The obituary, in the News and Observer and posted online at the Apex Funeral Home, began with this sentence, “Our charismatic and beautiful son and brother died Sunday morning from a drug overdose.”
Every, every, every-thing begins to get better when we start with the truth. The truth absolutely does set us free.
Clay Shephard died, at the age of 22, May 17, while his parents were on a post-retirement trip to Ireland. They wrote the obituary coming back on the plane. Actually, his father, Dan Shephard wrote one version, his mother Melissa wrote one and then later their daughter, Clarissa, edited them into the final version. As Dan said, “We were expecting the TSA to meet us when we landed, as we were upset and crying the whole flight.”
Posting this obituary, this courageous act, went viral, as we say, in ways so large I need to recite some statistics. The obituary itself garnered over 6,000 responses of support. It went global starting with church leaders reading it in their services. From California to Durham to New Jersey, churches read it, posted it and even printed and handed it to their youth.
There has been a bit of an explosion of these obituaries, leading the NY Times to publish this article, “Obituaries Shed Euphemisms to Chronicle Toll of Heroin”
A quote from that article sums up a snapshot so essential to our vision: “….a growing number of families are dropping the euphemisms and writing the gut-wrenching truth, producing obituaries that speak unflinchingly, with surprising candor and urgency, about the realities of addiction.”
This movement includes this entry in the News and Observer, of Andrew Everett Gintis’ death.
I met with Dan Shephard and got more of the story and his willingness to let me tell it. As is evident in the photo, their son was a beaming spirit with many strengths. And a son suffering from the disease of addiction. With a genetic predisposition, much had been done to try and help him learn of the joys of recovery.
In my life and my work I have seen so many families feel what the obituary expresses. The powerlessness to combat this disease and the isolation from the stigma of our cultural prejudices create destructive barriers. As we grow visibility of this scourge we remove barriers to treatment and recovery. These families deserve our support for their courage.
I’ll end (again) with William White, who writes about shifting recovery stories from “I stories” to “We stories”
“The goal of the new recovery advocacy movement is not to get a few more personal recovery stories into the public mind. It is instead to tell a much larger we story-the story of millions of Americans and other citizens of the world who once faced life-threatening AOD problems but who today live healthy, socially productive, and personally meaningful lives free of such problems.”
Come join us!