Spokane man's emotional, honest obituary two years in the making - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Spokane man's emotional, honest obituary two years in the making

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SPOKANE, Wash. -

It's been two years since 24-year-old Seth Pettengill passed away, but it has taken that much time for the step-mother he left behind to write and publish his obituary. 

Kathy Calaway's tribute to the man she raised as her own has been popping up on local Facebook feeds as people share the incredibly honest take on Pettengill's life and the destruction he left behind as a result of his heroin addiction. 

“You see, Seth could be alive today. He could be laughing, smiling, and playing with his Chihuahua but he is not. He is dead. Seth died alone and in a musty windowless basement bedroom from a heroin overdose,” Kathy said as she began the obituary. 

She made it very clear why she wrote the obituary the way she did. 

"The cause of his death could not be swept under the rug and ignored. There are too many dying, too many parents waiting for that phone call, too much anguish in the soul of the addict for us to gloss over it.”

Pettengill was Calaway's wife's son from a previous marriage. Calaway told The Spokesman Review that she had to go through the grieving proces before she could write. That process may have taken more than 700 days, but she said once she began writing, the words came easily. 

Dozens of parents have reached out to them or commented on the obituary, sharing their own stories of losing children to drug addiction. Calaway said she hopes being honest about Seth’s death will lead more people to open up about the loved ones they’ve lost to heroin.

Pettengill's full obituary reads: 

"PETTENGILL, 
Seth Marshall
(Age 24)

Seth Marshall Pettengill was born April 13, 1990 and died July 4, 2014 in Spokane, WA. It has taken two years of searching, screaming, agony and tears to finally write his obituary. You see, Seth could be alive today. He could be laughing, smiling, and playing with his Chihuahua but he is not. He is dead. Seth died alone and in a musty windowless basement bedroom from a heroin overdose.

Watching him grow up you would never think that he would become a junkie with all the accompanying junkie behaviors. He was sweet, cuddly, silly, a bit lazy with his chores and homework, but often described as a "cherub" and always polite and respectful to adults. He had dreams, opportunities, love, support, intelligence, and a loving and caring heart. Seth was delightful and a joy to be with. Life for Seth changed forever at the age of 13 when his beloved sister Morgan was killed as a result of vehicular homicide. From that moment on the light left his face and anger and pain filled his heart; he lived recklessly and often sailed too close to the wind.

Within months of losing his sister, Seth began using drugs. He became the quintessential example of the addict's progression from pot to heroin and everything in between. Like all addicts, he was able to hide it for a long time but eventually he would begin to unravel. Life became an endless cycle of binging, arrest, injury, or hospitalization, withdrawal and the pain and agony that comes with it, periods of being clean and sober when that loving young man returned to us for a brief time, only to be followed by relapse and our crushed hearts once again thrown into the maelstrom of his dependency. We went from hope to despair too many times to count, waiting for the day we got the phone call that he was dead. That call came two years ago.

Seth is part of an ever growing trend among our children. He was one of 47,055 drug overdose deaths in 2014, according to the CDC. Ten thousand five hundred and seventy-three other Americans died along with him that year from heroin. Seven-hundred and thirty days have been needed in order to merge the cherub Seth, addict Seth and dead Seth into a short summary of his life and tragic end. The cause of his death could not be swept under the rug and ignored. There are too many dying, too many parents waiting for that phone call, too much anguish in the soul of the addict for us to gloss over it. We could not have another mysterious death of a young person covering the pages of the obituary section. Seth's beautiful childhood and tragic end needs to be told with truth. That is the only way to really honor him and the pain his death has left behind. Everyone needs to know what is happening to our children if we are to have any chance at saving another Seth.

Seth left behind a large number of friends; many who were enablers, accomplices, and profiteers from his addiction. There were many more who had to walk away over the years because they could not watch drugs take over the friend they loved. Those were the true friends. Beautiful, sweet, and sensitive Seth was preceded in death by his sister Morgan Mueller and his grandparents. He is survived by his shattered and demolished parents.
 

Published in Spokesman-Review on July 3, 2016"

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