Family, friends bid farewell to special needs 12-year-old

By Suzanne Carlson
Journal Inquirer

Published: Friday, 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 Shyheim.

“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 their families.

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 available.

“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 breathing treatments.

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

Now that Shy has a perfect body and mind… See what Shy “Can Do” now…

  • Can start looking for a good place for our huge tree house!! J
  • he can talk about sports cars, planes, and trains
  • smile and watch over his siblings
  • wash his own hair
  • jump on the furniture
  • stand on his head
  • read
  • he can do cartwheels
  • do the moon walk
  • Shy <3 can color inside + outside the lines of Heaven in every shade of green! <3
  • Shy can give big hugs back when he is hugged
  • he can praise the Lord in word and song
  • Swim in the Ocean with the dolphins
  • he can jump for joy
  • Shy can walk to God
  • Shy can make the whole world smile now with his belly laughs!
  • Soar among the clouds with the eagles!
  • Pushups
  • Situps
  • Jump
  • Fly
  • Shy is Walking & leaping & flying today
  • Blow bubbles
  • Shy can do all things though Christ
  • Sing praises to God with a perfect voice & a pure heart
  • Pillow fights
  • Pocket Mom says: <3
    • Shy can run
    • and play baseball;
    • dance and worship the Lord,
    • and even eat hot fudge sundaes with Jesus
  • Miriam Petrofsky says:
    • Can finally see what it is like to look up at a canopy of leaves above with the sunlight filtering through….
    •  and smell rich woodsy smells coming with every breath of the wind. J
  • Chris Wooldridge says:
    • Can meet + see great missionaries of the world, like Hudson Taylor, Jonathan Goforth, + Keith Green!
    • Can explore the rocky mountains! Get the journey started little brother, I will meet you along the way with Jon Lueken.
  • Lisa “Pocket” Bonnett says:
    • <3 Shy an bake awesome bread and then eat it.
    • <3 Shy can go scuba diving and see all of the cool fish.
    • <3 Shy can ski the Alps with Jesus.
  • Brendyn Miller says:
    • Shy can go skydiving.
    • learn to aerials
    • go off roading
    • go bungee jumping
    • make a hang glider
    • and go paintballing
  • Joel Petrofsky says:
    • Run through the beautiful streets of the New Jerusalem, past all of the flowering trees of the tree of life.
    • Running along the cascading river of life up the mountain to the court of the Most high where he can run in and sit in his Father’s lap  and rest his head on His chest.
  • Tai Sophia says:
    • Can repel off the wall of the city.
    • Can make s’mores around a bonfire by the lake.
    • Can explore galaxies that we don’t even know about.
  • Mrs. L says:
    • Shy, enjoy slippin’ + sliding down rapids and waterfalls
    • + swimming in the deeps pools of crystal clear water
    • treading water w/ Jesus for hours while he speaks to you of all the things he has done in + through you these 12 years.
    • Praising Him with you.
  • Rachel Dumarisq says:
    • * can make HUGE leaf piles and jump in them !!!!
    • * Can build a snowman!!!!
    • * can decorate a Christmas tree
  • Sue says:
    • Whistle
    • Fingerpaint
    • Licking the batter off the beaters
    • Splash all of the water out of the tub
    • ride a pony with a cowboy hat on his head
    • boogie boarding on the crystal sea
  • Emma says:
    • Jump in the leaves
    • can hold babies
  • Daddy and Emma say:
    • He can pick his nose!
  • Aidan says:
    • EVERYTHING (Love Aidan)
  • WaWanator says :
    • play Pooh Sticks
  • Mommy says:
    • Enjoy the cent of flowers
    • he can play in the dirt
    • Build a sand castle.
    • Nuzzle animals
  • Hudson says:
    • sock sliding on the streets of gold
  •  Scott Campbell
    • Shy can do what I long to do
  • Fran Blaney says:
    • you will be praising our Lord! (God bless! Hugs!)
  • Elias says:
    • Play Ultimate
  • Antonio says:
    • he can stand
  • <3 Miss Courtney
    • Shy can see all of the colors of the rainbow
  • <3 Suzanne says:
    • Shy can go fishing at Valley Falls Pond in the Summer
    • and he can go sledding on the VCMS hill in the Winter
  • Hannah says:
    • Sky diving without a parachute
    • Walk barefoot in the sand
  • Grandma Reynolds says:
    • Tie his shoes
    • play checkers with Grandpa
  • Ben says:
    • he can enjoy fire!! hehe
    • He can shoot lasers out of his eyes
  • Marla Wiley says:
    • He can jump for joy
  • Bella says:
    • Shy can RUN into the arms of his savior
  • Hannah and Inga say
    •  he can sing songs
  • M says:
    • All the things he never got to while he was here with us.
  • Kateri says:
    • he can build blanket forts
    • Watch the Sunrises and Sunsets
    • Make snow angels and snow men
    • he can dance in the rain while singing of God’s praises
    • and he can eat Martha’s cakes
    • and he can see all of the colors of the world
  • Lacianna
    • Shy can sign really loud
  • Max says:
    • Burp
  • Hannah and Ben:
    • Jump rope with Katie.
  • Miss Pat says
    • We now have a guardian angel to watch over us!! J
    • Shy you can now drive your fancy sports car
    • God Bless
  • E Georges
    • Sing praises to the Lord of all
  • Cookie says :
    • ShyShy can ride his bike
    • catch a ball
    • and give a hug
  • Simenesh Comolo says:
    • He can see
    • and he can do everything
  • Julia says:
    • he can lol
    • he can paint beautiful landscape pictures
    • count the stars with God
    • Play peek-a-boo
    • give hugs and kisses
    • eat whatever he wants
  • DM says:
    • Sing God’s praises in a loud and beautiful voice
  • Bill and Lorraine say:
    • he is with the Lord (God bless)
  • Abby Manahan says:
    • he can text now
  • Sammie says:
    • Fly with Butteries
  • Mrs. Upjohn says:
    • Shy can go mountain climbing
  • Barbara says:
    • play a instrument
    • & conduct too
  • Maureen says:
    • he can jump on the trampoline (boing)
  • Dr Wanda Merced says:
    • You are free to do whatever you were not able to do here. (Love you always)
  • Patsy McCombe
    • God is proud of him
  • Maria J says:
    • Shy can have fun sunning