Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Tag: overdose death (page 2 of 2)

The Final Goodbye

 

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Matt,  It’s been four days since you died and my world spun off its axis.  I’m unbalanced now.  Walking around in a fog.  Disbelief and reality take turns playing games with my heart.  Trying to bring you home has been a challenge.  I was told it would be easier to cremate you in Florida.  Quicker and cheaper.  This mother needs to see you again.  A part of me remains in denial.  This is a horrific mix up.  You are alive and this is the son of another mother.

They tell me your flight finally arrived in Philly late last night.  The last time you were in Philly it was to fly into a new life.  You were so full of hope and dreams.  I never expected you to return home in a box.   Flights have been off schedule due to back to back snowstorms.  Was that you Matt?  You always loved the snow.

I’m told I can see you today just for a bit as we now have a schedule to keep.  I need to see your handsome face.  A face that is now frozen in time.  There will be no wrinkles or gray hair for you my beautiful boy.  We will never dance together as you wed the love of your life.  I will never hold your child in my arms.  My dreams about your future torn to shreds, blowing away in the January wind.

I feel like an actress in a role I never wanted to play.  What does a mother wear to go view the body of her son.  My mind is foggy and my body feels like I’m walking through quick sand.  Eyes swollen beyond help.  Face puffy and red.  I can’t even look at my reflection.  I don’t care anymore.  I don’t talk to Jesus.  There is nothing to talk about.  He didn’t protect you and neither did I.  I’ve read that Jesus only gives you what you can handle.  He doesn’t know me like I thought he did.  I always told him I could never survive losing you.  You are gone.

I was able to spend two hours with you.  It was the shortest two hours my life.  I needed to see you alone before anyone else.  I needed it to be just you and me.  Like it used to be.  A mother and her son hanging out sharing life except now your life was gone and I was left behind.  Ray dropped me off and went to park his car.  I walked inside and tried to catch my breath.  I asked you to give me strength to see you today.  To walk into a funeral home and say goodbye to my beautiful son.

The rooms eerily quiet.  I walked through my fog and felt that familiar throat tightening, heart racing envelope my body.  I closed my eyes and prayed it would not be your face my eyes would see.  I would shout for joy, it’s not Matt, it’s not Matt.   My fantasy was short lived.  You looked like you were sleeping.  Quiet but so cold.  I could see the bluish color under the layer of makeup applied to your face.  I grabbed your hand and ran my fingers through your hair.  I lay my head on your chest praying to hear the beat of your heart.  Oh God this can not be.  My brain is silently screaming.  Slowly Ray and Mike approach.  I will not move from holding you.  My body frozen with yours.  They ask why you were wet.  I didn’t realize that my flood of tears was falling onto you face.  I wondered if you were looking down on your broken family.  Your brother once so strong crying like a baby.  Our time is up.  I want to stay forever.  I want to sit with you until I am no more.  In my fog there are voices.  Mom, we need to go.  Mom, please let go.  I’m surrounded by what’s left of us.  Mike and Ray giving me their strength to walk away.  The slap of reality hits my face.  A blast of icy wind on this most brutal of days.

I spend the next days planning your memorial.  Denial is a wonderful thing.  In all the years we battled your addiction I never thought I would be planning your funeral.   I felt betrayed.   In all the books I read written by parents like me the addict lived.  Everyone had a happy ending.  Beautiful Boy,  An Addict In The Family, and Stay Close all gave me the misconception that no matter how sick the addict was they lived.  Those books would be burned with the next fire.  Where were the books to shatter my illusion?  Where were the books to let parents know that addicts die?  Addiction is no fairy tale.  There is no happy ending.

Writing your obituary was brutal.  I remember pacing around the kitchen while Ray sat at the computer.  I was sobbing and shaking as I tried to find the words to honor your life.  A life cut too short by your demons.  We kept the service private.  Family and close friends would be the only one’s sharing my grief.  I feared your drug buddies would come and I couldn’t risk the reaction of your brother.  I lost one son, I could not lose another.

