It's Mother's Day 2012— a beautiful, sunny day. Lisa Raley is at her parents' house in Prior Lake, surrounded by flowers— long-stem roses, lilies, bright Gerber daisies— but something very precious is missing: Her son, Brett, who died suddenly last week in a moped accident on a quiet Savage street.
Outside the house, Lower Prior Lake sparkles and a light breeze rustles through a green canopy of trees—scene of many happy memories of Brett. Inside, a deep silence fills the house, punctuated only by the squeals of Brett's nephew, a toddler.
The family seems to be waiting for the door to open, for their restless Brett to come home. In the corner, a single candle flickers before his portrait.
"He could not sit still for nothing. He hated just hanging around the house," Lisa said. "He had to be out and busy doing something all the time."
Lisa Raley was waiting for him in the early morning on May 8, when she heard pounding on the door.
"I thought it was Brett and his friend Timmy, playing a joke on me. Just last week, his sister and I came home in the evening when they were upstairs in the living room and (we) pounded on the front door, and startled them," Lisa said. "I thought they were getting me back, because, you know, that would be Brett. I opened my garage door and I saw two flashlights out in the driveway and I still thought they were messing with me."
Instead, two stern-faced police officers delivered the news: The 18-year-old from Burnsville died around 2 a.m. after the moped he was riding struck the fence of a Savage home on . The driver of the moped was alive, but Brett died soon after emergency responders arrived at the scene.
Police have not released the identity of the driver. The Savage PD would not comment on whether the driver might face criminal charges.
Lisa Raley knows the driver, but she's keeping mum.
"We don't want to talk about that person," Lisa said.
For now, they'd rather remember Brett as he was.
A Young Life Cut Short
Brett slipped away in a matter of minutes, but his birth was difficult and long.
"He was kind of a stickler. We had problems: My water broke, but I wasn't in labor and then he was up too far," Lisa said. "At first they thought the cord was wrapped around his neck so they had to deal with that. Then they thought that—because he had such broad shoulders—that they'd broke his collar bone."
Finally, he arrived.
"He was my youngest and he was 8 pounds and six-and-a-half ounces and 23 inches long," Lisa said.
The family moved into his childhood home on Penn Avenue in Burnsville a week after he was born. From the first, he was an easy-going kid.
"He wasn't a fussy, crabby baby. He was born with really, really dark hair and when he got a couple months old it just pitch-white, so blond," Lisa said.
But even as a small child he was known for his tireless energy.
"His feet, when he started walking, were too fast for his body so he'd walk a few feet and fly into a padded chair," Lisa recalled. "His feet always had goose eggs because he just went a mile-a-minute. But he never cried, he just kept going."
As Brett grew, one thing remained the same: He was constantly on the go, constantly active. Often he used his considerable energy to help others, Lisa said. Brett helped a neighbor rebuild a two-level deck, fixed his mother's brakes, and shoveled snow tirelessly.
"He always was willing to help somebody," Lisa said. "He's been helping one of our neighbors since he was seven years old and barely able to push the lawnmower around."
Lately he'd become a budding car mechanic. In 10th grade, he'd enrolled in a mechanics class, working on big trucks. The weekend before his death, his grandparents had given him a fixer upper—an '88 Mustang.
"We only got to work on it one day, but he was helping me yesterday. He was telling me where to put the bolts and stuff," his grandfather Lyle Raley said.
The Waiting Game
Brett's funeral was on Friday, but so far, closure has alluded the Raleys.
They know little about what happened other than the basics. Currently, the Savage Police Department is working with accident reconstruction experts from the Minnesota State Patrol to determine exactly what happened that morning.
For now, life goes on in an off-kilter fashion. The family still wakes up expecting find him curled up on the living room couch. Occasionally, they bring him meals. Saturday, Lisa bought him two McDouble burgers and a Frappuccino coffee.
"It's hard because even though we saw him (at the funeral home), we still think he's going to come back. You wake up and think he'll be there," said his older sister Courtney Kearney.
"He'll always be there," Lisa added. "I was thinking about fixing up my house and selling it, but I'm staying there because there's just too many memories."