Heidi's Blog

Tuesday, April 29, 2008, 10:21 AM ( 6 views )  - Posted by Heidi
It seems to have been a while since I felt like posting and letting everyone in. Life's seas have become turbulent filling my little boat up with water and I was busy bailing but, as always, the situation once again becomes manageable and I can see and feel the sun. I have been receiving so many e-mails from those who are also wondering when their storm will stop. So much pain over precious life lost and so much angst as they batten down the hatches and try to weather the storms fury. I can feel each and every one of their struggles and would gladly lend them my bucket any day. So today I post for Richie. This young man lost his life on a Rhino as well. Here is some of what his mother wrote me:

“I lost my 14 yr old son, Richie, on February 23 in an accident involving a Rhino. I am so sorry about what happened to J.T. I wanted you to know that his website is up all the time when I'm home and that you are truly an inspiration. Like you, I'm going to do whatever I can to spread the word about the dangers of ATV's… People ask me all the time "how are you doing today?" They don't understand that every second, every minute is a struggle. I can be "okay" one minute and on my knees the next. Take care of you and yours. Hang in there. God Bless You and Thank You.”

Tuesday, April 15, 2008, 10:32 AM ( 5 views )  - Posted by Heidi
As the stories of the victims of the Rhino pour in through my website, just as rapidly, they run through my mind. No longer nameless faceless stories that I have “heard” about. Every night as I lay in bed staring at my ceiling they come to me one by one obstructing my line of vision and introduced to me by my son. “ Hey Mom this is Dani. She’s Eighteen.” Or “Mom meet Richie. He’s new here.” I effortlessly match the names and faces to the story painfully told to me by a grieving family member. Knowing all to well the ache they feel being eternally separated from the one they love. These victims don’t speak to me but instead just stand there and consume me with the most spectacular features. Eyes always like clear panes of flawless glass that show the unimaginable beauty of the spirit or a smile that in it self speaks volumes. All collectively hoping that the strength and courage to make their community cease to grow lies within us. I no longer dread this parade of stolen souls because in time every story has become as personal to me as my own and every face as precious.

Monday, April 14, 2008, 05:57 PM ( 7 views )  - Posted by Heidi
Oft in the silence of the night, When the lonely moon rides high, When wintry winds are whistling, And we hear the owl's shrill cry, In the quiet, dusky chamber, By the flickering firelight, Rising up between two sleepers, Comes a spirit all in white.
A winsome little ghost it is, Rosy-cheeked, and bright of eye; With yellow curls all breaking loose From the small cap pushed awry. Up it climbs among the pillows, For the "big dark" brings no dread, And a baby's boundless fancy Makes a kingdom of a bed.
A fearless little ghost it is; Safe the night seems as the day; The moon is but a gentle face, And the sighing winds are gay. The solitude is full of friends, And the hour brings no regrets; For, in this happy little soul, Shines a sun that never sets.
A merry little ghost it is, Dancing gayly by itself, On the flowery counterpane, Like a tricksy household elf; Nodding to the fitful shadows, As they flicker on the wall; Talking to familiar pictures, Mimicking the owl's shrill call.
A thoughtful little ghost if is; And, when lonely gambols tire, With chubby hands on chubby knees, It sits winking at the fire. Fancies innocent and lovely Shine before those baby-eyes, Endless fields of dandelions, Brooks, and birds, and butterflies.
A loving little ghost it is: When crept into its nest, Its hand on father's shoulder laid, Its head on mother's breast, It watches each familiar face, With a tranquil, trusting eye; And, like a sleepy little bird, Sings its own soft lullaby.
Then those who feigned to sleep before, Lest baby play till dawn, Wake and watch their folded flower Little rose without a thorn. And, in the silence of the night, The hearts that love it most Pray tenderly above its sleep, "God bless our little ghost!"
By Louisa May Alcott

