Eulogy For My Beautiful Great Niece

Erica Ruth Caroline Hurley October 24, 1985 - December 7, 2015

Erica Ruth Caroline Hurley
October 24, 1985 – December 7, 2015

On December 7, my beautiful great-niece — Erica Hurley — died of a drug overdose. Erica had just turned 30 years old. I visited with Erica on Sunday, December 6, in Lexington and gave her a belated birthday hug and gift.

She seemed happy. I had no idea that her life was in danger. Erica had just completed a five day detox program at an area hospital and I thought she was doing well. She seemed in such a good frame of mind.

I was with my sister and brother-in-law on Monday morning, when they got the call that their grand-daughter that they had tried so hard to help was dead from heroin. Heart-breaking.

The funeral was in Nicholasville. These are the comments I made at the funeral:


 May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, Dear Jesus. 

Our hearts are broken.

On Monday I saw, again, what it means to be stricken with grief, to be devastated by grief, to be beaten up by grief.

It is true:   Only love can break a heart.

Our hearts are broken, shattered, destroyed.

It seems everyday I ponder the loss of our sister Carole — taken suddenly and much too soon at age 75 — taken in a head-on collision with a semi-tractor-trailer. That was May 19, 2014.

And now it is Erica, our precious Erica, who also has left us much too soon, at the age of 30 in her own collision — a head-on collision with the reality of addiction.

As I pondered on what I could say today, a familiar song came to mind. I heard these words:

The summer’s gone and all the flowers are dying,

’Tis you, ’tis you, must go and I must bide.

And when summer’s in the meadow

Or when its hushed and white with snow,

I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow.

Or Erica, Erica, I love you so.

And in my dreams, I see you free and laughing

And in my dreams I see you surrounded by love.

The summer’s gone and all the flowers are dying,

Oh Erica girl, Erica girl, I love you so.

Thirty-five years ago this week, John Lennon died at the age of 40.  A tragedy.  A huge loss. He had so much more music to write, so much more to do. The world was cheated of a great potential.

And so it is with Erica — such a great potential.  Such a tragedy.  Such a loss.

Erica was frustrated at the world for being as it is. She was idealistic. She protested against Monsanto. She was concerned about global warming. She wrote a letter that appeared in the September 22, 2013 issue of the Lexington Herald urging other young people to become involved in the Youth Climate Movement and to attend a rally scheduled in Pennsylvania that October. She wrote:

“It is up to our generation to shape the world we want to see. Every time we have a major transition in our country towards good, it was led by a strong youth movement … We need to combat climate change, stop social injustice and end corporate person-hood.”

This Lennon song fits Erica very well:

Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too.

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace.

You may say I’m a dreamer,

But I’m not the only one.

I hope someday you’ll join us,

And the world will be as one.


Violence and addiction are robbing the world of so many talented and wonderful people. Every time, from now on, when I hear of a death by drug overdose, I’ll think of Erica. I’ll see Erica’s face. I’ll have a little more compassion, a little more empathy. I’ll have more understanding about the power and the heartache of the disease of addiction.

Erica was unique. She was such a ball of energy as a child — so independent, such a big vocabulary, so stubborn. She was a challenging child, a challenging adolescent. She was witty, smart and pretty. Beautiful. Loving. Erica is the mother of a precocious and adorable child. She had much to live for.

Erica turned 30 on October 24 and Sunday, I gave Erica her belated birthday gift. I got her get well cookies delivery and gave her a big hug. On her card, I wrote these three words: I  Love  You. Since the death of Carole, I’ve started writing and saying those three important words more often. Sunday, Erica seemed happy and in such a good frame of mind. I am so grateful that I had this last opportunity to be with her.


I like the words to the Billy Holliday song:

Whether you are here or yonder,

Whether you are false or true

Whether you remain or wander

I’m growing fonder of you.

Even though your friends forsake you,

Even though you don’t succeed

Wouldn’t I be glad to take you

Give you the break you need

More than you know, more than you know

Girl of my heart, I love you so

Lately I find you’re on my mind

More than you know.

Whether you’re right, whether you’re wrong

Girl on my heart, I’ll string along

You need me so

Much more than you’ll ever know

Loving you the way that I do

There’s nothing I can do about it

Loving may be all you can give

But baby I can’t live without it.

Oh how I’d cry, Oh how I’d cry,

If you got tired and said “Good-bye”

More than I’d show

More than you’d ever know


I think Erica did know that she was loved. I think Erica knew she was very loved. And I believe she is at peace. And we must leave it there.


Our hearts are broken. What can we learn from this?  I like the old gospel song:

We are tossed and driven

On the restless sea of time;

Somber skies and howling tempest

Oft succeed a bright sunshine;

In that land of perfect day,

When the mists are rolled away,

We’ll understand it better by and by.

By and by, when the morning comes,

Well understand it better, by and by.


Our hearts are broken.

And in my dreams I see you free and laughing,

And in my dreams, I see you surrounded by love.

The summer’s gone and all the flowers are dying.

Oh Erica girl, Oh Erica, we’ll always love you so.

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4 Responses to Eulogy For My Beautiful Great Niece

  1. Ruth Baird Shaw says:

    Dear Precious Mike, My heart breaks to read (and keep to read again) your beautifully written note about Erica. You have already put into words what you need and we all need to hear at the “untimely” death of those we love. God loves beautiful Erica.

    When Christopher Reeve was asked what he had learned in the years he had been paralyzed,he replied, “I have learned we are not our body.” Reeve may or may not have known that but that is the good news you and I have heard in church all our lives. Somehow we are not getting the message of God’s love, joy and peace…out today to lovely young people like Erica.
    Mike , you and your family and in my heart and my prayers. I love you Dear Mike.

  2. John Murphy says:

    Very sorry for you and your family Mike.

  3. Fred schindler says:

    Very sad, too many people of all ages dying
    Due to drug and alcohol addiction. Many
    Insurance companies fail to allow enough hospital time to address these problems .
    The results can be tragic.

  4. Charlotte Vitali says:


    I share your loss. I am so happy that you had the opportunity to share time with Erika. I wish you comfort and lasting peace.

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