I do wonder. I know what I cannot change but I do wonder… It’s over four years now that Sam is gone and still I want to find in the world a kinder, gentler, better place. I’ve come to find the void in my heart now shows a scar that with time I can talk about. But who can listen with all else of the woes in the world? When the hole in me won’t close, who will save me? I will… because He believes in me… #blessed
I’ve had two boyfriends with the same birth date. What are the chances of that?
When Nick was in third grade and Sam in fourth, I picked them up the last day of school. Nick came to the car carrying a half gallon zip lock bag full of crayons. Upon closer inspection as he got in the car, they all appeared to be orange crayons. As we drove away, my amused questioning began. Nick quickly filled Sam and I in that he had collected orange crayons that year. The year of his first male teacher, Mr. Blackburn, who Nick’s creativity had flourished under. Sam and I laughed in our amusement and our love for the third grader, now fourth grader-to-be. Yes. Nick had an orange crayon collection from third grade. We still have it today; in our memories and in a glass jar as collections should be stored.
I rode the Monon Trail in Indianapolis for the first time this weekend with my friend Chad. We rode four miles to Carmel downtown. There was an arts fair and plenty of activity as we winded our way to The Pint Room. Chad asked for outdoor seating. It was a beautiful night. As our conversation flowed, I glanced down by Chad’s feet and saw an orange crayon. Without conversation interruption, I asked him for the crayon and tucked it in my hand bag.
I’ve known about two occasions with the same color crayon now. What are the chances of that? #muchlovetosamandnick
‘Work me’ wore this regularly, especially when traveling; it was my ‘fat’ dress when I hadn’t had enough time to rid myself of the travel baggage which would include extra pounds. In the past four years, I’ve not worn this dress once. That was over four years ago.
Four years ago, I considered wearing it for Sam’s visitation and again, the day of his funeral which was a warm day for May. I didn’t though because I didn’t want that horrific, heavy memory with that dress.
The picture is from wearing this dress today though; wearing a story I couldn’t say. If it was a story I could tell today… it would be the mess I can be, the unfixable me, the sadness that will never leave. If I said that, would I be loved? If I am that, could I still be loved? I want to be loved any way.
I wasn’t the girl who he fell in love with over a year ago. He had changed me. I had changed in ways I didn’t want to. Sam seemed farther away; I needed him close. He needed more of my time. I needed more time to be me; the me that Sam’s death four years ago has searchingly found me to be.
I didn’t need the change that came through drink. I prayed to God to help me get away. Walk right out. Praying the sun would come up after and let me be. I’d prefer to wake up alone but could not say so. I felt sorry for myself instead.
I needed to ease my pain. I reached out and found no one there. I tried to say so and instead I fell to the ground and as I did I felt relief. The back of my head hit the ground and bounced back and with it, I rose and walked away.
I prayed to be let go and he left me. As I wake up to a new day tomorrow, I pray still… let me be…
I married my sons’ father 22 years ago today. I thought it would be a love to last a lifetime. We had two beautiful boys. Our first son, Sam, was born ten months after we were married. Nick was born the following year. A mother’s love to last a lifetime.
Sam died sixteen years later after being sold Acid that was really a synthetic drug called 25i-NBOMe. He left behind the love of his father and I and also of his younger brother, Nick, now a college sophomore.
What was once never-ending love of a beautiful baby boy is now intertwined with never-ending pain. Sam didn’t graduate high school. Sam didn’t go to college. Sam wasn’t here to celebrate his 21st birthday this year. Sam isn’t here today. #muchlovetosam
It’s been two months since a Sam’s Mom’s blog; a life changing, kick your ass two months. I finished my Masters’ degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. When I came to Christian Theological Seminary three years ago to start my Masters, I was in search of life purpose and my pursuit was to find “hope” to live beyond my own unimaginable pain. I lost my son Sam overnight on Mother’s Day. It was May 11, 2014. He died overdid at a friend’s house from a synthetic drug he thought was Acid. Our hearts were broken; life did not stop for pain. From the spiritual journey I was on, my meaningful life was a vision to help others to in turn heal my own suffering.
