Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How Many More?

I have recently read “The Meaning of Matthew” concerning the death of Matthew Shepard written by his mother. To say that I am troubled would be a gross understatement. If I may, let me briefly recount.

Based on re-creations and eye witnesses, shortly after midnight on October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard met A. McKinney and R. Henderson at the Fireside Lounge in Laramie, Wyoming who offered Shepard a ride in their car. After admitting he was gay, Shepard was robbed, pistol whipped, then tortured, tied to a fence in a remote area and was left to die. McKinney and Henderson had also discovered his address and intended to rob his apartment. Still tied to the fence, Shepard was discovered 18 hours later by a jogger who initially mistook Shepard for a scarecrow. At the time of his discovery, Matthew was still alive but comatose.

Matthew suffered numerous fractures to the back of his head and in front of his right ear. He had severe damage to his brain stem which affected his body's ability to regulate vital functions. Also, there were approximately a dozen smaller lacerations around his head, face and neck. His injuries were decidedly too severe for specialists to operate. Matthew did not regained consciousness, remaining on full life support for his time in intensive care. He was pronounced dead at 12:53 a.m. on October 12, 1998.

Matthews father describes him as "an optimistic and accepting young man who had a special gift of relating to almost everyone...very approachable and always looked to new challenges...a great passion for equality and always stood up for the acceptance of people's differences."

In February 1995, during a high school trip abroad. According to his mother, Matthew was beaten and raped causing him to withdraw and experience bouts of depression and panic attacks. One of Shepard's friends feared his depression caused him to become involved with drugs during his time in college. A few days prior to his death, Shepard had also admitted to one of his friends that he was HIV positive

Optimistic, accepting, special gifts, beaten, raped, depression, panic attacks, drug use, HIV, robbed, tortured, pistol whipped, tied to a post, left for dead, killed.

I can't imagine . I don't want to. This was just over ten years ago.

For me, the real “Meaning of Matthew”, all deference to him and his family, is that there was no meaning. His was a life, troubled certainly, that was just starting. And before it got there, it was over in so many ways.

I am determined to find meaning, to give his life and death meaning. I want better for all of us. While his perpetrators are in jail tying to atone for their mistakes, let us look at ours.

How many jabs do we make to the person who is different? How many punches does someone else get to take at our friends and brothers while we try to decide the appropriateness of stepping in? When do we suddenly decide that enough is enough?

How many more Matthews will it take to screw in a light bulb?


  1. You may want to take a look at the Matthew Shepard foundation and contribute to the campaign to end hatred by purchasing some of the purple wrist bands with the slogan "erase hate" on them.

  2. You have a knack for getting down to brass tacks. I hate that I have a responsability here, but I see it now, and I will do my part to stand up for what is right.

  3. I look forward to the day when these types of essays a re not needed- because we are a king, loving accepting god fearing people.