A Summary of the Evening Counseling Meeting at Belmont High School on 28 June 2001.
(Prepared by Robert Solomon)
For the community of Belmont Massachusetts, the date of Wednesday, 27 June 2001 will be remembered as the day Brendan Peter Anthony Grant left us. On the following morning, Belmont High School (BHS) opened its doors early to provide counseling for the students and others who wished to touch the support and comfort that the school and the community had to offer.
On the evening of Thursday 28 June 2001, an impromptu gathering was held at 6:00 pm with family, students, former students, friends and parents at Belmont High School. The gathering was organized by the BHS Principal, Foster Wright, and was scheduled as a result of the large number of people who had been congregating at the school after learning of Brendan's death. Casey, Cathy, Lyndsey and Shannon Grant also attended.
Although it appeared that the students and players were the prime audience for this get-together, it was becoming immediately apparent that a school, a faculty, a sports organization, a town and a much larger community were affected by what had happened. There were an estimated 300 to 400 people in attendance at the school library for this event. Casey Grant, Brendan's father, asked Foster if he could speak with everyone at this event as well, to which Foster agreed. Foster would open the event, followed by Casey, followed by Dr. Arnold Kerzner, a noted local family psychiatrist, who would wrap-up the discussion.
A small table in the front of the room served as a makeshift memorial. On it rested several pictures of Brendan, the BHS 2000 yearbook, some flowers and a bat. The bat would soon be used during the subsequent discussion, and at which point, it would clearly take on a symbolism as a source of strength to the family in the next few days.
To open the meeting, Foster read a poem, Storm Front, which describes the way gulls survive an ocean storm, essentially by staying together, facing the wind and riding the crest of the wave. He used this analogy to encourage everyone to stay together, talk about the event, grieve, mourn and move through this tragedy as a group.
Following this, Foster introduced 'Mr. Grant', Brendan's father. The room was filled with boys, girls, women, and men, all who were in tears, or struggling to hold them back. At that moment, 'Mr. Grant' stepped forward. Under the best of circumstances, most people cannot address such large groups. Under this circumstance, it is simply unexplainable how Casey could garner the strength, fortitude and composure to get up to talk about his hero and his best friend.
Casey told us this would be the closest thing to a eulogy to Brendan that he could deliver. He would not be able to speak at the funeral that was scheduled for Saturday.
The issue of Brendan's death was taken head on by Casey. He asked the rhetorical questions that invariably follow almost any death: Why did this happen? How could this have happened? How can a perfectly healthy and fit 18 year old, who lifts weights with passionate devotion, goes to the gym once, and sometimes twice a day, die playing a sport that he truly loves? Why couldn't some detail have been different to change the outcome?
The response to all of these questions, and Casey would make this point numerous times during the evening, was that this was simply a terrible accident. It was no one's fault. There is no one to blame, or be mad at. And that no one should feel that there was any wrong doing in any respect. While the questions posed are always asked and will be asked, Casey stressed that it is seemingly not that important to know the answers. There is a reason and a plan for everything, and we may not know the answers for a very long time, if ever. Instead of dwelling on those questions, Casey wanted to talk about Brendan, what his brief yet wonderful life had been like here, and how his last few hours were spent on earth.
It was at about this point that Casey picked up the bat from the small table in the front of the room. He told us that the reality of the previous day, whatever that is, was just beginning the process of settling-in. He stated that what had just happened might not completely sink in for a few days, a few weeks, or a few months. But eventually, it will hit, "...maybe like a 2 x 4 on the side of my head." He raised the bat as a substitute for the lumber along his head. The bat never left Casey's hands after this point.
Casey told us he had been on a work trip earlier that week. He had been in Cincinnati having departed home on Tuesday. The meeting finished earlier than expected on Wednesday and he caught a morning return flight. He called Brendan when he arrived at Logan Airport to see if he was at the house. Brendan was home, and the plan was for Casey to get back, change clothes and then go do their favorite 'guy' thing; --- go to the batting cages.
Batting practice, it was stated, was the supreme activity for the two Grant 'boys'. Casey loved to throw to Brendan and Brendan loved to hit. We learned that this activity was usually carried out at the batting cages at BHS, but also occasionally at the indoor cages in Waltham, as it would on that day. Even better to Brendan's liking, was when Casey pitched to his son outside the cages at BHS on the open ball field. That way, the net did not snag the balls, and Brendan could see how far and how well he was really slugging the ball. Of course, father and son would have to stop momentarily and go shag the balls that had been scattered all over the outfield. Casey described these outings with Brendan as the "best times of my life."
