Jacques Kelly of The Baltimore Sun has written an obituary for Joseph S. Keelty, who…
Here is a family’s open letter to teens, in advance of prom and graduation season, about the night their son died after drinking and driving. They’ve shared it for several years now in hopes it can help other kids stay safe.
To the graduating class of 2016:
Our son Brian Hoeflinger died in a tragic car accident on Feb. 2, 2013 at the young age of 18. He was a kid just like you who had hopes and aspirations of going to college and having a full happy life.
On the night he died, he was at a party with friends drinking vodka and ended up driving intoxicated. I remember the phone call we received late that night when we learned Brian had been in a car accident. The sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach and the frantic racing of your heart when you don’t know if your child has been hurt or if he is even still alive. Your entire body trembles uncontrollably with fear as you anticipate the worst outcome.
When my wife and I arrived at the hospital, we were told Brian was dead. Our bodies were numb. We felt empty and completely alone inside. The image of our son lying there on a cold gurney dead in trauma room 24 at Toledo Hospital will never leave our minds for as long as we live.
His pale lifeless body lying there almost as though he were asleep, wishing he were only asleep but all to well knowing he was dead and never coming back home with us. It is the worst singular feeling we have ever experienced in our lives.
His pale lifeless body lying there almost as though he were asleep, wishing he were only asleep but all to well knowing he was dead and never coming back home with us.
The second worst feeling was telling our other three children at home about an hour later that their older brother Brian was dead and gone forever. The pain we inflicted upon them at that moment in the middle of the night was unthinkable. At their request, we took them to the hospital to see Brian.
It was heartbreaking to watch Kevin, Julie and Christie say goodbye to their big brother forever that night. The lasting image of him lying there dead in the emergency department permanently seared into their minds. That life we had with Brian is over now and an unwelcome new life without Brian has taken its place.
We tell you this story because Brian could be any one of you, if you choose to drink. And we say choose, because it is your choice and nobody else’s. Once you take your first drink of alcohol, you are not making the decisions, the alcohol is. You are putting yourself and others at risk for injury or, even worse, dying like Brian.
Once you take your first drink of alcohol, you are not making the decisions, the alcohol is.
Now you may say that Brian was stupid and not a responsible person. You would never be that dumb or make that mistake and it could never happen to you. Well, Brian used to say that too and look how it turned out for him. Let us tell you, Brian was not a stupid person.
He had a 4.5 GPA, 32 ACT score, was a 4 handicap golfer, and was accepted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which was his first choice in colleges. Brian always made good decisions until alcohol was involved. You see, you can’t make good decisions when you drink alcohol. No matter how much you think you can, you can’t. Brian proved that.
He is now frozen in time at the age 18 with no chance to move forward or to make a difference in the lives of others. As for you, you are very much alive and able to make your destiny what you want. This is a very defining time in your life because at this moment you are able to choose the path in life you wish to follow.
This is a very defining time in your life because at this moment you are able to choose the path in life you wish to follow.
At this moment, you have the chance to change the way others think by taking a stand against drinking, especially drinking and driving. You are able to define who you are and to make a difference now. It is your time to be a leader that others will want to follow.
It is a privilege to be alive and to be able to make a difference in the lives of others. Brian lost that chance with a bad decision but we’re sure he wouldn’t make that same mistake twice. But for Brian, there is no second chance. No chance to redo things. As for you, you still have the chance to make a difference in your life and in the lives of others.
If we could ask you to remember just one thing from this letter, it would be to have fun without drinking. Be a leader and make it cool not to drink. You can do it. We know you can.
And lastly, but most importantly, don’t drink and drive or ride with someone who has been drinking. If you could feel for only a brief moment the extreme anguish and pain that we as a family feel over Brian’s death every moment of every day, then you would understand what drinking can cost you and your family. Please think about it.
And lastly, but most importantly, don’t drink and drive or ride with someone who has been drinking.
Think about what Brian lost, all his hopes, dreams and ultimately his life, as a result of alcohol. Please don’t make the same mistake. Stay safe and make it to graduation. Don’t put your family through what we are going through.
The Hoeflinger family