The day I foolishly thought would never be part of our journey is here.  I always thought it would be you and Mike saying a final goodbye to me.  Never the other way around.   It’s snowing.  I run outside and look at the sky.  Is that you, Matt?  I want to grab each falling flake and hold it to my heart.  Matt, Matt, how will I survive this day?   I stand outside closing my eyes and remember coming home one night crying after losing a baby in the NICU.  “Mom, I don’t know how you do that”.   You gave me a hug and said,”It must be so hard when a baby dies”.   Now it’s my baby who died.  My soul is broken and I want to stay here watching the flakes fall from the sky not go to say goodbye.

The day was cloudy and dark.  The weather mimicking my soul.  The snow continued to fall.  I stood in my bedroom staring at the borrowed black dress.  My brain not able to allow my heart to feel.  I am numb.  My body in survival mode.  I will need the strength of an army of angels to get through this day.  There is nothing that can be done to ease my pain.  I am weighted down by grief.  My limbs have turned to lead.  My movements slow.  I remember once again feeling like an actress.  Getting ready to play a role she didn’t want to win.  My face shows years of stress and days of profound grief.  My eyes have no shine.  Shark eyes.  No life.  I am the walking dead.  I don’t waste time with makeup.  My tears continue to fall.  I remember being in Ray’s car.  He is driving to our church.  The same church we attended together will be the place we will say our last goodbye.

I walk in alone.  I need to prepare myself for this moment.  Picture boards are placed next to your urn.  I can not look.  I walk to your urn and give you a hug.  Sobs are racking my body.  This is what’s left of you my precious child.  Once again it’s just you and me.  My brain screaming, this can’t be.  My heart breaking as the reality of our life washes over me like the waves we used to run through.  I close my eyes and we are laughing and running.  So full of joy and life.  I’m so lost in my fantasy that I don’t realize that friends have lined up to pay their respects.

I am hugged over and over.  Boys you grew up with, now men telling me how much you were loved.  Their parents shocked faces afraid to look me in the eye.  How does a mother bury her child.  The line seemed to go on forever.  Muffled voices mixed with tears all coming to show support.  I feel like a robot.  Shaking hands and allowing people to hug me.  The only hug I want to feel is from you.  I have put on my mask.  Pretending to listen to words when all I hear is the roar of the ocean.  I’ve been offered pills to help me get through this.  I am angry.  I felt the pain of giving you life.  I need to feel this pain of saying goodbye.  Finally the line is over.  The service is starting.  I hear the songs I chose fill the church with beautiful music.  Songs you started to listen to by Casting Crowns and Mercy Me.  The words gave you hope and increased your faith in Jesus.  I sit between Mike and Ray.  Holding on for dear life as Mike, our minister tearfully talks about your life.  He became your friend and tried so hard to help during your dark days.  He is overcome with emotion.  Your brother is shaking as tears spill down his face.  Oh God, my boys were supposed to grow old together. To hang onto each other when I was gone.  Your brother struggling so hard to be strong has become a sobbing little boy.  His only brother, his partner in crime now gone forever.

I don’t know how I did it.  I’d written another letter to you and wanted it read at your service.  It was my final tribute to my son, my hero.  You struggled for so long to get clean.  Your struggle now over, mine was just beginning.

I took a deep breath and stood up.  I walked to the podium where minutes before our Pastor was speaking.  My vision blurry and my voice cracking with emotion.  I held on for dear life as I started to share our story with those who loved you the most.

Dear Matt,

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You said this day would never come.  You told me you loved me too much and could never hurt me this bad.  Yet here we are gathered today to honor your life.  A life cut too short by your demons.

Now I stand here sharing my last words about you with the people who loved you so much.

My son was an addict.  I am not ashamed.  I will shout it from the rooftops, my son was an addict.

