Greg Drew (left) shows Vernon secondary school teachers Sandie Glinsbockle and Nathan Bartell the car his son

Greg Drew (left) shows Vernon secondary school teachers Sandie Glinsbockle and Nathan Bartell the car his son

Grieving dad shares powerful message

The death of his son in a car accident inspired Greg Drew to talk to teens about driving safely.

The pain, anger and regret never really go away. But a father has turned his despair over his 17-year-old son’s death into a powerful way to help other teens consider how their driving behaviours impact themselves and others.

Greg Drew could be anyone’s dad, he’s wearing a T-shirt, jeans and runners. He’s on the stage at Vernon secondary school in front of a display he never fully explains but which becomes clear to the audience as he speaks — a ripped pair of jeans, some family photos, and a black box about the size of a small shoe box.

“I’m going to be tough on you. I’m a tough love dad. If I’m too tough, feel free to leave,” he says as he stares at the grad class of 2012. “You think you know everything, but you don’t.

“My son, Jason ‘Jay’ Drew, died May 14, 2003 after a car crash. He never got a chance to graduate. He died. I will never be the same and neither will his family and friends. Look at each other. You will get the chance to fulfill your dreams and goals. I lost a lot of my goals when Jay died but I still have one — to have an impact on you here today,” said Drew, a Surrey firefighter who was set to play on the Canadian National water polo team at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow before the boycott by many nations, including Canada.

“When I lost my son, my world changed. Is there a word to describe a parent who has lost a child? I call it DKS, Dead Kid Syndrome. Don’t think what you do doesn’t affect other people. Don’t be afraid to let someone know when a friend is doing something that could hurt themselves and others. No one likes to tell on their friends but there are times when you should.”

He recalled when Jay told a friend’s parents that he was doing drugs and the friend got help and later thanked him for saving his life.

“It would have taken one anonymous call to let me know that Jay was street racing. I would have taken his keys away and he’d be alive today. Sometimes you have to sacrifice your friendships to keep your friends alive but they will understand when they see you at your grad reunions.”

He also gave his tips on how to get out of an unsafe ride after about half of the students said they had been in an unsafe ride with someone else.

“There are four Ps. Guys, you can use three of them — ‘I have to pee, poo or puke.’ Girls, you can use the other one, ‘I’m having my period and I’m hemorrhaging badly.’ No guy wants that in his car. He’ll let you out immediately. Ladies, do you know that when you ask a guy to slow down and he doesn’t, he’s telling you that he doesn’t respect you. If he doesn’t respect you, do you want to be in a relationship with him?”

He talked to the students about basic physics and they indicated that they understood that the impact of a moving object and another moving object, or even a stationary one, will have a bad outcome.

The accident, on Mother’s Day May 11, 2003, which killed Jay was preventable. There were no alcohol or drugs involved. He was driving alone on a country road, going way too fast and failed to make a curve, ending up smashed into a tree.

“His left femur was sticking up through his left ear. He broke both legs and his right  arm. He managed to phone his mom but she still won’t tell me his last words. That hurts. I got the call and got to the accident scene while he was still in the car. He was there for an hour and a half before they cut him out of the car and got him to the hospital to be put on life support,” said Drew.

“Then, and so many times after, I regretted what I said to him at that time, ‘Jay, what are you doing in this predicament? I thought you were smarter than this. When you get out of this, you’ll get a shot in the head.’ And before, I’d said to his mother, my ex-wife who had given him the car, ‘don’t look to me for sympathy if your son kills himself in a crash.’”

Jay had an embolism in his brain and would have not known what was going on around him if he had lived. His family, including his grandmother and cousins, was with him when the drugs, the only thing keeping him alive, were stopped.

“It took only about a minute. I don’t want any parent to hold his kid’s hand when his heart beats its last. Jay will never have any of his dreams. He wanted to design games. He was on his way to ask a girl to be his first ever girl friend and his date for grad when he had the accident. He’ll never have a wife and family. I could be a grandfather by now. It’s not just you that your selfish actions affect, it’s all your family and friends,” Drew raised his voice, full of tears. He picked up the black box of Jay’s ashes and cradled it in his arms.

“I’d like to introduce you to my son, Jason Stanley Drew. Can you hear him screaming out of this box? No parent should have to hold his kid in a box like this to get a hug.

“When you go home, tell your parents and your other family members that you appreciate them. You are the class of 2012. Look at each other and tell each other that you appreciate each other and you will do everything you can to look after each other.”

VSS principal Morris Vardabasso presented Drew with a T-shirt making him an honourary staff member.

“You’ve taught a valuable lesson here today,” he told Drew.

Drew has started the Jammin’ 4 Jay Charitable Society to help educate young people about responsible driving. This includes funding for the trailer to haul the car Jay died in, an Eagle Talon, to talks around the province to speaking engagements. Jay was a big young man, 6’5’, 225 pounds, and his size 15 shoes are still in the car, wedged in too tightly to be removed.

Jamming 4 Jay has a special handshake that Drew hopes will catch on as a sign among young drivers that they will drive safely and encourage their friends to do the same. The handshake is a simple tickle of the fingertips.

For more information, call Drew at 604-888-8755, e-mail info@jammin4jay.com or see wwwjamming4jay.com.