Wednesday, April 9, 2008, 10:53 AM ( 6 views )  - Posted by Heidi
Recently through this website I met a man named Bob Brenends. I consider him a kindred spirit and a valiant warrior in the effort to right this wrong. He has made great strides in warning others of the dangers of the Rhino by sharing what happened to his eighteen year old daughter Danielle. He wrote this eloquent and heart wrenching letter to a journalist who is doing a story about the Rhinos propensity to roll over. I commend you Bob, and pray for your family daily. His letter follows:

I saw your article on the Internet. I lost my daughter, Danielle Rylea Bernard, on 11/26/2006 when the Rhino she was driving for the very first time rolled while making a low-speed turn on level ground and crushed her. She turned a mere 18 years of age just two days earlier and she was in the first quarter at the University of California San Diego where she was majoring in engineering with hopes of attending medical school upon graduation.

Three days earlier, Abbey West, a 13 year old died when the Rhino in which she was a passenger rolled while being driven by a 15 year old. Both Abbey and Dani died at Ocotillo Wells Recreational Vehicle Park southeast of Palm Springs. The same day Abbey West died, a 10 year old girl in Denton, Michigan, died when the Rhino in which she was riding rolled and killed her. This past June, 10 year old J.T. Crow died in Texas when the Rhino in which he was riding rolled and killed him. On 11/23/2007, 12 year old Ashlyn Vargas died when the Rhino in which she was riding in Paso Robles, California, rolled and killed her. Last month, two riders were killed in separate accidents at the same park, Glamis in California, in accidents involving the Rhino. On 02/28/2008, a man almost lost his leg in a Rhino accident at Ocotillo Wells. His wife wrote to me asking what she should do.

I lost my daughter. I will never see her finish college, attend medical school, become a doctor, marry or have children. Instead, I see her ashes in the birdhouse sitting in the memorial we created in our home. We are heartbroken and devastated. We cry every day. We can't 'get over it" like a lost bet. We lost our pride and joy. Our only daughter. Dani's former swim club owner established a website in Dani's honor: www.danibernard.com. Too, JT Crow's mother, Heidi, established a website in her son's honor: www.jtcrow.net. That breaks my heart.

Two months before Dani's accident, Yamaha mailed a warning to Rhino owners; however, the warning merely cautioned against sticking one's arms or legs outside the vehicle during a rollover. The warning did not advise installing doors, which may have saved Dani's life, as well as the others described here. I place notices on many websites, including YouTube, warning of the dangers. Most readers are sympathetic but not all. It won't be until a loved one is killed or injured that people will be motivated to take action -- legislation -- to address this killer of our youth.

I am a broken man, crushed at the loss of my daughter. My wife, Dani's birth mother, barely makes it through each day. Dani's brothers also suffer though in ways that may not manifest themselves until years later. We all suffer.

I appreciate your article and hope that it will draw the attention of Yamaha, who is in a position to re-design the vehicle to make it safer for all.


E. Robert Berends Jr.

Saturday, April 5, 2008, 11:33 AM ( 2 views )  - Posted by Heidi
We all walk around covered in these unique patchwork jackets of grief; they are a collection of memories of moments of precious gifts and painful regrets. We arrange them in our own way, cram them together to make them fit, to make them cover our fragile forms. In the beginning I was so consumed with preparing my own jacket that I didn’t look up long enough to appreciate the others. My youngest son Kenny who is 8 has such wonderful memories of his brother. He talks about him with such adoration that I would imagine his jacket to be covered in the memories of playing with his brother. The two of them swimming in the lake with the whitecaps and the big yellow boat, or dressed up like cowboys in their red hats playing catch in the yard. A colorful creation of what he holds precious. Kenny’s jacket is strikingly different from my daughter’s who is 13 now. She is a little darker pushing down the pain of her loss with so much mite that she has become a little Johnny Cash “the man in black” in her coat. I have discovered that its not that Madison's memories are any less beautiful than Kenny’s it just that she keeps them tightly woven on the inside of her dark, thick outer fabric. I’m not sure if this helps her feel like they belong only to her or if she likes them just a little closer to her heart. Either way no matter how we choose to patch it together and sew it up whether it’s a miss match or a colorful creation, whether we show it proudly or hide it, it is our own and we have found a way to be comfortable in the warmth of its significance.

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