"Where do you even start? Bear was a very energetic, very loving kid. Everything he did, he just had fun with it." - Patrick Brzozowski
When I asked Patrick and Stacy Brzozowski to describe their son, that's the first thing they said.
"He was always full of energy, constantly moving, on the go, doing stuff," Patrick said.
"Probably because he knew his life was short," Stacy said.
Bear is also known as Jacob Eli Brzozowski, but to anyone who knew him, he was just Bear, or Bear, born July 21, 2008.
That sweet, lovable, blond-hair, blue-eyed 4-year-old died April 16, leaving his parents and baby sister, Eva, with a loss that is just incomprehensible.
Bear was one of my son Henry's first friends. Henry and I met Stacy and Bear at Boob School, otherwise known as the Breastfeeding Support Group at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center.
Stacy and Bear and Laura Ames, with her son, Kevin, started Little Explorers, a group of friends who get together socially for all kinds of events - hikes, walks, trips or just play dates. I've been fortunate to be part of this group since it began, and to know such wonderful women and their children. Were it not for this group, Henry and I would not have some of the friends we do.
Patrick and Stacy don't know how Bear died. One week he was happy-go-lucky without a care in the world, and the next he was at University of Maryland Medical Center Pediatric Intensive Care Unit heavily sedated. He'd suffered seizures and his brain swelled. Test after test was done, but what caused that to happen is still a mystery. An autopsy was done, but it may never give Pat and Stacy the answers they're looking for.
But even if it did, they're not sure it would give them any closure.
Instead, they're focused on their memories of Bear.
They talk about how he loved trucks - monster trucks, dump trucks, little Hot Wheels or Matchbox trucks. It didn't matter. He even build his own.
He loved to ride his bike. By the time he was 3 1/2, he "took off on a two-wheeler," Stacy said. In a Chesapeake BMX race, he won second place in his first race and first place in just his second race.
He loved the game Rock Band, and the drums. And he always wanted to be outside, even if it was 50 degrees and raining.
And he was an amazing big brother, who was three years older than 18-month-old Eva.
"He loved his sister so much. Even though he could be rough with her, he always found a way to make her laugh," Patrick said.
"He shared everything with her, and now she's doing that," Stacy said.
"He taught her so much in those 18 months. He definitely lives on in her," Patrick said.
They're proud parents, proud of how many lives Bear touched in just a few years. So many people are offering help for the family, they're overwhelmed with pride that "he affected all these people who want to help."
"We're really moved by how many lives he actually touched. We never realized it until now. People are inspired by how we raised him," Patrick said. "I'm proud of what we accomplished with him."