Kevin Luby needed to find a way to handle his grief.
His 20-year-old son Conner had died in an auto accident, and Luby says he couldn’t share his despair with his wife and daughter; he felt he had to remain a stoic and caring father on the outside, despite being completely devastated. And so the civil attorney started to write.
The result was “A Life Short & Loud and the Long Road Back,” Luby’s personal story of reeling and coping and ultimately healing. He published the book in 2014, five years after Conner’s death.
Today, he’ll share that story with students at Lakeridge High School in two back-to-back presentations during a pre-prom assembly in the school auditorium. The talk, deliberately scheduled before Lakeridge’s prom this Saturday night, will cover the dangers and legal repercussions of driving while intoxicated and being a minor in possession of alcohol or drugs, and how mistakes can result in financial penalties for families — not to mention the death of a loved one.
“They’re going to make their own decisions, and I can’t tell them what decisions to make. But at least I can give them the right information so hopefully they can be knowledgeable,” Luby says. “A lot of kids don’t understand the law.”
Conner Luby, who graduated from Jesuit High School in 2007, was a student at PCC in 2009 when he left a party in West Linn and started to drive home. He had been drinking, his father says, and crashed into an asphalt barrier just south of Lake Oswego on Interstate 5.
He died on Sept. 12, 2009 — six weeks before his 21st birthday.
“I found by writing the book, I was doing some self-healing,” says Luby, who is president of the Luby/Daraee Law Group. “When it was all done and after I’d read the final version, I realized that over and above all, it was a goodbye to my son.”
Numerous readers have reached out to Luby to tell him that his book brought them comfort. Readers said it was helpful to learn that their personal suffering was shared, and that his story accurately conveys the feeling following the death of a loved one.
His most recent lecture was at Jesuit High School in 2012. Jesuit academic vice principal Chris Smart, who was the school’s dean of students during Luby’s children’s tenure, says that he hopes students learn to make conscious decisions after attending his talk.
“Students need to realize that all behaviors have consequences, some of them much more severe and life-changing than others,” Smart says.
It was during one of the talks at Jesuit, Luby says, that he looked out at the audience to make sure no one was texting or falling asleep. To the contrary, he found the audience particularly engaged.
“I was really pleasantly surprised to find out every eye was upon me,” he says. “It’s a good enough presentation that it keeps the kids interested for the full 40 minutes.”
John Parke, assistant principal at Lakeridge High, says that the assembly is timely and important because many students are beginning to celebrate the end of their high school careers. Luby’s talk, he says, will be “one more reminder of how important it is not to be distracted or under the influence while driving, and to arrive safely, wherever you’re headed.”
Lake Oswego resident Brian Bice, a friend of Luby’s and president of Maximized Philanthropy Auctions, says some high schools try to relay the same message as Luby by showing a video of automobile accidents, or displaying vehicles totaled in drunk driving accidents.
“Kevin’s major motivation with the book is to help parents and kids avoid being in the situation he is in now,” Bice says. “He’s going to talk about them in a rational way and hope that logic is just as impactful for the kids as seeing the burned-out shell of some car that’s put on the high school’s front lawn.”
Luby’s presentations to students are scheduled for 9:10 and 10 a.m. at Lakeridge High, 1235 Overlook Drive in Lake Oswego. His book is available in paperback ($10) and Kindle ($8) versions at Amazon.com and at local bookstores.
Luby also has created a Facebook page that “celebrates the life of this boy I love so much.” Find it at on.fb.me/1DNxNzT.
This story was originally published in the April 30, 2015 issue of Lake Oswego Review.