BRISTOL - A local family has found a way to help a Bristol woman, who tragically died at the age of 25, realize a life-long dream of hers.
When she was about 7 or 8 years old, Sara Danilewicz began writing stories and poems for children. They centered on fuzzy bears, children sledding and playing in the snow, and other pure, simple things. For years she compiled her stories, working on them in her bedroom, rarely sharing them with others.
Sara’s dream was always to publish her works and spread joy to children. That dream was all but ended when her life was abruptly cut short at the age of 25.
Greg Danilewicz, Sara’s father, said his daughter was at a friend’s home in Massachusetts when she suddenly didn’t feel well. She went upstairs into a bedroom to lie down and was found unresponsive the next morning, he said. She was rushed to an area hospital.
“They tried to help her, but it was too late,” Greg Danilewicz solemnly said.
Sara Danilewicz died on May 25, 2013, of heart failure, her father said. It was a devastating loss for her parents and older sister.
Sara’s family took the loss so hard that they didn’t go into her bedroom for nearly three years after her death. It was then that her father discovered her stories had been sitting untouched for all that time.
“She always wanted to write stories for kids,” Greg Danilewicz said. “We knew she always wanted them published.”
At first, the still-grieving father tried to put her stories together for publishing on his own, but the process proved too difficult for someone still coping with the sudden loss.
“That’s why I involved my older daughter,” Greg Danilewicz said. “I tried, but it was too painful.”
Anna Thomen, Sara’s older sister, gladly helped her father with the process, saying it was overall a nice experience for them that brought back “great memories.”
“It was a good thing to do with my dad,” Thomen said. “I think it was therapeutic for both of us.”
The father-daughter duo, along with help from Sara’s mother, went through the long process of getting her book done with a publishing company in New York. The 94-page book, called Breanne the Bear and Other Stories, includes six short stories, illustrations, poems and other other experiences she had written about. The book, which was published in December, is available on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and other book store websites.
Thomen said she keeps a copy of the book in her home, making her feel closer to her younger sister.
“It’s like she’s there,” she said.
One of the most rewarding things about getting the book published is being able to see it at the F. N. Manross Library, in Forestville, Greg Danilewicz said. Having grown up in Bristol, Sara Danilewicz, a graduate of Bristol Central High School, spent her summers in the library with her older sister.
“That’s probably where the inspiration came from,” her father said.
Greg Danilewicz described his daughter as a person who was always trying to help other people. From volunteering at a local church to being an organ donor, she always put others before herself.
She even invited a mother and two children to her Bristol home on Thanksgiving in the months after they had lost their home to Hurricane Katrina. Greg Danilewicz said he heard the doorbell ring moments before his daughter asked if it would be OK for her to have some guests over to celebrate the holiday.
“I didn’t expect it,” Greg Danilewicz said, chuckling about his almost disbelief that his daughter could be so caring and responsible at only 17 years old.
“We always taught the kids you should share,” Sara’s father said.
“The door was always open. The refrigerator was always open,” he laughed.
It was his daughter’s giving ways that inspired Greg Danilewicz to donate 10 of her books to children at Bristol Hospital - where he does information technology work - around Christmas.
“It was to make them feel better,” Greg Danilewicz said, adding that he and his daughter are very happy about how the book came out.
“My dad was definitely the driving force,” Thomen said about helping Sara’s dream become a reality. “They had this special bond. They understood one another.”
“I think it came out perfectly, just the way we wanted,” Thomen continued.
“That was her dream,” Greg Danilewicz said, with tears welling up in his eyes. “We’re very happy and at peace now.”