"Now, my mission is simple: to help people. This is heart work."
On September 15, 2007, at 4:00 in the morning, I wrote my son’s obituary.
From the minute he was born, J.T. had a twinkle in his eye that let everyone know, Look out world, get ready for me! As a little boy, he always wore his chaps, guns and cowboy hat while he rode his rocking horse. He loved to watch The Three Amigos and talk to his imaginary friends, Edmith and Jake.
J.T. had a natural talent for many things. Playing Little League, he’d hit home runs and then nonchalantly run the bases. It was much more important to him to have fun than be seriously competitive. He treated school much the same way. He would talk his way out of doing homework and still remain the teacher’s favorite.
Teaching himself how to play drums and guitar, J.T. became a talented musician, singer, and songwriter. He wrote lyrics on fast food napkins and scraps of paper. You could find him sitting outside, singing and playing his guitar; playing his drums loudly in the basement; or jamming at the homes of friends and at local music stores.
J.T. was always on an adventure. In many ways, he had a master’s degree in life. He loved to read and was a regular at local libraries, reading everything from music magazines to books on business and life.
With his loving, caring ways he was quick to help others before himself. In fourth grade on a school field trip to Denver, he saw a homeless person for the first time. He couldn’t understand how anyone could live on the street. He wanted to give the person his spending money to help him. This giving and caring attitude became his life’s way: he never met a stranger and would help anyone. His endless love for his family and friends and his ability to bring out happiness in others will always be remembered.
J.T. was privileged to witness the birth of his daughter on December 24, 2006. Emilia was the love of his life. He called her his little M & M. She quickly taught him how to change diapers, warm bottles, and sing lullabies. He tickled her face with his beard and watched her little nose crinkle. With great pride, he’d always say, “Isn’t she cute!” It was not a question, but a proclamation that everyone should agree with.
My son, J.T., passed on September 13, 2007. He was a magic person that touched many in his 22 years.
My son suffered from addiction. He began smoking pot at 12. By 16, he was in rehab. He then became addicted to prescription drugs, prescribed by a physician. Another rehab. Then, he had his wisdom teeth removed. Another prescription.
There is much more to his story and struggle, but the roller coaster continued. Needless to say, I understand the hopeless and helpless feeling of being a mom that wants to save her child. I was the mom that spent hours on the phone, trying to find help. I watched my son disappear in front of my eyes.
J.T. passed in his sleep after his third time in rehab. At the time, he was doing outpatient, working, and trying hard.
He was found in his bed in his apartment. He had been there two days.
That is still hard for me to even type.
Drugs killed my son.
Did this change me? Every inch of me, to my very core.
I realized very quickly I could become bitter, angry, and never get out of bed. I didn’t want that. I changed. I believe, for the better. Immediately, I began expressing how grateful I am that I had J.T. for 22 years. No one else got to be his Mom – he came to me!
Being grateful, moment by moment, snowballed into living again. I have come to believe that J.T. came into my life and left it, to teach me how to help others.
At the end of 2011, I left my very high profile position in healthcare. Now, my mission is simple: to help people. This is heart work. I do this for J.T.
I speak at rehabs. I share honestly about what he went through, what I went through, and what it feels like to not have your child anymore. I feel like this work is what I was meant to do. What I have to do.
I see obituaries in the paper and can “feel” when it was an overdose. When I do, I need to connect with those parents. I work with hospice grief groups. I spend one-on-one time with people who have lost a child or are struggling with addiction.
My world has changed.
I write a blog called From the Corner of Spirit & Brave. Many of the entries are about my son.
It took me ten years to be able to say, “drugs killed my son.” But it is time to say it. It is time to say it loud! It is time for this endless loss of life to stop. We need to highlight recovery. The losses can stop, people can be helped, and recovery is possible.
I don’t want one more mom to write her child’s obituary.
I don’t want one more mom to close another casket.
I don’t want one more mom to carry this pain of grief.