The scene in the sunny, light-filled living room is familiar -- two proud grandparents playing with their grandson, cuddling him and dancing him happily around the room.
But June and John Behr are not just any grandparents. Their story is one of indomitable strength, courage, and a love so strong that it has withstood the greatest of heartbreaks -- the death of their beloved daughter.
Almost seven years after a horrific ambulance crash on Main Road in Aquebogue took the lives of emergency responder Heidi Behr, 23, and William Anthony Stone in May, 2005, her heartbroken parents are raising her son, Jared, who is now 8 years old.
When Heidi died, she left behind her little baby, who was only 15 months old, and severely disabled, with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and who is also legally blind.
The years since their daughter's death have been steeped in tragedy -- June Behr also lost both parents and her sister -- but it is Jared who has given the Behr family, including Heidi's sister, Dana, the strength to go on.
"He's a blessing," said June. "He is the glue that keeps us together."
Added John Behr, "We are so lucky to have him. He's a bundle of joy."
Heidi and her partner were treating a heart attack victim at the time of the accident and were not wearing seat belts; the driver and patient, who were belted securely, survived.
Rocked by tragedy, the Riverhead community came together, with members of Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corp, Inc., the Riverhead Volunteer Fire Department, where John served for 21 years, and scores of community members organizing countless fundraisers to help the Behr family.
Just last year, the Behrs moved into June's parents' farmhouse in Cutchogue. The home was remodeled with an elevator and other features to facilitate caring for Jared -- and the revamp was another shining example of small-town spirit and heart.
"The outpouring we had, it just warms you up," said June. "So many good people."
Spearheaded by two dear friends, Chuck Thomas and Richie Thomas, the work on remodeling the home was done at a fraction of the cost, with dozens of volunteers and businesses "sharpening their pencils" to cut expenses, many donating time and supplies.
"I never thought I would have a home like this," June said, gazing around the wide, brightly lit rooms adorned with photos of Heidi -- including one of Heidi and Jared at his first birthday party. Looking back, June said she is glad the party was a special one, held at a restaurant, because it was the only birthday Heidi got to spend with her son.
Doting grandparents, John and June fill Jared's life with therapeutic horseback riding at IRIE in Riverhead, and swim lessons -- he, like his mother, loves the water. Heidi, her parents say, was the first one in the pool every season and had a penchant for frogs.
Jared attends Eastern Suffolk BOCES in Westhampton and, while raising a disabled child has challenges, the Behrs think of Jared as their greatest gift, a piece of Heidi left behind to love. "He holds us together," said John. "Where would we be without him?"
Once, someone commented that if Jared were too difficult to care for, there were institutions for disabled children. "I told him we've never thought of him as a burden -- we have always thought of him as a blessing," June said. "He's a wonderful little boy."
And in her son, there are glimpses of Heidi. "He has certain expressions -- you can see Heidi in him," said June. Dana, Heidi's sister, said he and Heidi share the same double jointed thumb.
Dana, her parents say, is devoted to her nephew. And while John worries about the day when he is gone, and no longer able to care for Jared, both he and June are secure that Dana will look after her sister's son.
Today, June and John hope to give back, to keep Heidi's memory alive by a scholarship in her name that is funded through an charitable organization, Heidi's Helping Angels, founded by former Riverhead Town Supervisor James Stark.
Fundraisers, such as a steak dinner event held at Polish Hall last September, have enabled the Behrs to give four $2,000 scholarships this year to students at either Riverhead or Mercy High Schools. The scholarships will be awarded on the basis of community service, in honor of their daughter, who gave her life while giving back to others.
It was something Heidi would have done herself, June noted. Even when she was a struggling single mother, she donated $50 to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Today, on Jared's birthday, the Behrs donate $50 to the organization in her memory.
Married for 33 years, the Behrs' love is evident as they gaze at Jared. Tragedy can tear couples apart, June said. Holding Jared in their arms, she added, "If anything, it's brought us closer."
Heidi, she added, lives on, in her son and in their lives. "She's with us," she said.