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  • Writer's pictureMarcus Kowal

Happy 8th birthday Liam.

Today, you turn 8 years old. Looking at Nico and Luna, 8 seems so big. I see 8-year-olds interacting with them and I imagine what those interactions would be like with you. They are becoming little people with big personalities. Watching them interact with each other and others is something I’ll never stop enjoying. Luna is a little comedian whose spirit animal is the Tasmanian Devil. She climbs more often than not and wears her heart on her sleeve. Your brother is the kindest soul who is always so sweet with Luna. I can’t help believing you would have been as kind with both of them as he is with her.

This year, Nico started school and he lost his first tooth not long ago. In fact, he lost two teeth and got a visit from the tooth fairy for the first time.

And for each and every step they take, for every milestone, there is always that sting of thinking about what it would have been like to experience those moments with you.

Having lost you has forced so much learning. From the personal, such as learning how to cope and deal with grief, depression, despair, and hopelessness. To all the learning of how to change a law, learning how to run a nonprofit, learning how to navigate the ever-so-corrupt political system, and so on. But learning is what it takes to create change. So learning, we will continue to do, for the rest of our lives, until I get to hold you again.

I’ve also had to learn patience. Making change takes time. There truthfully hasn't been much work done over the past few years due to the pandemic. But now, as the world is coming back to normal, it is crazy to see this movement finally starting to gain traction. Small fires in different areas of the country. The bill to lower the BAC from 0.08 to 0.05 has been introduced in six states now: Connecticut, New York, North Carolina, Washington, Hawaii, and Oregon. We now know how we are going to make this a federal law and we are able to put the strategies in place to make that happen. Soon, "Liam's Law" will be re-introduced in California and if it is this time or next, it doesn't matter, one day, it will pass.

I started going out to speak in high schools again as part of "Every 15 Minutes" with the California Highway Patrol again. Since this was our first year back, I didn't get to speak to as many students as I have in the past but there were still some 4,000 high school students who got to learn your story. The Every 15 Minutes program is a powerful way of teaching young drivers, or soon-to-be drivers the deadly outcomes of drunk driving. More schools should do them.

However, I would be lying if I didn't say I was nervous before speaking for the first time in almost three years. Not the speaking part in itself, I'm used to speaking in front of large crowds. But to speak about you again, on a stage, next to a coffin, watching high school students recreate a hospital, a court, and a funeral, a stage that I've had to live, is hard. The speaking engagements drain me but I will continue to go out and speak to these students because they are the next generation drivers and voters. Just like we have to change the law on one side, we also have to change the social attitude toward drunk driving on the other

Today, which has come to be every year on this day, many people are working really, really hard in your honour. They do your workout, named Liam's Life WOD. At the gyms where they do it, the coaches explain why they are doing it, and every year, a few more people walk away knowing your story. And they tell your story to someone else, who in turn tells someone. That is how change happens, one person at a time.

We teach your siblings how important it is to be grateful in life. I'm more grateful for you Liam, being born this day 8 years ago, than anything else in the world. No two things have changed me more than the day you were born, and the day you left.

I love you always Lilla Bebisen.

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