It was not how anyone gathering at St. Mathews Church Tuesday night wanted to spend their holidays: in a huddled mass, grieving a young boy who remains in hospice care following a devastating vehicle accident.
But more than 100 gathered anyway, candles in hand, to honor and pray for seven-year-old Brian Murkison, who remains in critical condition after a three-car wreck Dec. 2.
Friends, family and neighbors circled outside the church sanctuary for a series of song and prayer in support of the injured boy and his family.
The solidarity provided much needed support for a grief-stricken community.
“The response has been overwhelming. This is a tragic event, but it has been made a little easier by the response from both people we know and complete strangers,” said David Murkison, Brian’s father. “It has given us strength to move forward.”
Brian Murkison was one of six passengers of a Ford Explorer found on its roof at the intersection of Lakeview Road and Old River Road North nearly three weeks ago.
According to Georgia State Patrol reports, Gene Murkison, 75, was driving eastbound on Old River Road and failed to observe a stop sign, resulting in a collision with another car. After impact, his van spun and struck a car parked at the intersection and overturned.
Gene Murkison, his son, daughter-in-law and wife, along with grandsons, Ben, 11, and Brian were all in the vehicle.
Murkison was taken to East Georgia Regional Medical and later airlifted to Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah. Ben and Brian were airlifted from the scene and taken directly to the Savannah hospital.
All but Brian have returned home.
The young boy, who sustained significant brain injuries as a result of the crash, was listed in critical condition during a stay at Memorial before being moved to the Ogeechee Area Hospice in Statesboro.
“Ben is running around. He has a little bit of therapy left, but has all but recovered,” David Murkison said. “Brian is still in critical condition, and we are still praying for a holiday miracle.”
Since the accident, the family has received and outpouring of support from friends, family and strangers throughout the state and country. Facebook and email campaigns were launched in support Brian and the family.
The Statesboro supporters were not alone in their grieving Tuesday.
One poster on a Facebook event advertising the vigil called for a similar candlelight ceremony for Atlanta area residents in Doraville — the Murkisons moved from Statesboro to Atlanta about four months ago.
At St. Mathews Tuesday, between hymns and prayer, men and women shared their favorite stories of the boy who lay in a hospice room just a few yards from their gathering.
“Brian was courageous,” Murkison said — telling about a time when then five-year-old Brian would slide down steep waterslides without hesitation, while teenagers resisted. “He is smart, funny and all of the things a seven year old should be.”
Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.