Deerfield mom turns pain to purpose, writes obit for son who died of overdose

It was a non-traditional, even stunning, obituary. But Ryan C. Hurst's death was not natural.

Posted: Feb 28, 2019 5:38 PM
Updated: Mar 26, 2019 1:17 PM

DEERFIELD, N.Y. -- It was a non-traditional, even stunning, obituary. But Ryan C. Hurst's death was not natural. The 35-year-old Deerfield man died last Wednesday, of a heroin overdose. His mother wrote his obituary with the same raw feeling and force as the addiction that killed him.

"Ryan C. Hurst, 35, passed away on February 20, 2019, unexpectedly and alone with no family by his side. He was found dead in a hotel room; another victim of an opioid overdose," reads the first line of Ryan Hurst's obituary.

"I wanted this, the first few words, to look exacty like that. And I hate to put it this way, but I really wanted it to smack everybody across the face to say, 'whoa! What is this?' And I wanted to jolt them enough in that first line or two so that they would read the rest of it," said Ryan's mother, Kayci Visalli.

Families of addicts around the country felt the sting...and reached out to Visalli.

"People are coming out of the woodwork. Washington state, Vermont, Hawaii, Connecticut, Florida....Georgia," said Visalli.

Visalli's son started using heroin around age 29. She has no clue as to why he started, only that once he did, it wouldn't let go. Her life since then has been defined by the agony of watching...and wondering...when.

"I would always watch the news 'we have this video, please see if you could identify this." There were several times that on WKTV, I called the police and said, 'yeah, that would be Ryan.' The jewelry store, the Kinney drugs in Clinton."

The worrying and dread came to an end for Visalli, last Wednesday.

"Police officer came to my door, asked if we could talk in private. Back to the bedroom, and he said, 'do you have a son, Ryan Hurst?' And I'm thinking, 'yeah, what did he do again? He's back in, isn't he?"......"when he said, 'there's really no easy way to tell you this' I knew. It was all over."

Now, Visalli wants to pry open eyes that would rather close, or look away.

"We all need to talk about it and they need to know that this happens in homes like this. It happens in rich homes, it happens in poor homes," said Visalli. "Be proactive, learn the signs, tell yourself the truth, do something about it and then you've got a greater fighting chance."

Visalli wants families of addicts to know: heroin doesn't fight fair, and must be met with equal force. And you're not denying your child; you're denying the addiction.

"Parents are afraid to turn their children in. They want to help, and they want to love," says Visalli. "As a parent or a loved one, you can just love them right out of their situation. You can love, but love is tough. And if it's not, you're enabling."

Visalli said her son loved to help people, and loved his children and was the first one to put on a cape and play superhero in the backyard. In death, Ryan is helping other addicts and their loved ones feel less alone.

"And then I'm like, 'oh, I don't get to tell him. I don't get to tell him that all of his life, all of these people that he wanted to help, and what he wanted to be, what he wanted to do, he didn't get to do until after he died. And the reality hits. And it hurts all over again."

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