Over the holidays, my brother Beau passed away unexpectedly. We won't be sure until we get the final report from the coroner, but at this point we're nearly certain Beau was taken from us by an opioid overdose. As I sat at his funeral two weeks ago, I thought deeply about how this could have happened to my sweet brother. Our family is not alone in absorbing the tragedy of a lost brother, a lost son, a lost father. Last year, 63,600 Americans died from an opioid overdose. A 21 percent increase from the year before, which had previously been the worst year for drug overdoses in American history. 63,600 people. Think about how many people that is. The entire Vietnam War- a confict that stretched across 19 years- sent 58,000 Americans home in body bags. Why isn't this opioid epidemic being treated like it is our Vietnam? Because it is. Because watching my mother and father mourn their son, it certainly felt like, as a country, we should be doing everything in our power to make sure the killing stops. We must be heard, whether it is out in the streets or in our statehouses. How can we find ways to lift our voices up and let them be heard from wherever we congregate, whether our churches or our schools or our homes. The opioid epidemic claimed by brother, and I sat there wondering who or what it will take next in order for all of us to look more closely at the devastation it's wreaking on our families and our communties. There is an urgent need for understanding of this disease and we must reckon with the consequences of each day we avoid meeting the challenge head on. It feels so overwhelming right now, but I'm hoping that Beau's loss will spur a discussion, will somehow jumpstart a conversation about how we can come together and save more lives from being lost.
In the meantime, my family, Beau's family, lost a son and a father. He was such a hard-working, charismatic, sensitive family man. He established a small business as a dry-waller and painter. He spent all of his time caring for his two young kids. He was proud of his daughter Mariyah, 13, and son Damien, 9, and loved doing all of his favorite things with them- snowmobiling, four-wheeling, boating, tubing, fishing, and vacationing. His kids were his greatest joys in life.
We're going to need your help to raise them in his stead- to make up for what his family lost. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Thank you for your help.