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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Life Lost

Dr. Fred Kiesner looks like Santa Claus, floats like a bee and stings like a butterfly. Grandpa Fred, as he is known to the student’s who love him, is an eternally happy, snowy haired old prof with a hefty back brace that impairs his gait, but according to him, doubles as body army. He’s a man of unflinching strength and spirit. So on Monday, as we watched him walk into class late and without a smile, we all knew something was wrong.

He didn’t keep us in suspense for long.

Grandpa Fred had just returned from the funeral of Avi Schaefer, the son of LMU Business Law Professor Rabbi Arthur Gross-Schaefer. Avi and his girlfriend, Marika Baltscheffsky, were walking hand-in-hand outside the campus of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island just before 2 a.m. on Friday morning when they were struck by a drunk driver. Both were immediately rushed to the local hospital. Baltscheffsky was treated for serious injuries but was released later in the day. Schaefer was pronounced dead on arrival.

In an instant, a father and mother had lost their beloved son of 21 years and three young boys had lost their eldest brother and best friend.

Speaking as a father, Grandpa Fred cried as he spoke of the incomprehensible anguish that devours a parent of a lost child. He caught his emotions before they reached a tipping point, but before leaving the subject, warned us that if he ever caught us driving drunk he would less-than-politely remove us from the vehicle. I don’t promote vigilantism but I more than understood his anger in that moment.

An estimated 13,846 alcohol-related driving deaths occurred in 2008. This figure accounted for 37% of all traffic fatalities that year in the United States. Drunk driving deaths have been steadily declining since 1982, a fact which, despite being a cause for hope, offers little comfort to the Schaefer family and those like them suffering through similar tragedies.

Life is one slow exhale. Sadly, for some, this breath is cut short by misfortune. Such flames may flicker out far too soon but we can take some solace knowing that their memories continue to burn brightly in the minds and hearts of all those who loved them.

Avi Schaefer will not be forgotten because he was loved, and is loved.

For those of you on Facebook, I urge you to join the group “In Loving Memory Of Avi Schaefer.” The page, which includes pictures, videos, and messages, offers a more complete rendering of Avi.  

~Ian M. Johnson


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