Oh Matt, we were both so foolish to think you had the power to keep that promise.  The demons were stronger than both of us.  Now you are gone and I am forever broken.  These last seven years have been a horrific struggle.  Ray, Mike and I watched you slowly destroy yourself day by day.  There were endless night of worry and torment, not knowing where you were or if you were alive or dead.  Nights when I would call out for help and your brother would drop everything and come.  Together Mike, Ray and I would devise our next plan and get you to safety.

I thought bringing you home would save you.  There I could watch you and protect you from your demons.  I am your mother and that’s what mothers do.  Oh Matt, we tried so hard to get you to see that drugs were not the answer.  So many rehabs, programs and counselors.  We thought we were on the right track.  Now I stand here and look at your brothers face and realize how foolish we were to think we could outwit the demons.

There were so many times we had hope.  Spring came and the old Matt was coming back.  You told me you wanted that monkey off your back.  A new rehab, the start of a new life.  Mike, Ray and I could only see you on Sunday for one hour due to the rules.  I remember us sitting together looking out over the water thinking we finally did it, we beat your demons.

You looked so good.  Your face and eyes so clear.  You said you were done with drugs and looked so forward to a new life.  Now where to go as the demons lived in Delaware.

Your new life in Florida was supposed to be a fresh start from the demons that followed you most of your life. You and I are beach people.  We shared a feeling of peace with God by the sea.  We talked everyday.  You told me you loved it near the ocean.  You felt so blessed at the chance for a new life.  Finally there was joy, hope, peace and sleep for Mike, Ray and I.  I deceived myself into thinking our nightmare was finally over.   Little did I know it was just getting ready to destroy us.

The last time we spoke was Friday night, January 2nd at 6:23 p.m.  You sounded normal.  My trained ears hearing nothing to prepare me for what was to come.  We ended our call as we always did.  I love you, Matt.  I love you, Mom.  I’ll talk to you soon.   That next call never came.

For reasons I will never understand.  Reasons that will haunt my heart for the rest of my life you used and overdosed, being left in a motel room by the man I trusted with your life.  You died at 4:50 a.m. Saturday morning.  I remember waking at that exact moment feeling like something was horribly wrong.  A cool breath surrounded my body at the same time your spirit was leaving yours.  Was that you Matt giving me one last hug?

I am so proud of the man you were.  You were loving and giving.  You who had nothing would give it away to someone in need.  If you could only read what your friends are posting on your Facebook page.  How much you were loved.  How you were looked up to and how devastated everyone is by your death.  I wish you had loved yourself enough.

I’ve read that losing a child doesn’t just change you it destroys you.  Matt I am destroyed.  Pieces of my shattered heart still beat in my chest. I have become the walking dead.  Feeling nothing but the  profound sadness that has taken up residence in my soul.  I would gladly ride the rollercoaster of chaos with you again.  I would gladly exchange my life for yours.  I will never understand.

Your nightmare is over while mine has just begun.    I am going through a withdraw from your addiction.  You see, Matt you were not the only addict in our family.  I was addicted to saving you.  Now I must find a way to make it through the rest of my life.  I’m told I must go on.  My toughest struggles are ahead of me as I navigate this life.  Knowing that I will never hear your voice or look into your beautiful eyes again is just too much to bear.  There will be no more birthdays, no wedding, no children.  Everything is gone with you.

There is a saying that ‘Life’s a Beach’.   I pray heaven is your beach and you are free.  Playing in the ocean like you did as a boy.  When I can breathe again I will free you and your beloved Kahlua into the sea you both loved so much. Until then you are coming home with me.  Even though you were a man you will always be my tow-headed beautiful boy.  I will love you forever.  I pray you will meet me when I take my last breath.   Wait for me by the sea we both love.  I want to open my eyes and see your handsome face.  I want to look into your eyes and know that I am home.  I want to grab your hand and run laughing into the surf that we both so love.

Godspeed my precious son.  My wingman. Until we meet again.

