Marcus Kowal and Mishel Eder of Hawthorne, California, lost their son Liam when he was killed by a drunk driver in 2016. Now, they’re honoring his memory by raising awareness and fighting for policy change so no one else has to endure the same tragedy.
Eder’s sister was taking 15-month-old Liam for a stroll on September 3, 2016. Kowal was at home and Eder was taking an exam for school.
Her sister was crossing the street with Liam in a stroller. She crossed the first lane, then the second—but when she got to the third lane, the unthinkable happened.
A drunk driver struck Eder’s sister and Liam, and then sped off. Liam’s aunt suffered a broken leg, but his condition was much more severe.
His heart had stopped beating and he wasn’t breathing. The police performed CPR, and the baby started breathing again.
However, after 12 hours of tests, two doctors informed Kowal and Eder that Liam was brain-dead. The devastated couple then made the decision to donate his organs.
“The hard part wasn’t to decide to donate his organs. The hard part was to wrap our heads around the fact that our son wasn’t there anymore,” Kowal told The Epoch Times.
Coping With Grief
While the couple was in the hospital, they were determined to make something good come from the tragic loss of their son. Nevertheless, handling this would be difficult for the family, and they both did it in their own ways.
Four days after Liam’s passing, Kowal began writing as a way to contend with his emotions. His writing would ultimately develop into a book entitled “Life is a Moment.”
He was also able to channel his grief into work. A professional mixed martial arts fighter, the man used training and fighting as an outlet.
For Eder, exercise was crucial to contend with such a difficult time.
“Honestly moving your body is so helpful to clear the brain. For the 20 minutes that I would actually work out hard, I didn’t have to think about anything except the move that I was doing,” Eder said. “That was almost like meditation for me.”
Kowal and Eder would also meditate in order to escape their pain, even if it was only a brief reprieve. Just doing something besides ruminating about their baby’s death helped them immensely.
Having the support of their family and friends—and each other—also greatly helped the couple contend with such a heartbreaking loss.
“We read somewhere that somewhere around 70 percent of couples separate after they lose a child … if you love someone enough to create life with them, and because that life is gone you can’t stay together anymore that’s really sad, but I believe a big part of that is people don’t know how to communicate with each other. They can’t understand each other’s differences when it comes to grieving,” Kowal said.
Over time, Kowal and Eder have begun to tolerate their grief.
“The pain will always be there. Certain days are worse than others. You learn how to live with it,” Kowal said.
Liam was an energetic, playful, and social infant—he loved people, and would often blow them kisses or give them high fives. Fond of water, the boy would exclaim with cheer whenever he was in a bath, a pool, or the ocean.
A chance for more happy moments came when Kowal and Eder had their second child Nico on July 26, 2017—a blessing during a period of severe grief. They want to make sure that Nico grows up knowing that he’s just as important to them as Liam was.
The day after Liam’s funeral, Kowal and Eder started Liam’s Life Foundation. The nonprofit organization honors the baby’s memory by working to end drinking and driving through raising awareness, education, and policy change.
They hold speaking engagements and other public events, and educate the public about the science and research surrounding drunk driving. Liam’s Life’s biggest policy goal is to lower the current legal blood alcohol concentration limit from .08 t0 .05, beginning in California.
Kowal and Eder know that media is crucial in getting their message out, and the couple will be releasing a documentary about their experience entitled “Letters to Liam.” The film, scheduled to be released this fall, is directed by Rocky Romano and Miranda Winters, and is produced by Winters Rock Entertainment.
“My main mission is still Liam. I hope people feel the love that I have for him by trying to save them. His life is more than just the 15 months that he was here. So that fire that we have is what keeps us going,” Eder said.
If you have an uplifting story you’d like to share, write to Andrew Thomas at [email protected]