Tribute from Barbara Blaine of SNAP
Eddie was amazing. He was a survivor with a big heart. His heart was bursting with compassion, hope and love. He spread it both to those who listened to his wisdom and expertise and to those who he casually met or crossed paths with. He seemed to have boundless energy and was so quick to want to help everybody else.
It was a priest who befriended the Murphy family who violated Eddie when he was so young and shattered his innocence. Eddie felt embarrassed, dirty and ashamed and didn't speak about what happened to him. For many years he didn't even understand that he had been abused. He took on the guilt and shame which caused him to ache to the bottom of his soul. He didn't have the capacity back then to understand that it was the abuse that caused the pain.
He wasn't even aware that he was hurting so much. The ache became part of his subconscious and drove him to drink. The drinking was a way of dulling the pain and of self-medicating. It wasn't until Eddie had real treatment for his alcoholism that he began to understand the aching that haunted him.
He was extremely courageous and determined which enabled him to confront the demons from that childhood abuse. He confronted the pain and he confronted the root of the pain. He spoke up, in spite of how unpopular it was. He reached out to his family members and found acceptance, understanding and strength. With the support of his family members he did what few survivors can do. He publicly reported his abuse. He spoke his truth to the most powerful institution on earth and he did it stoically and with dignity. Those in positions of authority within the church wanted Eddie and his other family members to keep this quiet. Eddie recognized that keeping the secret was an evil in the church not unlike cancer in one's body. So in an effort to root out the evil Eddie exposed the truth and tried as best he could to prevent anyone else from being abused. Without exposing the truth the evil would spread and he understood the necessity of shedding light on it. Eddie even went so far as to hold news conferences on the steps in front of the parish church.
Eddie continued to work on his recovery and healing and accepted that doing so would be a life-long endeavor. As he confronted the abuse he found healing and consolation but he also recognized that recovery for him meant having to do two more things. He had to reach out and help others who had been wounded like him and he had to do everything he could to protect other children. He accepted that, too, and committed himself to reaching out to other victims still trapped in shame and secrecy.
In an effort to prevent future abuse Eddie recognized that Colorado's laws were archaic and supported predators rather than children. He worked to change those laws. He testified before the Colorado State Senate on at least two separate occasion trying to educate lawmakers so that Colorado's children would be safer. He used his experience of pain and betrayal to teach the lawmakers of the need to update the law. It was embarrassing for many survivors to speak even privately about sexual abuse but Eddie accepted that burden, too, and chose to speak in spite of any embarrassment and pain it brought to him because he wanted to help protect children and knew that his story could help teach lawmakers.
To reach out to other survivors Eddie was in the beginning stages of starting the SNAP group in Colorado Springs. He knew there were survivors in the mountains still suffering alone in secrecy and shame who would benefit from the support of other survivors. He had committed to start and lead support group meetings this summer (2008). But he also gave to other survivors by sharing his healing journey. He inspired other survivors by sharing how he used hiking as a treatment tool. He told how the physical exercise was like a vitamin to him and that as he was hiking his anger dissipated and he gained power and strength. He also shared how he found his Higher Power, God, in the mountains as he hiked. It was an eye-opener to many that something that seems so simple, hiking, could be such a useful, empowering, healing tool. Several survivors who heard Eddie speak at last year's SNAP conference have reported that they were so inspired by Eddie's speech that they had begun to go hiking (whether they had mountains or not.)
These are some of the ways that Eddie made an impact on the survivor movement. But Eddie also had a unique twinkle in his eye. He was quick to create a laugh and to be sure that everyone was included. It isn't that he denied or minimized pain but he showed us that the pain couldn't and wouldn't control him and that regardless of how horrible anything seems there is always an opportunity or a reason for a smile and laughter.
Eddie is already missed but we are trying to stay focused on the lovely gifts of love and lessons in courage that Eddie brought to the survivor movement. To the family of Eddie, please know that we share your loss. Of course we would like it if our feeling the loss could lighten your burden of pain but recognize that isn't possible. Just want you to know that we understand a little of why you loved Eddie so much. We won't forget Eddie and we will continue to be inspired by the lessons and love he shared.