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Embracing ‘Marshall’s Way’: Grieving parents seek solace in symbolic pilgrimage

It’s arguably every parent’s worst nightmare. A phone call in the middle of the night. An officer on the other end of the line: “We regret to inform you … ”

At first, the weight of loss is circumvented by the immediacy of planning a funeral and cleaning out an apartment. But, after the out-of-town relatives go home and the hubbub fades, the enormity sets in.

For Dewey and Donna Fladd of Canandaigua, the pain was exacerbated by the “how.” Their son Marshall had died of an opiate overdose at the age of 26. He had struggled for years with addiction, triggered after having been prescribed opiates at age 12 — to alleviate the pain of migraines. Throughout his teen years, he flirted with excessive alcohol use, marijuana and prescription pills. At some point, he added heroin to the mix, including that fateful night in March 2018 — mere weeks after completing a year-long recovery program. The toxicology report listed a stew of substances, including fentanyl.

The abyss of grief into which they plunged was intensified by anger and frustration, blame and impotence — a maelstrom of dark emotions that stripped them of agency. Life, Dewey said at the time, was no longer something to be enjoyed. It was something to be gotten through until he could be “reunited with his boy.”

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