Family, friends bid farewell to special needs 12-year-old
By Suzanne Carlson
December 3, 2010 3:08 PM EST
VERNON — Friends,
family, and caretakers of 12-year-old Shyheim R. Greenier, who died
Sunday, celebrated his short but joyful life Thursday by singing,
clapping, and laughing at a memorial service at the Church of the
Nazarene in Manchester.
“None of us here needs help being sad, so that’s why we wanted to do
something different,” Greenier’s adoptive father David told the group
of mourners, which included numerous children.
Rather than a traditional funeral, David and his wife, Terri Greenier,
kept the service informal and filled with song to more reflect their
son’s spirited personality.
The church altar was decorated with festive green balloons, stuffed
animals, and a drawing of Greenier cuddling a lamb.
Greenier, nicknamed “Shy,” died just after midnight Sunday at
Connecticut’s Children Medical Center. He was born with a host of
physical and neurological disorders including the condition known as
microcephaly, a neurodevelopmental disorder that greatly reduces brain
function and life expectancy.
Laughing, Greenier spoke of how Shyheim would play tricks, like
turning off the monitor that kept track of his vital signs, and would
have a “huge smile” waiting when he figured it out.
“His awareness center in his mind never grew,” David Greenier said of
his son, explaining that because of his condition, it was amazing he
could even “acknowledge someone’s voice or someone’s hug,” much less
play tricks on his older brother.
Because swallowing food was a choking hazard, Shyheim was fed through
a stomach tube, but Greenier said his son loved lollipops, and the
family attached a small flavored one to each program so mourners could
share in their son’s favorite treat.
Caring for an older, disabled child presents unique challenges, and
the Greenier family worked together to accommodate everyone’s needs —
“When you’ve got a baby, it’s one thing, when you have a 12-year-old,
those diapers are different,” Greenier said.
The Greeniers, who have four biological children, took in Shyheim
initially as a foster child when he was a baby. They later adopted him
and three other children, bringing their total number of children to
eight: Martha, Julia, Benjamin, Sarah, Hannah, Erica, Max, and
“The state couldn’t have chosen a better family to give him to,” said
Pastor Raymond Pavkov of Mount Carmel Christian Church in North Haven.
“As he was reaching out in those last few moments for them, you could
see the bond that was there,” Pavkov said.
Pavkov and his church help support the Greeniers’ ministry, “Lamb’s
Way,” which ministers to children with special health care needs and
David Greenier explained that he and his wife leaned on their faith
after a difficult period in which their marriage almost ended in
divorce, and he again prayed for guidance when the burden of caring
for so many children threatened to overwhelm the entire household.
After that crisis, Greenier said he quit his job and both parents now
devote their lives to their children with the help of their oldest
daughter Martha and their 22 year old son Benjamin, who was often
responsible for his brother’s “night duty,” when a nurse was not
“One of my favorite things about Shyheim is he was such a stinker,”
Benjamin Greenier said of the boy, who was blind and required frequent
He expressed deep
gratitude to his children, who held each other throughout the service and
took turns cuddling their brother Max, whom like Shyheim is also severely
disabled and wheelchair-bound.
Terri Greenier told
mourners that in heaven, freed from “that body that he had,” Shyheim could
now do everything he’d missed out on in life, and encouraged mourners to
add activities to a “Shy Can Do” board laid out in the church lobby.
David Greenier said that
despite his son’s disabilities, he was a very spiritual person who brought
great joy to those who knew him.
“It is amazing to me
that someone so small, so insignificant, a castoff of society, could
wrench my heart in so many ways,” Greenier said.
“What Shy had with God
wasn’t a religion, it was a relationship,” Terri Greenier added.
To learn more about the
Greenier’s efforts to connect families with children in need and support
the special needs community, visit www.Lambsway.org
Please understand that Lamb's Way is not responsible for the content of
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