I attended another funeral of a young man lost to heroin this week, a nephew of an old school friend of mine. I have attended many funerals over the years of people who died too young for one reason or another, and the loss is equally devastating. But when someone dies from using substances, there is a special kind of unspeakable hopelessness that lingers in the air.
The fight to save the person’s life in addiction is often long and angry, filled with the highs and lows of joy and disappointment in continuous succession. Joy, when they tell you they can make it and get clean for a while, disappointment when they turn up at your door again begging for money, strung out and unrecognizable. The anguish felt by their loved ones is palpable and inwardly shameful. Shameful? How so you may ask. Oh, the shame you feel when you can’t save or make your child better is the darkest of all spaces. It forces you to examine every piece of yourself and every word you’ve ever spoken to them. Every mistake you’ve ever made becomes your identity. The desire to start over and do better next time is all you wish for. It is all I wish for.
I watched this young man’s mother carry his photograph at the head of the funeral procession after the service. She walked alone, ashen-faced, tears streaming and heartbroken. His extended family followed behind including his grandparents, shock and disbelief gripping them like winter frost. Each of them at one time or another would have laid their own lives down to save his, and each of them will have wished death for him so he may find peace and so would they.
We have such great hopes for our children when they are born. Our fairytale ideals for our unborn children fill our every moment. We are sure their lives will be better than our own, we will make sure of it. They are our whole world. Then, one day, we realize that we cannot always protect them from the ills of humanity. For some of us, the fairytale turns into a nightmare. We scramble to find answers, solutions, and reasons. At some point, we find that the depth of our love is meaningless when it comes to our children’s decisions. Unable to convince, manipulate, or even love our children back to health, we much watch them slip away.
The loss of this precious young man who was somebodies son, grandson, nephew partner, and father matters. It is an all too familiar tale of a life lived in pain. Our streets are filled with our children living in a parallel universe of sorts, unable to find their way home. But there is always hope, right? Hope is not eternal for us all.