Our beloved Brandon Jared Gray died Sept. 16, 2019,  as a result of an apparent overdose. Because drug overdoses in our society are at an epidemic level, toxicology results won’t be available for 12 to 14 weeks. He was 38 years old. Brandon always spoke of wanting to give back and help others, so if his life and how it ended can offer help to someone, we wanted to share it.

Brandon was born in Sayre, Pa., May 15, 1981, the son of Donald G. Gray and Leslie Farber Fillnow. Brandon attended Waverly High School in Waverly, N.Y. He spent a lot of his adult life in Elmira, N.Y. Brandon made many attempts at attending college, but his addiction kept him from achieving his goal of becoming a nurse. He did complete his training as a CNA. Brandon enjoyed snowboarding, hiking, science fiction, cooking, soccer and soap-making – and will always be remembered for his intelligent mind that sometimes took him places we could not understand, his charming personality, kindness to animals and welcoming smile.

Unfortunately, he will also be remembered as a statistic and a “drug addict.” Along Brandon’s journey, he started using drugs and always felt he was in control. Brandon’s family and friends truly loved him and tried to be supportive as he struggled with addiction. He fiercely fought for years.

All Brandon wanted was a normal life with a family, free from the chains of addiction. Even though his story came to a sad ending, if a life can be saved because of his being lost, his goal of helping others will carry on. For those of you who excommunicate an addict, think again: have boundaries, but reach out to them safely, with an “I love you” text, “you're important to me” phone call, a letter in jail. You never know when that one word, that one sentence, that one moment might change their mind. We had the gift of talking to Brandon the day before he died, and we told him how much we loved him and he returned by saying he loved us. My last text to him was after he sent me a picture of his friend's ferret named Wheez; I wrote “That is what I like about you, your love for animals.” His response was “Awe thanks, mom. It’s definitely one of my better qualities.”

Brandon was preceded in death by his grandmother, Gloria Gray; grandfathers Donald C. Gray and Bill Kuehner; his aunt Janet Gray; and his dog Tara, whom he named after the Buddhist Green Goddess of Mother Nature.

He is survived by his parents – Leslie Farber and Robert J. Fillnow, and Donald G. and Terri Gray; brothers Dustin Bluen Gray, Dane Thetga, Garrett Foster and  JR Shelnutt III; sisters Burgandy Gray, Nikki Keeney; maternal grandfather Robert Farber; maternal grandmother Beatrice Galterio Kuehner; aunts Jacqueline Siragusa, Rene Matzko, Michelle Garro, Roberta Farber, Elizabeth Cochran, Anne Gray and Geralyn (Dee Dee) Gorczyca; uncles Joe Matzko, Mickey Garro, Roy Siragusa, Timothy Gray, Jamie Gray, Robert Cochran and Doug Fillnow; cousins who loved him always Brittany Wine, Justin Wine, Joseph Matzko, Michael Garro, Amy Garro, Nicole Garro, Gwen Lipps, Megan Mrkonja, Timothy Cochran, Micaela Cochran, Robert Cochran, Caitlin Landry, Josh Gorczyca and Jacob Gorczyca.

Special mention: a very close friend who loved him through the best of times and the worst of times and with her help, she has been able to help us mourn the loss of our son with good memories, Marlowe Lowe.

A memorial service will be held for Brandon Saturday, Oct. 5, at 1 p.m. at the First Congregational Church Of Camden, 55 Elm St. His ashes will be put in a resting place with the ashes of his chocolate Labrador retriever, Tara, who died in January 2019 of old age.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Pope Memorial Humane Society at humanesocietyofknoxcounty.org/