Today is the 6th anniversary of the passing of a little buddy of mine, Uri Benefeld. As a little boy he was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a rare form of the disease that leads to the degeneration of muscles.
On his 8th birthday, May 8, 2008, which was also my 8th anniversary as the Chief of Brooklyn South, Rabbi Jack Meyer, a friend in the community, called me and told me that there was a boy turning 8 years old who may not see his 9th birthday, and his birthday wish was for NYPD Cops to sing to him. With only a couple of hours notice the Pct CO, Ralph Monteforte, had about 30 cops there, ESU and FDNY. (YouTube link below). Uri got to ride in a firetruck and an ESU truck.
From that day on we all became so attached to Uri. He used to tell me how much he wanted to become a police officer. Thankfully, his innocence and idealism allowed him to believe that that dream may happen.
Then, on August 2, 2011, on my way to my promotion ceremony to Chief of Transit, his Mom sent me a photo of him all dressed up. He was coming to my promotion! That meant so much to me. So often when I found myself feeling stressed I almost instinctively drove toward his house to visit with him. When I visited Uri I was reminded of what is important in life, and, what is not important. His family would always thank me for visiting but I got much more out of my visit with Uri than he did.
As I watched so many people do what they could to support this special young man and his family, I came to believe that his greatest mission in life was to bring out the good in others. I would tell him that often.
Six years ago he was hospitalized because of an infection, which actually happened quite frequently. But on this day, when I walked into the hospital room his Mom Debbie just looked at me and said, “Uri is dying.” That afternoon Uri’s pain stopped, but the impact he has had on me and so many will never die. Bless him. Our thoughts are with his family, and our love to all of those struggling with such challenges in life as Uri did.