SNAP Tribute Page

In Memory of

David Brien

Dear Friends,
Please accept our deepest sympathy on the loss of David. He was a friend, a fellow survivor, a leader and a southern gentleman. He was so kind to so many people. Everyone felt an instant connection to him and he always made them feel special, he made complete strangers feel there was no one else in the world he would rather spend time with than them.

David always had a smile on his face and was ready for fun. If you were with David you were happy and having a good time. He knew there was evil in the world but he also knew there was good, beauty and hope. The world was a better place because of David.

Some of our leaders wanted to send you their remembrances of David and we have started a page on our website in his honor. Thank you for sharing him with us. He will not be forgotten, he is always in our hearts.
Barbara Dorris

I've known literally thousands of survivors. I don't know many, however, who were more consistently pleasant and fun to be with than David.

His compassion for others was clear and strong. His sense of outrage at the injustice of abuse was deep and constant. His understanding of the effects of trauma was acute and solid. Still, somehow, he was a joyful person, and shared that joy easily and often with others. He was no Pollyanna, but someone who managed, despite enduring devastating trauma, how crucial and healthy it is to look at our glasses as half full.

One of my favorite memories of David came from our national conference in Denver a few years ago. We had a vigil for survivors who'd lost their lives. Like all of us, David was obviously deeply moved, especially by the parents who spoke so lovingly of the children they'd lost. The Rocky Mountain News was among the media who attended the event. The next day, the entire front page of that paper was taken up with a beautiful photo of David's face, looking sad but strong.

Every movement for change or justice must appreciate every single person who helps in any way, large or small, once or repeatedly. But in our movement at least, we have an especially abiding gratitude to those who help out time and time and time again, and in every conceivable way. That was David. He volunteered to do the easy, simple, behind-the-scenes chores. He volunteered to do those hard, stressful, up-front jobs. He was willing to be interviewed by reporters, or talk one-on-one over the phone to struggling, first-time-caller victims. And he did this not for a few weeks or months, but for years, well past the initial exciting period in 2002 when the Boston revelations first surfaced, and into the much harder period, when the press, public and parishioners began to tire of this horrific scandal.

David's courage and his hard and selfless work has clearly helped other survivors who were even less fortunate and further behind in their recovery process. He contributed mightily to exposing predators, protecting kids and consoling victims. I'm proud of him, others in SNAP are proud of him too, and I'm sure his family and friends are as well.

News of David's sudden passing sent ever-widening ripples of sad emails throughout our organization, from coast to coast, especially among fellow leaders who had the pleasure of getting to know him. It sounds trite, perhaps, but he is already sorely missed and will be for a long, long time to come.

David Clohessy
SNAP national director

Wanted to share the letter I wrote to our SNAP members.
When your child dies it feels as if the world should end, that nothing could possibly go on as normal. But the world absorbs the death of your child and keeps on going, seemingly indifferent. The continuation of mundane existence seems to highlight the horror of your loss.

How can I be making small talk? How can I be worrying about what to wear, what to eat? Yet I do. The world goes on and I with it, even though it feels like a betrayal of my son.

And not only life goes on, but death, too. People don't stop living and people don't stop dying. You think you can't possibly feel any more pain than you have already felt, and then someone you care about dies, and you realize that your capacity for pain just grows to accommodate each successive tragedy.

On Saturday we buried David Brien. We gathered to mark his passing and honor his life. For a few hours the world seemed to hold its breath and we grieved together. Then we turned away from each other and returned to the ordinary and mundane. But the world to which we returned was a world changed, a world a little less bright, a little less loving, because David was no longer there.

"All will be well" according to Catherine of Siena. Do I believe that? I don't know what I believe any more, but David believed. And David, wherever he is, is no longer in pain and for that I am grateful. Could we have loved him more? Yes. Could we have saved him? No. I lived with my son Malcolm, I saw him every day and ate with him most evenings. We talked. We went out for lunch. We shared jokes and books and ideas. But I didn't know that he was planning to take his life. And even if I had, I'm not sure what I could have done other than have him committed for a while. But what then?

