.
Copyright 2013 Trish Bolster