North Carolina Family’s Obituary For Son Goes Viral For A Very Important And Heartbreaking Reason

It’s always really sad when someone passes away, but it is even more heartbreaking when it is someone so young — like 22 year-old Clay Shepard of North Carolina. We’ve all browsed our local obituaries and seen one for a young person, like Clay, and wondered what happened; but usually the small paragraphs that sum up someone’s life hold no answers about why their time on earth was cut short. That is where Clay’s differs and why it is getting much-needed attention.

Clay’s family decided that they didn’t want to write a typical obituary when he passed away last month, instead they chose to write one that would hopefully spare other families the pain of burying their child or loved one:

Our charismatic and beautiful son and brother died Sunday morning from a drug overdose. Clay was the youngest of four children, raised in a loving home in Apex with two brothers and one sister. Outwardly Clay looked like he had it all: Intelligence, confidence, athletic ability, height, beautiful blue eyes, broad smile, fantastic wit, and the ability to engage and forge a relationship with anyone. Inwardly Clay was sensitive and had struggles that he hid well from his close and clannish family.

His family goes on to explain that Clay successfully completed rehab several times, but his addiction to drugs was too strong to ever really overcome. They tell readers that the point of their words is not to “assign blame” for their beautiful son’s death, but instead they want to warn families and hopefully help someone else:

We write this obituary in hope that it may provide an insight to those that need to change their behavior one night at a time…To all children, this note is a simple reminder that there are people who love you, with everything they have and no matter what you do – don’t be too afraid/ashamed/scared, too anything, to ask for help. To all parents, pay attention to your children and the world that revolves around them – even when the surface is calm, the water may be turbulent just beneath.

The heart wrenching obituary was an amazingly brave way for his family to shine a light on a huge problem in the United States. In 2011, 41,340 died from drug overdoses in our country, almost five people an hour. That year was also the fourth year in a row that the number of drug overdose deaths exceeded the number of deaths– 33,561– from auto accidents; in 2013, the number of overdose deaths jumped to 43,982.

Unless, you know someone who has struggled with addiction, or you yourself have been a victim, it’s easy to ignore the problem. It’s easy to look at a drug addict with disgust and brush them off, thinking that you will never have to deal with it, so why should you care? That’s where you’re wrong and that’s what Clay’s family wants you to know.

Some people are able to hide their addiction really, really well. You may think your husband, wife, brother, sister, or child is perfectly fine and never suspect that they are dealing with an addiction until it is too late. Not every addict steals the family silver to pay for their drugs; many addicts function normally and hide it well. That’s why it’s important that your family members (or friends) know that they never have to be ashamed to ask for help.

You should also know that sometimes, no matter what you do, you can’t help everyone. Sometimes the addiction is so powerful that your loved one may never be able to overcome it, like Clay and that’s not your fault; but, we can all try to help by lobbying our lawmakers for more funding for drug education and rehabilitation programs.

In 2013, the Obama Administration requested $25.6 billion for the drug war. More than half of that, $15 billion, went towards law enforcement, incarceration, and international costs. The rest of it was used for treatment and prevention programs. We still lock up more people than we help and that is a problem; that is something that we can change. Until we spend more money helping people than we do incarcerating them, we will continue to have a drug epidemic in this country.

If you or someone you love suffers from addiction, you can find help here.

Clay’s full obituary from Legacy.com can be found below:

Our charismatic and beautiful son and brother died Sunday morning from a drug overdose. Clay was the youngest of four children, raised in a loving home in Apex with two brothers and one sister. Outwardly Clay looked like he had it all: Intelligence, confidence, athletic ability, height, beautiful blue eyes, broad smile, fantastic wit, and the ability to engage and forge a relationship with anyone. Inwardly Clay was sensitive and had struggles that he hid well from his close and clannish family.

We loved Clay with all of our hearts, but we now know that was not enough to shield him from the world. This note isn’t an attempt to assign blame for Clay’s death. It’s not to vent our anger and frustration at a world where drugs can be ordered and delivered through the internet. We write this obituary in hope that it may provide an insight to those that need to change their behavior one night at a time.

Clay was a solid student, decent athlete, and a very likeable kid. With his seemingly endless positive traits, he had the potential to be anything from a captivating politician to a brilliant engineer, but drugs began to creep into Clay’s life while he was in high school. As trouble hit, his father stepped in and forged an incredible bond with Clay. Although Clay could never be completely honest about the trouble he was in, his love and respect for his father became a lifeline over the last few years. He successfully completed drug rehab several times, but the craving that comes from true addiction was more than he could overcome.

While we always felt we had some grip on Clay’s issues, his ability to hide and disguise his addiction proved superior to our parental (and sibling) sixth sense. The worry that we have felt watching Clay struggle, has been replaced by a deep feeling of loss that now exists knowing we will never see his smiling face again. Despite these troubles, we can smile knowing that the last communication we had with Clay was a text and answer between mother and son to say “I love you”, just as it should be.

To all children, this note is a simple reminder that there are people who love you, with everything they have and no matter what you do – don’t be too afraid/ashamed/scared, too anything, to ask for help. To all parents, pay attention to your children and the world that revolves around them – even when the surface is calm, the water may be turbulent just beneath. Clay’s struggles have ended. He is finally at peace. We will miss his keen sense of humor, impersonations, cooking, plant advice and rhythm on the dance floor.

Goodbye Clay, we love you and miss you dearly.

Mom & Dad, Cole, Wade & Jess, Jean & Lucas

Featured image via Fox 8 News