It is arrogant of us to think we can save another human being. We can't--unless they want to be saved. All we can do is try to save ourselves and try to love each other a little more.


Friday, 12/05/2008

To the Family and Friends of David Brien:

It was my great honor and sheer pleasure to know David. He was a bright light for so many. Although we were truly only together a few times, he was a special person to me. We rallied together at the SNAP national meetings to share stories, debate on who had the craziest dog, family, and friends. (I usually won on the family part, but then I have kids so it wasn’t much of a challenge.)

We would sit until wee hours of the morning laughing and drinking cocktails until the bartender would give us the evil eye. What was great about this “unofficial” SNAP meeting is that we were able to share through laughter what we all went through for the past year. We could laugh at ourselves, and relieve some of our pain. Our discussions weren’t always about “SNAP stuff”; they were about our lives too.

For some reason, maybe because we were all abused as kids, there seems to be a special bond between as my friend and co-leader, Dan Frondorf, calls “our brothers and sisters”. It is strong and unending. Some of us may come and go, and others stay for the long haul. Regardless, that bond is rarely broken.

He was one of the many reasons I went to the SNAP national meetings. It was the only chance we had to get together. Now, I am truly sorry that I missed last year’s event. I know I won’t miss another one.

I will miss David. His laughter, generosity, gentle demeanor, and honesty. Not to mention his glorious NOLA accent. He always referred to his parents (whom he spoke about with great pride and love) as “Mamma and Daddy”. Since I am from Cincinnati and have absolutely no accent, every time I heard him talk, it made me want to gobble him up because it was just so cute!

It is with great sadness that we must say “Goodbye”, but I know that he is someplace looking down on us and making sure that we continue on with our work down here. Hopefully, he will put a good word in for us with the Great Creator. This motley crew could use all of the help we can get.

Thank you David, for all that you have given us. May you be at peace.


Christy Miller
SNAP Cincinnati Co-Leader and standing member of the “Cocktail Club” at the SNAP national meetings

October 16, 2008

To the family of David Brien,

I hope that you are proud, David was a blessing, and he will be missed.

Even though I did not know him well, I remember clearly talking with him at the Snap conference 2008.

....And for anyone who knows me, I am very bad at remembering names, but when I heard that David Brien had died and was buried, I instantly remembered who he was.

David was the sweetest, dearest human being, with a beautiful smile. We talked about his brother and his dealing with Katrina. I will remember that smile and the feeling that, “I know you, David Brien, you are the best”

With love,
Judy Jones, from St Louis, SNAP director southeastern Ohio

The recent loss of David Brien has brought great grief and great thankfulness to us here in his home group.

Grief for his loss is compounded by the knowledge of how courageously he fought to find peace for himself and others.

And thankfulness that we has him with us as long as we did. That first night years ago when my husband, Dr Steve, and I rented the public library and sent a notice to the newspapers about SNAP coming to New Orleans, it was David who walked in the door first. His gratitude for the new Group was shown every day after that in the work he did for all of us and his faithful attendance at national meetings. He will be sorely missed.

Lyn and Steve Taylor

I am so sad to hear of the loss of David. I just met him at the Chicago conference. He left an awesome impression on me that reminded me why I needed to go on. He was so devoted to his cause. I will think of him always. I remember how he was concerned the doors to the conference were not being watched well enough. He wanted every survivor there to be protected from outsiders. I thanked him for all he did, I never knew it would be the last time I would see him He will always be a hero in my eyes. He seemed to be more worried about the others in his state then himself. He said we had to take care of everyone. My heart will always be thinking of David and his selflessness! David my tears and love for what you did while you were here will ring till the end of time. David is truly an angel.
Love and Light
Eduardos mother
Barbara Garcia Boehland
San Antonio Director

David Brien is one of the finest people I have ever known. I know many lives; mine most especially have been made richer because he was in it. I have been sitting here, trying to think of how to write a condensed version of all the many wonderful inspiring things David has done in my life, or I have been honored to witness. I know this is cliché but there aren’t enough adequate words to express all that he has meant.

