Mother's Heartbreak

A Story of Addiction & Loss

Just A Car But So Much More

Matt,   The day finally came.   I could come up with no more excuses.   My car was 18 years old and starting to have major problems.   Ray had been after me for over a year to trade her in and get something newer with all the bells and whistles my sweet girl didn’t have.  I kept putting it off.  Not even wanting to glance at anything he would find that he thought I might warm up to.  

First I used my cancer.  Hell, If I could get something positive out of this complicated disease, I used it to stop the purchase of a new car which meant trading in a piece of my heart.  I kept telling him after the next scan I’d start to think about it, then the next scan, then the next.  Finally after my February scan my oncologist said lets spread them out I’m not worried about letting you go longer between scans.   Talk about a double edged sword.  Yes I was praising God for the great news but deep down I was starting to mourn what I knew was coming.

It didn’t take long to find her replacement.  A brand new Toyota Rav 4 was coming into the dealership within a few weeks.  She was mine……

I felt like I was betraying the 4 Runner and all the memories she held for me over the years.  The two of us driving the dogs to the beach.  Laughter and wild barking from our back seat passengers as they bolted out the door running toward the surf.  The smell of salty, wet dogs and us covered with sand after trying to corral them into the back seat for the return home.  

The smell of crabs we caught after spending the day at the bay.  You kept throwing live ones on my seat howling as I would scream and run around the car.  So many deep conversations we shared about your addiction as I held you captive with those childproof locks.  Many trips with you cussing as I drove you to another treatment facility tears running down my face as I continued to tell you how much I loved you and needed you to live.

Walking through the beach house together picking out what would come home and what would be sold when we knew you had lost everything we both loved.  Loading those memories of sunny days, long walks and so much love into the back of my 4 Runner.  Watching tears roll down your face as we pulled away from our heaven on earth for the last time.

Memories of driving to church together I can close my eyes and see you sitting in the passenger seat.  I could smell your Phoenix scent.  I could picture you holding Scarlett in your lap after we rescued her together.  Our love of animals was just another quality that bonded us together.

My car was another connection to you.   On bad days as the grief was hitting I swore I could smell Phoenix flowing through the air.  I could see you sitting beside me looking my way with that smile on your face.   

The drive to the dealership was brutal.  My tears were uncontrollable.  I wanted to shout stop I can’t do this.  I felt like I was losing another piece of a connection to you that I could mentally not afford to lose.   Ray kept saying I was the only person he knew that was crying because she was getting a new car.  Ray has no clue as to what that old girl meant to me.  To the memories she held within those 4 doors.  To the connection to you that’s comforted me these last eight years.

In between my tears I managed to snap a shot of her being driven away.  My memorial to you now a snapshot that will forever be imbedded in my heart…..



Disbelieving While Grieving

Matt,  it’s been 8 years and one month since you left this earth and I still find myself in disbelief.   January always hits me the hardest as it’s the beginning of another year but it’s also when you left. 

Somedays I allow myself to pretend you are enjoying the beautiful weather in Florida.  Spending time on the beach relaxing with friends. Then reality will sneak up on me and I feel the weight of grief hit my heart.

The other day I was grocery shopping and saw a can of Beef A Roni.  I had to stop for a moment as the memory of  sending you care packages of food came flooding back leaving me shaken.  

I find myself longing to talk to you.  To hear your voice, to see your smile.  I know so many years have passed but the reality of life is just so unbearable that’s it’s easier to sink into the fantasy that you are alive.  

I have days where I just sit and tell myself that you are really gone.  That what’s left of you sits in an urn on my shelf next to the last picture taken while you were alive.  It’s still seems so surreal and I have such a hard time wrapping my head around this truth that has become my life.  

I’ve read that losing a child is the most devastating experience a parent can live through, I’m finding it’s also the most unbelievable.  I look at pictures of you as a young child and wonder how did this happen.  How did your life end before mine?  Losing a child goes against what we are taught to be the natural order of things.  Children bury their parents not the other way around.  

I know that as long as I live I will carry my grief over losing you but now this disbelief had snuck into the open cracks in my heart.  It appears to have moved in and has no intentions of ever leaving.  Until we meet again I will carry you in my heart………….


All Is Quiet Except For My Heart


Matt,  Today is New Years Day, the frenzy of the holiday season has come to a close.  All the stress of preparing for the perfect Christmas has melted away.  The world has returned to a quiet state, even the Hallmark movies have been returned to the shelves waiting for the next holiday season.  

8 years ago you were celebrating New Years Day on the beach in Florida.  We both spoke of our hopes and dreams for the new year.  Both of us fooled into thinking you beat your demons and we would see each other again in a few weeks.  

