Madelyn Linsenmeir was a mother, sister and friend who was "hilarious and warm and fearless and resilient". She was also opioid dependent.
Lensmeir had been a junkie for 12 years and, what her sister said were some of her darkest points, she would sometimes show for money. She lost custody of her young son because of her illness.
On October 7, the 30-year-old died in police custody, as her sister Kate O'Neill reports.
O & Neil does not want to see Linsenmeir remembered for her addiction. Her surprisingly honest obituary, which she wrote for a local Vermont paper, receives wide attention for its warmth and openness.
"It is impossible to capture a person in an obituary, and especially someone whose adult life has been largely defined by drug addiction, for some Maddie was just a junkie ̵
She explained how Linsenmeir loved her Son Ayden and how she "sung rather than talked to him and filled his life with song".
"After having Ayden, Maddie tried harder and more relentlessly to stay sober than we had ever seen, but she fell back and eventually lost her custody of her son, a loss that was unbearable," she continued ,
O'Neill said the obituary honored her sister but also talked about the realities of drug addiction – which she hopes others can learn from.
"I want us to have empathy for the people in their dark, Maddie digging in the grocery parking lot, whether it's a junk fainting on the street," O & Neill told ABC News , "These people are also Maddie."
The obituary has been viral since then. But there were also critics.
Brandon del Pozo, police chief in Burlington, Vermont, where Linsenmeir and her family grew up, wrote on Facebook that he had "a problem" with it.
"Why did it take a mourning relative with a good literary sense to let people watch for a moment and shed a tear when nearly a quarter of a million people died in the same way as Maddie when that epidemic grew," said del Pozo in his post.
"Ask the police and they'll tell you: Maddie's death was nothing special at all – it happens all the time, people are no less loved and used and humane," he added, following a series of steps by the police department Burlington takes to address drug addiction.
O & Neill said support for her sister was "unbelievable and bittersweet."
"We knew we were not alone and I think the part that's bitter is that it's really concrete evidence of the number of people affected by this disease and our grief is so intense and so personal, but it's not unique, "said O & Neill.
She has taken the critical feedback at every turn.
"This disease needs a face and Maddie is just a face," she said.
O & Neill asks those who are interested in stopping the opioid addiction to attend the Turning Point Center, "a place where Maddie spent time and felt supported."
Gary De Carolis, the center's executive director, said the staff had been "overwhelmed" with donations after the obituary was published.
"We've never experienced anything like this in the history of the center," De Carolis told ABC News.
De Carolis said he applauded the courage of Linsenmeir's family to be so open about their illness.
"The thing for me, the family … they had the courage to tell Maddie's story and face the scourge of addiction, which will change how America and the world see people who struggle with addiction. We are all human beings first, and unfortunately some of us have to deal with it, "said De Carolis.
The exact cause of Linsenmeir's death is still unknown. O & Neil said that drugs might not have killed her and noticed that she was in police custody at the time. Linsenmeir's death could not be taken into account in government statistics. Just like so many others who die from an overdose, O & Neill said.