Refusing to live in the past

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Written by JERRY COSTELLO, The Christophers   
Saturday, 12 February 2011 00:00
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I’ve often read about people who lose their children to acts of violence and, as a parent myself, it’s hard for me to see how they get through it. And a step above that are those people who are able to turn their child’s loss into something positive for others. That really makes me shake my head in disbelief and admiration, and not long ago I read about two people, a woman and a man, who did just that. Their stories simply blew me away, and I’d like you to hear them too.

Take, for example, the tale of Lonise Bias, a Maryland mother who lost one son to a cocaine overdose and another who was killed in a drive-by shooting. You might have heard of the son who was victimized by drugs. He was Len Bias, a basketball star of such magnitude at the University of Maryland that in 1986 the Boston Celtics made him their number-one draft pick. Two days later he was dead.

WEB_MUG_CostelloLonise Bias told Matt Palmer of the Catholic Review, the newspaper of the Baltimore Archdiocese, that she refuses to live in the past. “I don’t care what you’re going through,” she said. “The best is yet to come.”

Ms. Bias, married for 45 years and the mother of two other children, has become a nationally known anti-drug speaker, telling young audiences all over that people are basically good. In December, at Cristo Rey High School in Baltimore, she said she had forgiven those who had figured in her sons’ deaths.

“We will never get over the deaths of our sons and how they died, but we’ll learn to live with it,” she said. “You keep it moving. It’s not like you’re running up and kissing the people, but you move beyond that. Much of the pain you’re dealing with in life is preparing you for your greater purpose in life.”

Ted Buczek found a purpose for his life, too, and it happened after his son Michael, a New York cop, was shot and killed in a 1988 battle with drug suspects. Mr. Buczek, who died in December at the age of 84, created a foundation in his son’s memory, one that focused on the neighborhood where his son worked and where he died — Washington Heights in upper Manhattan.

In the Buczek obituary in The Record of Hackensack, N.J., writer Jay Levin told of the scholarships the foundation provides at the police officer’s alma maters — DePaul Catholic High School in Wayne, N.J., and Ramapo College. But beyond that Ted Buczek turned his heart and soul to the predominantly Dominican enclave of Washington Heights. He held food drives there, started the Little League named after his son, and personally developed a new baseball field where the teams play their games. Each year he led the opening-day Little League parade and threw out the first ball of the season. In all, the league serves 600 youngsters each year, 22 of whom have gone on to become New York City police officers.

“Ted is a legend in the neighborhood,” said a cop who worked with the slain Michael Buczek, and who described the late Mr. Buczek as a true hero. “He gave back to the community that took his son.”

Maryknoll Father James Keller, founder of The Christophers, always said that everyone has a purpose in life. Lonise Bias and Ted Buczek found theirs, and the world is better off because they did.

For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, “Forgiveness and Healing,” write to The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004 or e-mail: mail@christophers.org.