I was booked on a flight in February to leave frigid Delaware and join you in sunny Florida getting a glimpse into your new life.  I remember asking you to look into hotels around your sober home so we could spend as much time together while I was there.  I dreamed of meeting your friends.  Of seeing where you worked.  Of seeing where you now called home.  

Little did I know that in 2 days you would be gone and all my dreams would be shattered at my feet.  So now my body remembers. My heart is anxious.  My soul is in a state of unrest.  My mind is flooded with memories of plans that never came to be.  My body aches as I know January 3rd is quickly approaching and I’m struggling to survive knowing I haven’t heard your voice or seen your handsome face for 8 years. 

I wonder how long this pain will live in my heart.  Will the marching of time ever start to dull it.  Each New Year is a reminder of what will never be.  I wonder if you know.  I wonder if you see how your death has impacted my life.  

This New Year I will continue to pray that you have found your peace.  That you are whole and healed.  I will pray for strength to walk through this new year without you hoping that one day, one year I will find my peace. 


So Much More Than A Sweater

Matt,  I have a friend who collects clothing and donates them to men who are leaving treatment and going into sober homes.  As you know many leave with the clothes on their backs and nothing more.  

We have become close as we have both lost our loved ones from substance abuse and work together trying to make a difference in someone’s life to honor her brother and you, my son.  

I really thought after almost eight years I could walk into your closet gather a few things together and drive them over to her collection site.  I had several of your tee shirts made into a quilt about five years ago, but still had bins of your winter clothes stored in what used to be your closet. 

In my heart I knew it was the right thing to do.  I knew it was what you would have wanted me to do.  You had such a giving heart and would want your clothing to keep another man who shared your disease warm this bitter winter season.  I really thought I could just walk in there and grab your stuff, pack it up and deliver it without my grief grabbing my heart and ripping the scar wide open.

What I didn’t expect was to be surrounded by your scent as I opened the bins containing your winter sweaters.  I didn’t expect the guttural reaction my soul would have as I put my face into the softness of fleece breathing in you.  I could feel myself losing control as memories of you began dancing in my mind.  I could see your smiling face as I wrapped myself up in one of your favorite sweaters.  I could picture you coming in from the cold wearing the sweater I was now wrapped up in.  

My tears started to flow as I kept telling myself that these beautiful sweaters were not helping anyone and I knew what I needed to do.  

I felt like a robot going through the motions as I lifted them out of the bins and placed them into bags to deliver to my friend.  Talking to myself, talking to you trying to summon strength to continue with my plan.  

Driving to her place my tears continued to flow.  My grief continued to wreak havoc with my heart.  I questioned if I could go through with my plan as I pulled up in her driveway.  She recognized my pain and wrapped me in a hug.  Reassuring me that you would be happy to donate your things to give others the blessing of warm clothing.  

As I was removing the last bag I reached in for one last smell, one last touch.  It was then I knew this one sweater was coming home with me.  This one sweater was you.  It was your smell, your eyes, your hair, your smile, your laugh.  It was your voice saying I love you Mom.  That sweater draped over my shoulders on our ride home was a piece of you I could not give up……..


Grateful With A Side Of Grief

Matt,  Thanksgiving is over.  Today is full of reflection.  Our gathering yesterday was a far cry from those days before your death.   The days when the house was full of family, friends and laughter.  

Over the years our family has grown smaller either through death or conflict.   It was a blessing to have Aunt Mary at 90 be healthy enough to join us for dinner.  It was a blessing to have our long time friends and Rays daughter and her new fiancé share the day with us.  Rather than a houseful of people we had 6 for which I am thankful. 

Please don’t get me wrong I have much to be thankful for.   I’m thankful for all the years we had together.   I’m grateful for all those beautiful holidays we celebrated as a family.  Grateful for having you and your brother sitting around the table grabbing pieces of turkey feeding them to the pups.  Thankful for all those lazy days we spent by the sea.  For our talks and walks sharing life.   I’m thankful for all those beautiful memories we made but grieving that there will be no more. 

I’m grateful  you spent those last years of your life living with me but broken that your life was cut short and you no longer walk through the door or hug me good night.  I’m grieving your empty chair and your handsome face that is now missing from family photos.  I’m grateful I took so many pictures as they have become precious treasures.  

I’m grateful I had the chance to support you through your disease.  I’m grateful you knew you were loved.   I’m grieving  that I know more now than I did then and I wonder how life would be today if I had that knowledge when we needed it most. 

I’m grateful for your life.  Grateful to have been your mom.  Grateful that I was able to watch you grow from a baby into a man.  Grateful to have shared your dreams and watched as you made them come true.   I’m grieving the dreams we had for your recovery.  For a future wife and children to fill our lives with joy.  

I feel like I’m severed in two pieces.   Both grateful and grieving as I continue to navigate this path trying to figure out how to survive this life…….


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