Brenden Clark sat across from his 8-year-old son at a picnic table in northeastern Ohio, preparing to deliver devastating news.

“I’ve got something to tell you, OK?” he said, reaching across the table to take his son’s hand.

The 29-year-old father bowed his head and took a deep breath, then flicked the ashes from a cigarette resting between his fingers.

The young boy, still wearing his backpack after a long day at school, looked anxiously at his grandmother, who was sitting beside him.

“Mommy died last night,” Clark told his son. “OK?”

His son, Cameron, stared into his father’s face.

“What?” he said.

“Mommy died last night. OK?” Clark repeated, his voice beginning to break.

“What do you mean? My mom?” he questioned.

“Yes,” Clark said quietly.

“How!” the boy cried out.

“From drugs,” Clark said.

The boy fell into his grandmother’s arms and let out an agonizing wail. “God!” Clark said, reaching across the table to grab his son.

Seconds later, Clark walked across the picnic table and wrapped his arms around his child.

“I’m so sorry,” he told him.

The heart-wrenching scene was captured on camera and posted Monday night on Facebook, where it has since been widely shared and watched millions of times – revealing a very personal and private moment for a young boy undoubtedly in agony.

The viral video has since struck a nerve both with those who feel for a father hoping to scare other addicts straight and those who believe he took it a step too far.

Clark, who said he is currently recovering from a heroin addiction and has been clean for nearly 100 days, explained that he recorded the video without his son’s knowledge because he wanted those in the throes of drug addiction to see how their own children might one day learn their parents had died of an overdose.

Just like that, in an instant, an 8-year-old boy had become the sobbing face of the collateral damage from the nation’s opioid epidemic that, each day, claims some 78 lives, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leaving many children without a parent, sometimes without both parents.

‘THAT WAS MY MOTIVE’

“That was my motive in putting it out there – to show the impact it has on our children,” Clark said in an exclusive interview with NBC affiliate WFMJ.

Authorities confirmed to The Washington Post that Cameron’s mother, 29-year-old Lacy Wood, died of a suspected heroin overdose Sunday in Warren, Ohio, near the Pennsylvania border. A spokeswoman for the Trumbull County coroner said results of toxicology tests to determine the official cause of death are pending.

Clark said that his son had not seen Wood for more than a year because of her addiction but that she had stayed in contact with her son.

Clark said he has also struggled with drug addiction – mainly heroin but, occasionally, crack cocaine.

“My son knows that both of his parents are drug addicts,” Clark told The Washington Post in a phone interview. “He knew his mother was a drug addict. And he knows that his father is a recovering drug addict.

A 2016 report from the Warren County, Ohio Opioid Reduction Task Force states that over-prescription of opioid pain relievers and easy access to a cheaper and more readily available alternative – heroin – are driving Ohio’s opioid epidemic.

In 2014, there were 2,482 fatal drug overdoses reported in Ohio, making unintentional overdoses the main cause of injury-related deaths across the state, according to data from the Ohio Department of Health.

In Warren County the same year, 40 people died of drug overdoses, according to the task force’s report.

Clark, who is from Warren, said he moved to another town to try to escape the drugs available at home. He said he is currently in a 12-step program and living in a sober house in Youngstown, about 15 miles away.

“I was tired of the way I was living,” he said. “I was tired of being only 135 pounds and looking sick and feeling sick; every day, waking up wondering how I was going to beg for money, who I was going to con, who I was going to possibly steal from, who I was going to lie to. The conning and the conniving – I was tired of it all.”

Cameron’s paternal grandmother has had custody of him since he was a baby, according to the family.

‘WHEN IT ALL COMES TO AN END’

Clark told The Post he wanted to “show the effects of what happens after – the aftermath of the addiction when it all comes to an end.”

“This (is) for any and every addict with children,” Clark said in a Facebook post with the video. “Today I had to tell my 8 year old son that his mommy died from a drug overdose last night. This is the realization and reality of our disease. Don’t let this disease have to make someone tell your child that (you’re) dead because of drugs. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. My son has no mother because of heroin.”

“This wasn’t staged,” he added. “This was real.”

Although he told WFMJ that he did not tell his son he was recording him, he said he did get his son’s permission before posting it.

“To put it plain and simple to him,” he told The Post, “I told him this might save lives.”


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