When I was accepted and started school, I left my full-time Corporate America executive career. I met the most beautiful people at CTS. I honestly didn’t expect that I would leave CTS. I thought my suffering would end with my death. I didn’t want to live with so much pain. That didn’t happen though. As my studies continued, I thought when I graduated I would move to French Lick, a place of solace that I share with Sam experiences there. I thought I would be a counselor at the school Larry Bird attended or do something in the health care community in Jasper, Indiana. Alone.
Today I defended my thesis and of course, it included my experience with my boys, Sam and Nick. As I jumped in the car to head home after, Stevie Nick’s “Landslide” played. I chuckled. I recall years ago playing the CD over and over in the car and singing every word… over and over. After about a dozen times, Sam sitting in the passenger seat said, “Wow, mom, you really like that song don’t you.” “Yes, I do,” I said.
An hour later, I’m seated at dinner celebrating my victory lap of completing the last two months and I hear Stevie Nick’s again: “Oh, mirror in the sky. What is love? Can the child within my heart rise above? Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life? Well, I've been afraid of changin’. 'Cause I built my life around you. But time makes you bolder. Children get older. I'm getting older too.”
Yes, I’ve been afraid of changing. I came to CTS three years ago struggling to find my purpose. Through my learning at seminary, I discovered parts of myself that I hadn’t known. I came with an identity of being broken. Now I recognize the psychology and theological underpinnings of my work in mental health counseling. I graduate identifying broken as a condition endured. What I possess is what God has provided me. Instead of moving to French Lick, I moved this Spring to Noblesville. Instead of dying, I lived. #muchlovetosam
Sam would wear a big grin when he wore the Monopoly Mr. Money Bags t-shirt claiming “Stacks on Deck.” I can only imagine now the meaning behind his liking of the t-shirt. If I once knew, the four years that have screeched by since his death have left me unknowing.
I wasn’t smiling today as I sat across from my new financial advisor. Tears streamed down both cheeks as I continuously wiped them away and expressed words emotionlessly that Sam was dead; the money in his account was not going to be used by him. Money from stock dividends for his high school grades from an above 4.0 GPA. As a sophomore, he died unknowingly taking a dangerous synthetic drug called N-BOMe.
The ache in my heart that accompanied the tears silently screamed “don’t close another door.” The look from the lady across the desk was compassionate and her eyes expressed care… as a mom, I imagine. Behind her on the credenza were nicely framed pictures of two likely-middle school boys not more than a year or two apart in age. Both boys wore navy short-sleeved polos. I noticed the boys had similar sun shades of blonde hair with summer crew cuts, freckles on their cheeks and big grins. I can only imagine now…
I’d like to think that Grace is where I live now; to me, that is living in love. Provided for us in 1 Corinthians 13:13 "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." Again, I didn’t realize it at the time I did the “thank you letter” but I chose words to put as the letterhead. I’ve continued with them and formalized them as my faith core claims because they showed for me when it came down to what truly does remain after sudden, tragic loss. There were two other core claims that I added: Faith, Hope, Love, Courage, Peace. I added them because they provide comfort for me although the greatest always will be and is love. Steadfast and by my side for what is left of my searching.
My initial pursuit after my loss was to find real Hope in living beyond pain. I left Corporate America, began graduate studies to eventually establish my own clinical practice after my only living son, Nick, goes to college, graduates and I become an “empty nester”. Having hope, by getting back to my educational roots and my early perspectives and leveraging my business career along with my very painful personal loss of my son, Sam, to help others which in turn, helps me. I arrived at this essential component of my own healing, i.e., my own salvation here on Earth from a sermon of my beloved Pastor on a Sunday with a date I do not know. He concluded with the question of are there only two types of people in the world? One, those who need help and care. And two, those who need to serve, to care for and help those in need. Or, he posed, is there a third type? That being, those who serve and help others and then in turn heal or help themselves. From the spiritual journey I am on, there are three types of people in this world. The third became my meaningful purpose and it is wrought with love.
