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.