October 12, 2009

Eleven Years Later, Judy Shepard Keeps Pressing Forward

Today is the 11th anniversary of Matthew Shepard's murder. His mother, Judy Shepard, is still pressing forward trying to prevent other tragedies like the one she endured. Here is an excerpt from a Washington Post article about her.

She makes herself do it.

Judy Shepard doesn't enjoy talking in front of people, living a public life, giving speeches.

"Speech class was my worst nightmare," she said.

If only that were still true.

Eleven years ago, on Oct. 12, 1998, Shepard's first-born son, Matt -- "not Matthew, he was Matt" -- was beaten to death in Laramie, Wyo.

"This is my survival; this is how I deal with losing Matt," she told students this week at South Lakes High School in Reston.

She is the epitome of the grieving, activist parent. They are moms, in their comfortable shoes and wash-and-wear hair, or dads in their chinos and dinners-at-the-Elks-lodge shirts who are suddenly thrust before a microphone and cameras and known across the world.

Stoic and practiced, Shepard described how she went into a hospital room to see a person wrapped in bandages and sprouting tubes, unrecognizable as her son except for "the cute bump on his left ear." She could see through the gauze and the vibrant color of one eye, barely open. She recognized the braces on his teeth.

One of the students asked her whether she cared so much about gay rights before her son died. She said she probably would have been a member of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), but little more.

"I would have been the PFLAG mom in the kitchen, baking cookies," she said. "This is not something I ever aspired to do."

This ties in with the sermon I preached yesterday, about how circumstances can change so suddenly and we are forced into a transition we never would have chosen. Lives are often defined by h0w we respond to those situations, and I dare say that Judy Shepard has stepped up bigtime, looking beyond herself and giving to others. That's a pretty amazing thing to be known for, especially when you've had a child so brutally taken away from you.

Click here to read the rest of the Post article.

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