Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Two Viral Reasons Why I'm A Proud Green Mountain Boy

Madelyn Linsenmeir, shown here with her son Ayden, died
of an opiod overdose recently. The obituary her sister wrote
has gone viral. 
Two incidents originating in Vermont went viral in the past week, and both cases make me incredibly proud to be a Vermonter.

This is true even though one of the incidents involved a tragedy, the other basically focused on a national crisis


The more viral of the two incidents regarded the death of Madelyn Ellen Linsenmeir, 30, whose obituary described how her addiction to OxyContin affected her and her family, and ultimately killed Linsenmeir.

Part of the blunt, loving and heartbreaking obituary read as follows:

"It is impossible to capture a person in an obituary, and especially someone whose adult life was largely defined by drug addiction. To some, Maddie was just a junkie - when they saw her addiction, they stopped seeing her. And what a loss for them. Because Maddie was hilarious, and warm, and fearless, and resilient. She could and would talk to anyone, and when you were in her company you wanted to stay.

In a system that seems to have hardened itself against addicts and is failing them every day, she befriended and delighed cops, social workers, public defenders and doctors, who advocated for and believed in her 'til the end."

The obit also said that using drugs "is not a choice or a weakness. And chances are good that someone you know is struggling with it, and that person needs and deserves your empathy and support." 

It now seems that practically everyone across the nation has read that obit. It asked for donations to the Turning Point Center, which helps addicts in Vermont. The Turning Point Center is now being swamped by donations and messages.

Adding more to all this was a Facebook post by Burlington, Vermont Police Chief Brandon del Pozo.

He said he had a "problem" with the Linsenmeir obituary and here's why, as del Pozo wrote on Facebook:

"A family member with a talent for expression wrote her the honest and moving obituary she truly deserved. It went viral. It's being read across the country. It's in People, the Globe, HuffPost, and the Daily News. My problem with it is that it's a much better obituary than the rest of us deserve."

"Why did it take a grieving relative with a good literary sense to get people to pay attention for a moment and shed a tear when nearly a quarter of a million people have already died in the same way as Maddie as this epidemic grew?

Did readers think this was the first time a beautiful young, beloved mother from a pastoral state got addicted to Oxy and died from the descent it wrought? And what about the rest of the victims, who weren't as beautiful and lived in downtrodden cities or the rust belt? They too had mothers who cried for them and blamed themselves."

The entire Facebook post by del Pozo, is a must readjust as Linsenmeir's obit is.

Vermont has been hit hard by the opiod epidemic.  In 2017, 107 people died of opiod-related causes, the vast majority of them being overdoses, says the Vermont Health Department.

There's plenty of blame to go around for the opiod deaths in Vermont and the rest of the nation. There are some real efforts to combat this. But it's not enough. The Linsenmeir obit, and to a somewhat lesser degree del Pozo's Facebook post, has got the whole nation talking about and confronting the opiod epidemic. At least everybody is tweeting about it, if nothing else.

The obituary was written by Linsenmeir's sister, Kate O'Neill, who told NPR: "Our hope also now lies with policymakers and politicians and the people who can make the change necessary so that these deaths stop happening. Let's put our money where our tweets are."

Once again, Vermont leads. Compassionately.


Vermont House candidates Zac Mayo amd Lucy Rogers are competing
against each other. But they ended a recent debate by
performing a duet with each other. 
Up in Lamoille County, Democrat Lucy Rogers and Republican Zac Mayo are aggressively competing against each other for a seat in the Vermont House.

Recently, Rogers and Mayo had a debate at the local library. The back and forth was reportedly respectful, and both candidates seemed to have the smarts and the goods to be decent legislators

But what happened at the end of the debate shocked locals. And that event was so shocking, it's now nicely jarring people across the nation. This, too, has gone viral.

Both candidates asked the moderator for a bit of additional time at the end of the debate. They didn't say why they wanted it, but the moderator basically shrugged and said OK.

Rogers and Mayo then began moving tables off to the side. She brought out her cello, he brought out his guitar, and the two candidates from opposing parties performed a duet in very nice harmony.

The song they chose was "Society" by Eddie Vedder. The lyrics challenge materialism and greed and excess competitiveness.

CBS Evening News picked up on this story and broadcast it to the nation in their "On The Road" segment. CBS reported there wasn't enough tissue to go around in that library for the teary-eyed audience when the candidates did their performace.

That's because politics is getting worse and worse. Lord knows it's all noise and bitterness and attack ads and hate and vitriol. Rogers and Mayo gave us, and the nation a needed political salve, a needed other way.

I don't live in Lamoille County, so I can't vote for either one of them. I'm not sure which one has political opinions most closely match my own. But whoever wins, Vermont will be well-served.

Or, as CBS said, the election has already been decided. It was a landslide victory for civility.

Here's the video of the CBS report:

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