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The parents of Diren Dede

Gulcin Dede and her husband Celal, the parents of Diren Dede, listen to testimony during the Markus Kaarma trial Friday in Missoula County District Court. 

The name Diren means to be strong, to not give up.

That's one thing Diren Dede's father, Celal, told Beth Brennan this week when she delivered gift baskets from Missoulians to the parents of the late young man who was a German foreign exchange student at Big Sky High School.

Diren Dede was shot dead at 17 after entering a stranger's garage in Grant Creek last April 27.

Now, Markus Kaarma is on trial in Missoula County District Court, accused of deliberate homicide. Celal and Gulcin Dede, Diren's parents, are sitting through the testimony.

"(We met them) at the Missoula County Attorney's Office after a long day of difficult testimony detailing Diren's death," Brennan wrote in a Facebook post. "Everyone was feeling fragile. Gulcin, Diren's mom, started crying when she came in the room.

"She and Celal hugged each of us, and Gulcin cried and cried. It was as heartbreaking as you can imagine."

Then, Brennan learned about the meaning of Diren's name and the way it gives his parents strength to endure the trial. On Tuesday, she talked with the Missoulian about how the community is reaching out to the family.

"When I said to them how courageous it was for them to be able to sit in that courtroom day after day with Kaarma there, they said, 'We do that for Diren. This is what we do,' " Brennan said. "And they talked about how much Diren loved Missoula. I think that part was pretty touching, too."

Dede entered the garage uninvited and ostensibly looking for alcohol. While Kaarma is accused of deliberate homicide, the defense team contends the shooting was justified because Dede was part of a teenage burglary ring that targeted Kaarma’s home and threatened his family's security.

***

Brennan's son, Dylan, played soccer with Diren last spring with the U18 Missoula Strikers. Diren's death had a significant impact on the team, and early on Missoula offered support to the family, Brennan said.

"We had a benefit soccer game, and did a bake sale and put out donation jars," Brennan said. "We raised almost $5,000 for the Dedes."

So when the trial started last week, Brennan started following it on Twitter, and she couldn't help thinking of the grief of the mother sitting through it. She wanted to act.

"I'm going to start crying again. I imagine that poor mother sitting in the courtroom hearing testimony about what happened to her son," Brennan said. "And then to be in this horrible, foggy gray place where you have no family or friends, and my heart just broke for them. So I wanted to be able to do something."

On Saturday, she placed a message on Facebook.

"Missoula friends, Diren Dede's parents are here from Germany for the trial of Markus Kaarma, the man who shot Diren last April. I'd like to let them know we're thinking of them and crying for them and remembering them as they grieve.

"Everything seems inadequate, but I think something is better than nothing. A basket of food and wine? Some gift certificates to local restaurants?

"... Please let me know in a message or comment if you can help."

The response was instantaneous. Brennan used to teach law, and one message came from a former law student, now a prosecutor.

The prosecutor offered to coordinate with the family's interpreter, and Brennan learned from her the couple would welcome the gesture.

"According to what I heard, they would love that. They would love to feel support from the community," Brennan said.

Donations started rolling in. Homemade bread. Wine. Cookies. And many cards with cash to offset the expenses of their trip.

On Monday, Brennan, her son and a Missoula mother who also lost a son delivered two full baskets to the couple. 

"I met with them last night. I think I was afraid that they would think badly of Missoula, and they don't," Brennan said.

***

"They talked about how hard it is to sit in the courtroom with Markus Kaarma. So they certainly harbor no good feelings toward that man. But they really do believe that Missoula is a good place.

"They talked about how much Diren loved it here. They talked about how people recognize them when they're out and about and just come up to them and give them hugs. So they don't blame Missoula.

"And that was wonderful to hear. But they're brokenhearted, and I think many of us are brokenhearted with them and want to be able to do something. You can't take away the pain of a parent who has lost a child, and you don't give them things that make them not hurt, but there are so many other things that come along with that hurt."

The expenses of the trip are one, and the community can and is helping. Those who want to donate can contact Brennan at babrennan@gmail.com or send mail to 516 W. Mountain View Drive, Missoula, MT 59802.

"There's more coming, still. It took off pretty quickly. I think it's hit a real nerve with people," Brennan said. "People are following the trial, that's for sure. But I also think maybe it's the time of year. It's the holidays. You're thinking about other people.

"And then I just think there's been a lot of attention paid to our justice system and things that are happening with young men being killed violently, and I think at least for some, this is a way of dealing with their feelings of hopelessness there, too, to do something tangible for these people, even if we can't change the outcome."

The parents have been humble and gracious in accepting the offerings from the community, Brennan said.

"They told us the meaning of Diren's name is to be strong, and to not give up," Brennan wrote on Facebook. "They told us how excruciating it is to sit in the courtroom every day with the man who killed their son, and they said they do it for Diren.

"Everyone cried. Sometimes that's all we can do – sit with people whose pain we cannot erase, and listen, and feel their pain. As Celal said, the pain of losing a son is the same all around the world."

The day after she put out the call on Facebook, she posted again, this time about the response.

"I cannot change what happened to Diren. None of us can fix his family's pain. But all of us are showing them that Montana can be more than the place where their son died. It can be a place where people are willing to step outside of their daily routines and offer tangible symbols of love and support to strangers who are hurting," Brennan wrote.

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University of Montana, higher education