Coping with the loss of a child by sharing music

Earlier this year Newscenter 16 featured a Notre Dame researcher who found a mom’s risk of death skyrockets by more than 300-percent within two years of losing a child. Dr. Bill Evans says those two years are a critical period in which people need to focus on the health of grieving moms.

A Plymouth woman whose young son was killed in a car accident is coping with her loss in a way that she hopes can help others get through a loss that is impossible to fully get over.

Deb Johnson has movies to remind her of happier times when her son, Drew Shearin, 17, sat at the keyboard composing songs.

Drew was killed while driving home from work last year. There were no drugs, alcohol, or cell phones involved in the accident. Deb believes Drew may have swerved trying to avoid an animal.

“Drew was amazing,” says Deb, “Anyone who knew him loved him. Most of it was his personality. He loved life.”

Since his death Deb has tried to find some way to make something so horrible into some kind of good. She has spent the last 14 months working toward that goal of finding the good out of sheer tragedy.

Drew was the drum major at Knox high school and Deb says he could play almost any instrument he picked up. “He said my second favorite thing to do is listen to music. My first favorite thing is to let music listen to me,” says Deb.

His mother says he entered one piece he wrote in the Indiana Music Educators Association competition, winning a first place award, “He told me that his one true dream in life was to have a piece of his played by a band and thank God, he got to hear it.”

Now Deb wears musical notes permanently on her wrist in memory of her son. She says she will never fully get over his death, but she wants other mothers and fathers to know how she copes.

The Johnson/Shearin family is getting through by sharing Drew's gift with others. They established a scholarship at Knox High School in addition to a fund that they created with the help of the North Indiana Community Foundation to give musical instruments to kids who cannot necessarily afford them.

“He loved helpings kids. We want to put instruments in kids hands through Drew's gift,” said Deb.

Deb also created a website to share her son’s talents, and turned her garden into a tribute to Drew’s love of music.

From the arbor to planters made from his instruments...
While the planters made from Drew’s instruments will not bring her son back, Deb says it brings comfort. She says other moms and dads coping with loss need to find whatever helps them through because it is a pain that never goes away.

“It's not just over when the world says it's over, that you should be all better now. It's not that way, when you lose a child it's not that way,” says Deb.

By sharing Drew's music the family believes Drew's Gift lives on.

To make donations of musical instruments call the Northern Indiana Community Foundation at 877-432-6423, and the Starke County Community Foundation at 574-772-3665.

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