Love Mom

 

 

There’s No Screaming In The NICU

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There’s No Screaming In The NICU

Matt,  I fell asleep that night before we had the chance to speak again.   I remember setting my alarm before closing my eyes.  I said my nightly prayer asking Jesus to keep you safe.  I had no reason to worry.   You sounded perfect.  I was planning on touching base in the morning before my day got too busy.  It was my weekend to work.  Those back to back 12 hour shifts just about killed me.   It was Saturday and you had plans to meet your friends and spend the day at the beach.  In my mind it was just another weekend.  You were loving the fact that while I was freezing in January you were able to enjoy the heat.  You would send me pictures trying to give me a taste of the beach as Delaware was hit with daily snow.  I was counting the days before I saw you again.  Ray and I booked a flight in February.   We were coming to spend a week with you in the sunshine of your new home.  I couldn’t wait to see you in person and feel myself being wrapped in that bear hug you were so famous for. You and I spoke about spending the days enjoying the beach.   I would meet your boss and the people you now called friends.  We would stock your fridge with food  and go out to lunches and dinners.  Visiting you was the bright spot in my cold and dreary winter.

I remember waking up to the strangest sensation.  I was enveloped in a cool breath.  I was startled as I checked to make sure Ray and the dogs were all breathing.  I remember sitting straight up in bed.  The room completely dark.  This sensation lay on my chest and in my throat.  A chill I could not explain.  There was no pain.  I wondered if this was what a heart attack felt like.  I remember looking at the clock.  It read 4:50.  The chill continued to work its way through my chest.  I felt like I was surrounded by ice.  I remember feeling the sensation of a breath in my throat.  It would not move.  I opened my mouth and let it go.  A warmth then surrounded me.  I was shaking.  My heart was racing.  I was too startled to fall back to sleep.  I’ve never felt anything like that in my life.  I got out of bed.  Grabbed my scrubs and went downstairs.  It was too early for Ray to wake.  He usually slept in on Saturday mornings.  I just needed a hot cup of coffee to start my day and take away the chill that followed me.

I left the house earlier than usual.  I planned on stopping by Dunkin Donuts before heading to the hospital.  I tried to forget how I woke and focused on getting that much needed coffee.  Without warning, my vision became blurry.  The earlier sensation of a breath that was not mine enveloped me again.  I started to panic.  My mind now racing telling me to pull over.   I was terrified that something was happening to me.  Once again my heart started to race and that breath was caught in my throat.  I sat in my car and closed my eyes.  I kept telling myself I was ok. I sat until my vision cleared and my heart stopped racing.  My clock said 6:20. When I finally made it to get my coffee the girl taking my order joked and said I looked like someone who had seen a ghost.

It was another busy day in the NICU.  Weekends were usually short staffed and that Saturday was no different.  I kept thinking I wanted to call you but my three sick babies kept me hopping.  I was able to forget about my two unexplained episodes and focused my attention on helping parents care for their premature babes.  I kept checking the time.  I still had not been able to step away and call you.  I though it was funny that I didn’t hear from you but I figured you were enjoying the day with your friends.  Lunch time was getting close.  I knew I wasn’t going to make it to the cafeteria so I suggested that my coworker and I order out and try to cover for each other so we could at least eat.  We just placed our orders when the Unit Clerk buzzed me and told me Ray was out front and I needed to come.  I remember laughing and thinking about the irony.  Thinking he brought me lunch right after I ordered.  Oh Well, I’ll just eat my lunch for dinner.

Rays face was not what I expected.  Red, swollen eyes.  Tears starting to fall again as he sees my face.  My brain automatically thinking it must be his father.   His mother died 5 months before and his father was lost without her.  I grabbed Rays arms.  “Oh God, Ray is it your father?”  He looked directly in my eyes.  His pity is palpable.  He grabs me by both arms.  “No, it’s Matt, he’s dead”.    I am surrounded by a thick fog.  Sounds and sights are muffled.  My breath is sucked out of my lungs.  I am trapped in a vacuum.  I am falling down the rabbit hole.  I am disappearing.

