Clay Shephard died on May 17, and the obituary for the 23-year-old from Apex, NC, clearly shows the love his family had for him, listing his "intelligence, confidence, athletic ability, height, beautiful blue eyes, broad smile, fantastic wit, and the ability to engage and forge a relationship with anyone." But the Shephards were also determined not to sugarcoat how he died, penning what WNCN calls a "heart-wrenching" death notice that details how Shephard succumbed to his drug addiction: "Our charismatic and beautiful son and brother died Sunday morning from a drug overdose. Outwardly Clay looked like he had it all. … Inwardly Clay was sensitive and had struggles that he hid well from his close and clannish family. … 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 blunt openness of the obituary—which also notes the close relationship he shared with his dad, a mention of the last "I love you" text he sent to his mom, and a call to all other parents to keep tabs on their kids—has been adopted in other recent obits of young people who struggled with drugs. "This note isn't an attempt to assign blame for Clay's death," Shephard's family writes. "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." That hope has affected at least one family so far. In a recent letter in the News & Observer, Paul and Lorelei Milan say, "As parents of teenagers, we plan to read Clay's obituary at the dinner table and have an open, honest discussion of the reality of drugs and how it can spiral out of control very fast." (Similar obituaries here and here.)