Matthew Shepard’s story has echoed throughout every corner of the United States since his tragic murder in 1998.
Shepard, a young boy with so much life ahead of him, had his last day handed to him by boys unlike him who were filled with hate and intolerance. But from the devastating tragedy of his life lost came a birth of awareness and passionate, tough advocacy for LGBTQI rights.
However, decades later and many milestones achieved on the memory of a young kindhearted soul, Shepard’s ashes still remained safeguarded from the possibility of harm by anti-gay barbarians. On Friday, October 26, 2018, Shepard’s ashes finally found it’s eternal resting place in the holy shelter of Washington National Cathedral.
The Washington Post was one of many media outlets to cover the special occasion.
Bells chimed softly, a flute slowly played “Morning Has Broken” and thousands filled the soaring nave of the Washington National Cathedral for the interment service of Matthew Shepard, the young man whose murder 20 years ago horrified the nation and became a milestone in the fight for gay rights.
The poignant service was at once a funeral and a celebration of life, a moment of closure for Shepard’s loved ones and of remembrance for all those moved by the murder of Shepard, who was pistol-whipped and left for dead on a remote Wyoming prairie.
Presiding over the worship service at the second-largest cathedral in the country, in front of a crowd of about 2,000 people, was Bishop Gene Robinson, whose elevation in the early 2000s as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church marked another huge — and controversial — landmark in the push for LGBT equality.
Bishop Gene Robinson leaned on Shepard’s guiding soul to speak to the churchgoers and out to the viewing world of the battle that our community still faces today and the fight that we still have to pursue right now, especially for our trans brothers and sisters.
Rippling through the Cathedral at times was the crackling energy of a political rally, with Robinson urging the crowd not to simply commemorate Shepard but to train their eyes on continued discrimination against sexual minorities, especially transgender people, who he called a “target” right now.
Just this week reports surfaced that the Trump administration is “seriously” considering changing the way it treats transgender people under the law — a fresh and direct aim at transgender rights.
“There are forces who would erase them from America,” Robinson said. Twice he urged attendees to ”go vote.”
The crowd gave Robinson a long standing ovation as he closed his homily, chocking back tears.
“There are three things I’d say to Matt: ‘Gently rest in this place. You are safe now. And Matt, welcome home.’ Amen.”
Shepard’s father, Dennis Shepard, spoke at the beginning of the service and Shepard’s mom, Judy Shepard, rejoiced that her son ashes finally had a place to rest in forever loving peace.
For two decades, Shepard’s parents kept their son’s ashes near their home in Casper, Wy. They feared laying him to rest in a public place, fearing it would draw attention from “people who hated what Matt represented,” his mother, Judy Shepard recalled in an interview earlier this week. When a representative from the Smithsonian suggested the Cathedral earlier this year, it struck the couple as the perfect fit, Judy Shepard said.
“We were waiting to find the right solution, and the right solution appeared,” she said.