22-year-old Clay William Shephard passed away on a Sunday morning in May 2015 after a drug overdose. Devastated, his family mourned his death by writing a touching obituary for their beloved son. However, they never expected this heartwrenching obituary to go viral on the Internet. In it, the family talks about Clay’s life and what he meant to them. He was the youngest of four children, and he was raised in a loving home in Apex, North Carolina, along with two brothers and a sister. But it’s the message inside the obituary that is truly resonating with people around the water. The obituary encourages families everywhere to love one another and to never Clay’s death was rather uncommon in the sense that his parents knew of Clay’s addiction to drugs. He had gone to rehab multiple times, but each time something caused him to relapse. His family writes that “even when the surface is calm, the water may be turbulent just beneath.” be afraid to ask for help.“This note isn’t an attempt to assign blame for Clay’s death,” his family writes. “We write this obituary in hope that it may provide insight to those that need to change their behaviour one night at a time.”The Shephards used Clay’s obituary not as a way to say goodbye to their beloved son, but as a platform to inspire other families to better understand what their members and children might be going through. The Shephards hope that they can prevent a family from experiencing the pain that they went through with Clay’s death.
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 the hope that it may provide an insight into those that need to change their behaviour 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 humour, 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