Ordinarily, even with what appears to be ADD, I can read several books at a time. My curiosity pushes me through. Following a recent injury and long recovery process, however, I found myself unable to get into reading and leaving so many books unfinished.
Then the anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death came up—an unnecessarily cruel tragedy that affected so many of us. For whatever reason, I realized I wanted to know more about Matthew. Surely, he was more than this gay poster child that people murdered because he was different.
All my life, I’d heard people claim that those who were on a “different” path from what they interpreted as the “right” path are the evil ones. But when you see where hate for those who are different can lead, it’s hard to fathom that there is any worse evil than these self-righteous individuals who are so lacking in empathy.
We don’t need any more evidence, do we? And, yet, if we keep reading, keep watching, keep listening, we witness how unbelievably depraved “humanity” can get.
Still, I wanted to know this story, and, as a mom, I wanted to learn it from his mother—a person who truly knew and loved him.
Judy Shepard said so much in this book without making it, in the least, about herself. She seemed determined that Matthew was the focus, beginning to end, who he was besides that poor baby boy you keep hearing about every October. You think how awful, how sad, but we know so little about him.
Well, throughout this reading experience, Judy Shepard’s honesty floored me. Among other things, she divulged that Matthew wasn’t the saint the media portrayed. With whatever flaws he had, he was also lovable and sweet with a very kind heart. She had loved him wholeheartedly knowing exactly who he was, and this—this is the kind of love we all deserve. Not the type where loved ones put us on a pedestal we can’t possibly live up to, secretly detesting us when we fall short or blindly worshiping us for all the world to see. She knew her child. She knew that different kids had different needs, and, that, even with the heartbreak of specific hopes you have to put aside for this precious being you cherish with all of your heart, acceptance is critical.
Mrs. Shepard wrote this book so intelligently, so lovingly. I read it in just a couple of days, and I couldn’t put it down.
Fortunately, in this storytelling, we also see how beautiful humans can be. During this unspeakable tragedy, many gave their unconditional support to the Shepard family without hesitation and were capable of such unconditional love.
You know, I’ve often heard people say that it’s arrogant for a writer to think he or she can teach anyone by sharing a story. They are so wrong! This book was another reminder to me of how another person’s words, thoughts, regrets, and perspectives can make one stop and think. To feel something like, “I can relate to this or that,” or “Wow, that gave me new insight into something or another.” That is the beauty of reading.
We learn from anyone and everyone, and we are always teaching whether we mean to or not.
So, hopefully, after reading this heartrendingly excellent work of non-fiction, I have opened the mental corridors of my mind that allow for the processing of fantasy realms and old classics that can transport me instantly to the past.
Sometimes, reality hurts too much.