2001-06-30 / Columnists

"Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snow Lies a seed that with the sun's love, in the spring becomes a rose."

"Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snow Lies a seed
that with the sun's love, in the spring becomes a rose."

B.J Smith was just 19 years old when he was murdered on a calm Rockaway evening on June 22, 1999. His young life was violently taken in exchange for his bike and gold chain. Left in the wake of this unspeakably horrific tragedy are his family who struggle to heal and make sense out of the senseless and find some measure of peace. On this second anniversary of B.J.'s death, the Smith Family decided to dedicate a garden in B.J.'s memory and to also invite the community to participate by planting trees and flowers in memory of other loved ones. "B.J.'s Memorial Garden" is a tribute to life. The garden is located on Beach Channel Drive and Beach 88 Street, on the site where B.J. was killed.

For Liz Smith, B.J's sister, there has been much beauty that has come out of the ugliness of her brother's death. "I have learned so much more about my brother after his death. That he was so well loved by so many people and the stories they have shared with me are a real comfort to me." She has learned that her brother wrote poetry and that he loved to sing. Like his sister Liz, B.J. adored hats and had quite an eclectic collection and he also had a keen eye for photography. Liz, herself, also takes tremendous comfort in music. She can't help but relive the horror of B.J.'s death; how he was so mercilessly left to die. "The song, "Mary" by Sara McLoughlin is about being at the water's edge and how a stranger's hand reaches out and is offered. I can only hope that that's the way it was for B.J, that his soul was taken and protected by god's hand."

It is the hope of the Smith Family that the community will come and find some measure of comfort in B.J.'s Memorial Garden, and that many will come and plant trees and flowers in memory of their own loved ones. Liz emphasizes that "this is not to be a "graveyard", but rather a place of beauty and a place where one can heal." In scriptures and in literature the tree is a metaphor for life. It is the family's hope that it will be through memorializing loved ones in this garden that it can be a tribute to all that is beautiful about life. Liz has recognized many blessings and beauty that have come out this tragedy. She has met such wonderful people like her now good friend Mary McDonald whom she never would have met had it not been for
B.J.  I, too, would never have met Liz Smith and come to know what a
remarkably beautiful human being she is. Her mother says, "B.J. is still
continuing to make people happy."
   The Smith family would like to thank Teresa Bennett and Jack Day, Steve and Kenny Good of the Beach Club, Jerry Ray of Affordable Auto, Beach Channel Drive Nursery, and all those who came out to plant. A Plumber is needed to offer the use of a hydrant adapter so that a hose could be ran to insure that the garden is watered properly. Please contact Liz Smith or Mary McDonald. It would be greatly appreciated. "B.J's life can't be measured by
years; but rather by the impact he has had on so many people."

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