Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
“How do you say goodbye to a real life superhero?”
That was the question Vinnie Osborne-Brown’s parents, Elizabeth and Johnny Brown, and all his friends had on their mind last Wednesday when they gathered at the riverside walking trail park in Grayson to celebrate the life of their family member and friend.
Asking how you say good bye to a superhero also begs the question; what makes someone a superhero? Is it the cape? The costume? Beating up villains and solving the puzzle behind a crime?
Or is it something deeper? A desire, maybe, to do what you can to help others, even if it’s the last act you’ll ever perform?
If it’s that last one, Vinnie Osborne-Brown’s final act definitely made the young man a superhero. He had told his mother, months prior to the accident that would take his life, that he wanted to be an organ donor. He didn’t quite grasp the concept fully, his mother said, but he knew if he could do something to help others that he wanted to do it. So, when they made the heart wrenching decision to remove Vinnie from life support following a tragic accident that resulted in a traumatic head injury, they knew they had to honor his wish. Vinnie’s organs will now help save the lives of several other children.
It’s a heroic request, especially from such a young child, and a heroic response from his parents to honor that wish. But none of that makes anything the Brown family has had to face any easier. Particularly the goodbye.
“How do you say goodbye to your child?,” Elizabeth Brown asked as she read from a prepared statement. “How do siblings say goodbye to their goofy brother? How do you say goodbye to a real life superhero?”
“The only answer I can possibly give is, that we don’t,” she continued, her voice cracking. “We say, until I see you again.”
And there is no doubt in their minds that they will see Vinnie again, and carry his love in their hearts until that time comes.
“I do not have the words to thank all of you enough for loving my son,” Elizabeth said, sharing her memories of Vinnie. “If you knew him, then you know that he was never short on random facts to spout off, and whatever he saw you doing, he had to have a fact about it. He loved the Guinness Book of World Records. One morning he said he was going to break the record for burping. In a single minute he had to burp 146 times. He never quit trying, but he never quite got that one. But one record I’m pretty sure that he probably would have gotten was for saying, ‘I love you.’ He said it so many times in a day, he would have shattered that record. He always said, ‘I love you mommy. I love you Johnny.’ He never let a silent moment go in the house without saying it.”
The Grayson community turned out last Wednesday to return some of the love Vinnie had shared with the world.
Tiffany Kitchen works at Grayson Mobile Home, and said her bosses – Derrick and Amy Burton – have designated the business a drop-off for donations of food and money for the family.
“The response from the Grayson community has been outstanding,” Kitchen said. “People have come in since day one. It’s been amazing to see.”
She said one of those who came in was from a neighboring county. She didn’t know Vinnie or the Brown family, but her daughter’s life had been saved by an organ donation, and she wanted to honor Vinnie’s thoughtfulness with a donation.
Amy Burton explained that she and her husband decided to designate their business as a place to donate because of the way the Grayson community rallied around them when their son suffered an accident.
“The community came together for us when our son was fighting for his life,” Burton said. “This community comes together when people are hurting.”
Mitzie Heaberlin, who helped contact businesses for the event, also noted the generosity of the Grayson business community and beyond.
John Buckland for instance, who plays Batman with Heroes for Higher, drove in from West Virginia to talk to and take pictures with children.
Others donating time or resources to the balloon release event included All That Bloomz, who donated 200 pink balloons; the KYOVA 10 theater, who donated popcorn; Tri-State Spay and Neuter, who donated stuffed animals; Gary Booth, who volunteered to make balloon animals; Chad Jones, who donated use of a sound system; and Bobbie Sloas and Snowie of Grayson, who made snow cones for the children and their families.
Children at the event wrote notes to Vinnie that they attached to their balloons, and notes to his family sharing their memories of him that they put in a collection box. After the balloon release they participated in a bicycle ride around the park – a moving sea of pink shirts, Vinnie’s favorite color, all saying “until we see you again” to their friend Vinnie.
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