Sunday, May 2, 2010


Ask ten people and get ten definitions. I'll give you an example instead.

My friend Stephanie married a kind and loving man named Jason. They had a little boy just before our daughter was born. Life was good and filled with afternoons at the playground, family dinners and baby milestones. We took the kids trick-or-treating together. Jason worked, wrote and played guitar.


Jason's beloved Uncle Jeff was found dead. He had been part of the group known as Heaven's Gate, near San Diego. It was 1997. Thirty-nine bodies were discovered in the house where they had lived, all wearing purple track suits and new Nikes. Their leader, Marshall Applewhite, had told them they needed to exit their bodies in order to survive. The timing was tied to the Hale-Bopp comet.

As Jason struggled to deal with his uncle's choices and his own grief, the late night shows were full of jokes about the group. Journalists hounded the families, waiting outside their homes with cameras and mics. Jason remembers one well-known anchor in particular. She had become frustrated with their refusal to comment. She told Jeff's brother, "Well, we'll just go with what we have, then, and it's not going to be flattering to your brother."

Curiosity in such a case is understandable. Reporting a major story is expected, but re-victimizing the grieving relatives? This was no shock-talk personality. It was mainstream primetime news. Shameful.

This morning, Jason broke his silence. His insights are sure to help other families who suffer a similar nightmare. For readers needing guidance when reaching out to families of high-profile victims, his words will give you a place to start.

Remember who they were, respect their gifts, honor their memory and their family.

Compassion is always welcome. Jason still remembers the loving words of friend Betty Edgar, "They had good intentions. They just got anxious."

To re-open wounds just to help someone else? That's bravery.

Thank you, Jason.


  1. I want to give Jason a high-five over the internet . . . but I don't want to seem cavalier and disrespectful. So I guess I'll just say that I respect him for helping others and telling his story. Thanks Jason.

  2. How much easier would it have been for him to stay silent? And who could blame him? Instead, he chose to share what he learned and help us better understand the truth of his uncle's life and death and his family's loss.

    When, (not if), I hear from the person who shares how Jason's comments in the book helped them, I'll be sure and post it here.

  3. It's scary how a high-profile death makes idiots in the media feel they can take ownership of the story and neglect the humanity of the decedent's relatives! I don't blame Jason and his family for retreating for so long to nurse their profound wounds. I can't imagine the strength and courage it must have taken to chip away at that protective barrier. I hope it was a therapeutic experience for Jason.

  4. That's actually the very word he used. Therapeutic.

  5. How brave that man honorable. Shame on the media for their antics to force him to speak out. Shame on them. I am glad he did so when he was ready. God bless him and his family.

  6. I agree. Very honorable. I realize there can be a fine line between reporting the truth and invading someone's privacy, but this was just wrong. Preying on people in such terrible pain....for what?


When someone dies, (other than attending the service), I do this for the family-