I met David years ago while visiting in New Orleans on an extended stay. He invited me to coffee after a SNAP Event. He invited me to attend the NOLA meetings since I would be staying there for a while. He went out of his way to make sure I didn’t feel alone. We both shared a love of dogs. I had the honor of meeting Chloe. I had the opportunity to experience the opening day of Jazz Fest with David. If you have never been to New Orleans for Jazz Fest, I now know after just one exciting day spent there with David and some of his wonderful New Orleans friends, it is a must. I had the opportunity to return in a way the sharing of festivities on a different level. David had never been to a SNAP National Conference at the time. I encouraged him to attend. After that we kept in touch, via email from time to time. I was so excited when he walked up to me at the next National Conference. He was always so gracious to all the speakers, and others he met at the conference. David loved staying up late with all of us, sharing his sense of humor and sharing his wonderful stories of mamma and daddy. This past summer in Chicago, we had a wonderful time at the SNAP Conference, just being with all our friends. I am so thankful I attended. .

I also remember, how David always thought of everyone, writing something special to reach out to others inspiring them to keep on keeping on, knowing they were not alone. Once my settlement had been put out in the press, I received an email from David. It wasn’t one that said congratulations or any of those things, David himself, shared with me, how he experienced a let down after all the years of “fighting” and having to think about the case every day. He was letting me know what the following weeks might be like. Then a few months later, an email arrived checking in with me, because at that point in his process he had struggled, and on target, I was struggling with my process. In him doing this with me, I have been able to pass this forward to other survivors.

I also remember, how humble David was, and how he always put others needs first. In New Jersey, at the 2006 SNAP Conference, some of us were sitting around talking to him and Jason Berry in the lobby, about the impact of Katrina. David was referring to how he was so lucky because he had great insurance, and in comparison, he had nothing to complain about. What people didn’t realize in that group was, David had 8 ft, of water flooding in his home, and lost everything.

In addition, I remember how proud he was when his parents opened their home for SNAP members after Katrina for their first get together. He sent me an email with all the pictures. David even called me, and I could just hear that smile beaming through the phone.

We have lost David way too soon, I am so very sad. I am thankful though, I had the opportunity to be his friend. We have this joke among some of his closest friends, that with all our issues, we are all “jacked”, so David you can be assured, the next time we all are gathered at the Conference, we will toast to you, and your “jacked” friends, and remember you with Love.

Marigrace Labella
Raleigh, NC SNAP Leader

David was a true friend and supporter of those who had been hurt by clergy, and he always put his own hurt aside to ease the burden of others. He did that for me, and I will never forget him because of it. Rest well, brother, and know that you made a meaningful difference in my life, and in the lives of many others. Thank you for your gift - I will repay you by following your example and doing my best to help others who have been hurt as we were by clergy. To his parents and family I offer my best wishes and prayers that you will find the strength to deal with your great loss. I am stunned and deeply saddened by the loss of David, and I will miss his friendship, but will also be strengthened by his memory and his example.

Dan Frondorf

My friend David was an incredible human being. His love of laughter, tears and joy inspired me to keep going even when things were dark in my life. I can still hear his thunderous laughter and see that special twinkle in his eye when he would say "we are all jacked." I would reply, "yes I know jacked-up is medical term." It is a wonder he connected with so many people who were on so many different levels of life. I will miss him but was glad to have the opportunity to say "so long friend" in New Orleans. His family are everything (and more) of what he would say about them; now I know where he got his generous spirit. May God safeguard you while you rest and may you have great peace from now on. I miss you and love you ever more,

Esther Miller