The Hubers spent Christmas Eve in a Hamilton hospital, agonizing over whether to pull their 11-year-old son, Jeremy, off life support. They spent Christmas Day planning his funeral.
The family was travelling together in a Dodge Caravan when they were blindsided by a Jeep that zipped through a stop sign. Police have since accused the Jeep’s 33-year-old driver of drunk driving in the Dec. 22 accident. The Hubers, who are Mennonites, say all they can do now is pray that no one else suffers any more alcohol-involved collisions.
“A lot of people that would be driving and drunk, if they are going through what we are now, they would never touch it,” said Paul Huber, the boy’s grandfather, in an interview on Monday. “It’s like if you had a wound and you bump it and it just breaks open again …”
The Hubers are all too familiar with tragedy. Just last March, Jeremy’s 17-year-old brother, Lyndall, was killed when his Ford Taurus rolled over on a country road near Kitchener-Waterloo.
Jeremy “has joined his brother Lyndall,” said Fern Huber, the brothers’ grandmother, adding she was confident they are now both in heaven. “We’re not grieving for Jeremy. We’re grieving for ourselves and our loss.”
Heading into the Christmas weekend, police on Ontario’s highways had warned that this month’s spike in impaired-driving arrests threatened to undermine some of 2011’s reductions in impaired-driving fatalities. Police remain intent on blitzing roadways ahead of next weekend’s New Year’s Eve celebrations.
The Hubers belong to the New Hamburg Conservative Mennonite Church, whose members abstain from consuming alcohol.
The 33-year-old who was charged in the crash also comes from New Hamburg. Police have charged him with impaired driving causing bodily harm and dangerous driving causing bodily harm – but anticipate they will soon be increasing those charges to “causing death.” The driver also stands accused of failing to provide a breath sample. An initial court hearing is scheduled for January.
The two Huber parents suffered minor injuries in the crash, and their youngest child, just 7, sustained a concussion. Despite their hurt and loss, members of the family say they regard the charged driver as a victim too. “We feel very sorry for him, because he will have to live with this on his conscience,” said Fern Huber, the grandmother.
Remembered as a gentle boy, Jeremy had made 11 birdhouses for bluebirds with his grandfather the previous Christmas. He also wrote poems about birds.
One small blessing is that the Huber family had celebrated Christmas early this year because a family member was to be travelling over the holidays to visit relatives in the United States. They opened gifts together in the days before the accident occurred.
Now co-workers of the boys’ father at a local Home Hardware are planning to set up a trust fund for the family. And some relatives are arguing that society should not merely strive to end drinking and driving – it should strive to end drinking at all.
“Alcohol has devastated the lives of millions and millions and millions of people,” said Kevin Bauman, an uncle who runs a cabinet-making company. “Jeremy had his life ahead of him. I wish they could take a picture of what we as a family went through with Jeremy there in the hospital bed … take a picture of this boy with his face all mashed up, and put the brown bottles beside it. Now try selling it.”
He says that while doctors were initially able to keep Jeremy alive, the boy could no longer breathe on his own and was considered “99 per cent” brain dead after the crash.