That afternoon had been "perfect" according to Casey. "We hit the ball around at the batting cages in Waltham for a while, stopped at the sports store on the way home for batting gloves for Brendan's blistered hands, and Brendan got home in time to change for the Belmont vs. Arlington Babe Ruth League game that evening." Casey and Cathy were once again going to see their "favorite" son (their only son he reminded us) do what he enjoyed most, playing baseball. They also have two "favorite" daughters, Lyndsey and Shannon, who would be spending the evening at home with their grandmother.
Casey told us how their lives had changed forever in a very short time during the previous evening. After the fourth inning, Casey said he had spoken to Brendan. The big decision at that point was to see what kind of sandwich Brendan wanted after the game. Some 30 minutes later, Cathy and Casey were contemplating the news from the doctor at Mt. Auburn hospital that their son was dead. Shortly thereafter, Cathy and Casey found themselves in a Cambridge Police Car with the officer and the Priest from their Parish. They were all going to tell Lyndsey and Shannon of the news. The girls learned of the news as did their grandmother. Next stop was at the home of Cathy's parents where the news was told to Brendan's grandfather.
After discussing the sequence of events from the previous day, Casey stated: "I can tell you, without hesitation, that Brendan was my hero. He was a good kid, a smart kid, a good athlete." "Most importantly", Casey said, "he was a good son; --- Cathy and I could not have asked for a better all around boy and young man to have as our son." He was good to everyone, including his sisters. He always made time for everyone ---- Casey and Cathy, Lyndsey and Shannon, his grandparents, his dog Chevy, his teammates, his teachers, and his friends. Brendan had just finished the first nine months of his new life at American International College, AIC, in Springfield, MA. He had quickly developed new friendships, new teammates and new relationships. He had also earned a starting position on the AIC baseball team and it gave his mother and father great joy to watch him play at the college level. Through this, he was also a good student academically.
The bat, we were told, had been to given to Brendan a few years earlier, and it has his name printed on the barrel. Brendan had always refrained from using it for batting practice, since the bat, and Brendan's goal, was for it to be used in one of the 'wooden bat leagues' some day. One of these is the highly respected summer baseball played in the Cape Cod League, and it was one of Brendan's dreams that the bat would someday be used while playing in a game in this or another similar such league.
While Brendan's passion may have been baseball, this passion carried over into everything that he did. Brendan loved life and took advantage of everything that came his way. Brendan was upbeat, and was always on the hunt for the will, drive and fervor to make himself the best son, teammate, friend, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, student or whatever role he could take on to help others.
Casey spoke of the other sports that Brendan was involved in. He played, and he excelled in, both football and wrestling. Brendan joined the football team because he thought it would make him a better baseball player. He joined the wrestling team because he thought it would make him a better baseball player. Casey summarized, "I guess you could say Brendan really loved to play baseball."
As secretary of the Belmont Youth Baseball, Casey said he had gotten word earlier in the day that consideration was being given for canceling that evening's Belmont Little League playoff games because of Brendan's death. Casey protested and said, 'Brendan wants you to play baseball. Don't cancel tonight's games.' The Belmont Little League teams were thus playing as scheduled.
Casey reminded all who came to the school this evening that we are clearly a source of strength and support for his family. In similar fashion, Brendan's closest friends had created an impromptu memorial with banners that anyone could sign, and which was currently draped over the fence along side the baseball field. This likewise was a source of strength for his family based on the outpouring of sympathy coming from the community and beyond. Feedback was starting to come from places very distant from Belmont that were devastated by this news, and this was also quite consoling.
Casey rattled through a seemingly random list of numbers and letters --- 4, 5, 7, 25, 56, and NECN. These were, however, recognizable to all the Boston area residents in attendance as our TV media outlets. Casey also mentioned the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, and Belmont Citizen-Herald. In between greeting friends and colleagues throughout the day, Casey had taken the time to talk to the media about this accident. He spoke about his hero and his best friend; about how proud he was of him, about the trip to the 'little room' at the hospital and what that signified; how the Grant family was overwhelmed with the support from everyone; and about how much they would all dearly miss their beloved son, brother, grandson, and friend.
Casey concluded by telling what he was thankful for, almost 24 hours earlier. He was thankful that he had gotten home early from Cincinnati; he was thankful that he had been able to spend the last afternoon with his friend and hero doing what the two of them loved most --- going to the batting cages; he was thankful that both parents were at the game that night; and he was thankful that they were with their son when he was down on the field while the paramedics and ambulance arrived.
Casey concluded by asking us all to not be sad. To live life. To take care of and love your kids. To have fun. And to play baseball. It is what Brendan would want for all of us.