Suddenly I hear the guttural screams of a wounded animal.  Louder and louder she screams.  No, no, no, no.  The sound breaks my heart.   I’m thinking, Oh God, a mother must have just lost her precious baby.  Oh God, someone please help her.  Tell her she must stop screaming.  This is the NICU.  Her screams will scare the babes and their mothers.  My brain is in survival mode, refusing to let me understand those screams are coming from my shattered soul.

I am surrounded by nurses.  I see tears falling everywhere.  Hands cup my face and a familiar voice tells me to breathe.  Breathing something once so natural feels foreign to my lungs.  There is no air.  I tell Ray it must be a mistake.  Matt must have lost his wallet.  It couldn’t be him.  He sounded perfect last night.  My denial is keeping me alive.  Please call his roommate.  He would have called.  It can’t be Matt.  Ray walks away and makes that call.  I sit and remember our last conversation.  Our last words, “Love you, Mom”.  “Love you, Matt”.  I remember your promise.  “Mom, I love you too much to hurt you that badly”.    Matt I want to scream.  I want to wake up from this nightmare.

Ray returns.  His eyes give me the answer I don’t want to hear.  I remember being walked to Ray’s car.  A co-worker on each side holding me up.  My legs have forgotten how to work.  My body is numb.  I am buckled in like a child.  The words, “I’m so sorry” float around the car.   Ray grabs my hand.   There is nothing left to say.  I am destroyed.   My wounds are invisible to the human eye.  My heart and soul are shattered.

Oh God. Mike. I must tell Mike.  How do I tell your brother you are gone.  Mike answers on the first ring.  I can not speak.  Sobs escape from my throat.  Mike, Mike, Mike.

We arrive home.  The day is cold and grey.  The weather mimicking my heart.  The dogs greet me with wagging tails.   I sit as they lick the tears falling from my eyes.  They have no way of knowing that I want to disappear from this pain that has taken over my heart.  I’ve read about broken heart syndrome.  Now I’m living it.  I will my heart to stop beating.  I want to be where you are.  I want to follow you.  I call your number.  I need to hear your voice.  I still deny that you are gone.  The constant ringing is killing me.  No more “Hey Mom, what’s up?”   Oh God, how do I do this?  How do I continue to live without you?

I sit on the couch as darkness falls.  I can’t move.  Ray sits and gives me the details that I don’t want to hear but need to know.  There are calls we need to make.  The detective on your case is kind and gentle as he tells me the story of your last night on earth. He tells me your time of death was 4:50 a.m.  My mind is going wild.  Remembering that cold breath waking me from a sound sleep.  Was that you Matt?  Did you come to me to say goodbye?   You are now lying in the morgue in Boca Raton.  We must make arrangements to bring your lifeless body back to the place    you were loved.  Home.

There was no sleep for me that night.  I watched as the snow fell and talked to you.  I looked at your beautiful pictures and could not believe there would be no more.  I remember staring out the window asking questions that would have no answers.  I started to write you a letter.

Matt,

I sit here all night in the dark looking at your picture and telling myself to breathe.  Matt, you told me this would never happen.  You would never hurt me like this.  You promised and I believed.  We were both so foolish to think you could stop slowly killing yourself.  Your new life in Florida was supposed to be a fresh start away from the demons you wrestled with most of your life.  I am so proud that you tried to live a clean life.  You fought a battle against all odds.  But to know I will never hear your voice, touch your face or be able to tell you how much I love you is just too much for my heart to bear.  You and I fought this battle together and I torture my mind wondering what could have been done to change this outcome.  When I spoke to you for the last time, you sounded perfect.  I’m happy I told you that I loved you.  It’s pouring out tonight.  The angels crying for your broken mother.  I sit in the dark talking to you.  Oh Matt,  your struggle is over and mine is just beginning.  I prayed for Jesus to keep you safe.  I never thought this would be how your story ended.  I am making arrangements to bring you home.  I need to see you,  to touch you one last time.   Know that you are loved.  Know that your family is broken by your loss.  I wish you loved yourself enough.  Matt, my most precious child.  Even though you were a man you will always be my tow headed little boy.  Mommy….Mommy…Don’t let go.

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