Brilliant, inquisitive, empathetic, compassionate, helpful, talkative
Tyler was intelligent, inquisitive, and had mild Asperger’s. When he was young, he was obsessed with brooms and vacuums and later with pirates and pirate costumes. When Tyler was 18 months old, the family was getting pictures taken at Sears, which required walking by the vacuums. The only way to get Tyler to be in the picture was to bring a vacuum cleaner into the room! He proudly stood with it, and it is now a cherished photo.
School work had little significance for Tyler. He preferred a self-study of what was relevant to him, like teaching himself to build a computer. Since he didn’t care about completing schoolwork, Tyler left early and did not graduate from high school.
Tyler was a tech genius and an early adopter and miner of Bitcoin. He could be a little devious with his skills, like when he hacked into his high school computer system or got into Postmates and had food delivered to the park for him and his friends. At boarding school in Utah, he hacked the school computer system using his iPod since they were not permitted to have cell phones.
The family loved to travel together. In the Bahamas, they swam with wild pigs and saw iguanas. In Hawaii Tyler, the inveterate inventor fashioned a paddle out of a big shovel. “You were never bored with Tyler,” his mom said. “When stranded on a deserted island, Tyler was the one to be with.” He was like the professor on Gillian’s Island, able to MacGyver or fix anything.
Memories of Tyler making useful items out of found objects persist – such as when he was in a wilderness program and crafted a lacrosse stick for his brother, a necklace from an animal tooth for his sister, and a carved spoon. There are also memories of the three kids playing and laughing in the pool, and of brothers, Griffin and Tyler singing and laughing hysterically in the car while poking fun at their dad. There is also the time Tyler said people mistook him for Ed Sheeran and the family was incredulous. But, later they witnessed tourists pointing at Tyler and saying, “Ed Sheeran.”
There is melancholy at certain moments, like hearing favorite songs, or making reservations for four, not five. It is difficult to grocery shop and spot Tyler’s favorite foods that won’t be going into the cart. “He loved those little cartons of chocolate milk and easy mac and cheese,” his mother Juli said.
When Tyler overdosed a couple of days prior to his passing, while living at a sober living house, Juli was told he tested negative for drugs. In disbelief, Juli asked the doctor three times if he tested Tyler for Fentanyl. The five-panel tox screen does not test for fentanyl because it is a synthetic opioid, but that was what was in his system. This information could have changed the family’s decision about how to proceed with Tyler’s care that day, and perhaps changed the outcome. Juli is getting a state law into committee, “Tyler’s law,” that will require hospitals to test for fentanyl.
Juli has started a nonprofit with a friend. They give out Narcan and fentanyl testing strips, organize events, and attend awareness campaigns. “If I wasn’t doing this, I would probably be in a heap on the floor,” she said, “it gives me purpose.” She added, “I like to know that other people remember Tyler. That’s the worst thing – to think that your child is forgotten. He was so accomplished and had so much potential. Because of drugs, that is gone.”
Tyler’s mother, Juli Shamash, provided the information for this narrative.
July 3, 1999-October 21, 2018
Age 19-Lived with the disease of addiction for three years.