Community unites to celebrate life lost to overdose

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Brian Lang’s family and friends recently celebrated his 30th birthday without him. On October 30, 2016, after years of struggling with addiction, Brian passed away following a drug overdose.

“Today I am feeling very good about the friends and family that have come together to support my son’s demise,” said Diane, Brian’s mom. “He had a wonderful life. He died of a terrible disease that needs to be nipped in the bud. With the love that’s in this room alone, it’s simply amazing.”

Well over 100 people gathered at the Bishop Hill Tavern on September 30 to celebrate Brian’s life and to unite behind the loss they’ve experience since his passing.

“We wanted to do something for the family and build a Banner of Love and how they’ve been so supportive, and that’s what today is all about,” said Henry Fellela, who helped organize the celebration.

Supporters used the gathering to raise awareness of drug addiction and to raise funds for Build the Banner, a local non-profit who’s goal is to build a Banner of Love with faces of all of those who have fallen to addiction. The organization, according to Brian’s family, has done wonders for them in helping to cope with their grief and loss. As told by his brother, John, Brian was the fourth name that was placed on the banner.

“I think that time does heal all wounds. Every day is different; some days are easier than others. For me, the hardest part is seeing my family now,” said John. “When my mother or father is having a hard day, that’s tough to see. That’s why a day like today is an emotional day, but with friends and family coming together it helps.”

The family said that Brian had been suffering through his addiction for some time but was seeking professional help. Just prior to his passing, he spent 40 days in rehabilitation. On his fifth day out of the program, he suffered a fatal overdose.

“This was the worst year I’ve ever had. It was an unimaginable loss and heartbreaking,” said Brian’s father, John. “But I can’t believe the outpouring of support that we’ve had. Families from all walks of life, whether it was from work or play, they all have come out to support us and we can’t thank them enough.”

During the celebration, family and friends reminisced about the little and big things they remembered about Brian in an attempt to fill the void he left behind. Some said they still felt like Brian was there or that they could still hear his voice. Others said they missed laughing with him.

“Looking at my children, looking at his girlfriend Nicole, looking at my husband in their eyes, as a mom I’m supposed to be able to fix that hurt and I can’t. That’s the only thing, I want to fix them and I can’t,” said Diane. “But it’s okay, because every day we get stronger and stronger, and my son was an organ donor. Because he died, he saved seven people. Seven. And one is six years old right now and starting first grade, and he’s doing well because of my son Brian.”

Brian’s sister, Andrea, said she was always proud of the person that Brian became.

“I’m better now, but I miss him tremendously. I wish he was here. But I know he’s in a better place, I believe that,” she said. “He’s not suffering, he’s not living the life he didn’t want to live. He didn’t want to be an addict. He didn’t want to be a disappointment and he never was, he never was a disappointment to us.”

With the tremendous outpouring of community support, nearly $5,000 was raised for Banner of Love and their mission of support and awareness.

“My main reason to speak out and to say my son died and what he died from, I’m not ashamed because we have to remove the stigma from this drug addiction,” said Diane. “His death from drugs is no different than a heart attack, cancer or an aneurism. It’s the same thing.”

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