In reading Paul Tillich’s Dynamics of Faith, I became more identified with my meaning of Courage. My line of thought now includes Tillich’s that of the threats to "being" there is loss of meaning and rejection of self for not reaching one’s full destiny… what we all hope to do in a transformed world. I confront my despair, and do so ongoing, by reaffirming my meaningful purpose and the hope for a new destiny to fulfill. This was and is my step of courage.
From Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki’s Divinity & Diversity: A Christian Affirmation of Religious Pluralism, therein lies my fifth claim of Peace on page 121: “Being most deeply who we are, we are open to God’s transformative call toward how we might yet be.” Through hope, faith, love and all the courage I have, I hope to eventually arrive at peace; a beloved being of God, on a reconciling journey to even greater love as "Nothing in life will call upon us to be more courageous than facing the fact that it ends. But on the other side of heartbreak is wisdom.” (Wish I Was Here, 2014) That wisdom to me represents peace. I hope to know yet more when I find it; now nearing four years since Sam died I realize I am closer than I have ever been to peace and I’m living drenched in love. God is good.
It was Mother’s Day morning, May 11, 2014. My husband and I were preparing for a day’s activities and the doorbell rang. Sam was to be home any time from spending the night at a long-time friend’s house down the street. When the front door was opened, it wasn’t Sam arriving home as I thought it was going to be. Instead, it was devastation. Sam, sixteen, was dead.
In the days following Sam’s death, we learned Sam and two of his basketball friends took the chance of their lives. They tried what they thought was LSD or Acid and would pass quickly through their system avoiding detection from random drug testing that they were subject to as athletes. Later, I learned instead of LSD or Acid, dangerous enough, Sam was unknowingly the victim of a deadly synthetic drug called 25I-NBOMe. Three boys took it. Sam did not wake up.
I experienced complicated grief; running the mood race between major depressive disorder and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). My sadness: waking up every morning realizing my first born is gone and further heightened by his physical belongings that seemingly still remain. My flashbacks: random thoughts once considered joyful memories, visioning Sam’s death, recalling a lengthy visitation, funeral and my boy in a coffin, a song that held meaning playing in my car, at a store, anywhere. There are more descriptions of the saddening despair and the physical pain of a broken heart and pandering presence to not even exist.
By high school, Sam had shelves full of trophies from nearly a decade of playing basketball. It was his sport with a year-round routine that occurred so much that it was ingrained in his being. In regard to what I’m sharing, at that time of year, his day involved morning power endurance and after school basketball practice. I was picking him up at the high school gym entrance. Sam walked to my SUV, opened the front passenger door, climbed in with his tall lankiness and casually tossed his heavy-burdened school bag in the back seat, It was a routine ingrained into my being as well. I started the car, put it in drive and Sam buckled his seat belt. I took off heading out of the school parking lot towards home. It was sunny and still light out as I recall. I guess there was more silence in the car than usual as Sam’s first words after we exited the parking lot was, “Did you have a bad day, mom?” I was caught off-guard by his question so I had to let the question settle a moment. I remember thinking, it wasn’t a bad day necessarily. It was a trying day but nothing of the sort that a teen might identify with perhaps. Yet there was something about me that he was picking up that gave him the idea that I wasn’t my usual self. I remember thinking how this was a moment to bring Sam into my life and share with him some of my day. As I started though, I told him “No, it wasn’t a bad day. I had an unusual day at work. Let me tell you about it.” He listened intently; he always did. He asked a few questions and after I was finished he adjusted his red basketball shorts, pulling them downward at his thighs with his large, thin hands. Then he started another subject about current events. He seemed content as he relaxed his posture. I recall this moment clear as day; I see it visually. Maybe because not much more than a year later, I knew what a bad day really was. Sam wasn’t there to tell.
It was the first semblance of a Thanksgiving Day since my 16-year-old academics-honor son, Sam, died from teen curiosity and unknowingly took a synthetic drug that killed him overnight. That happened three years ago. I died three years ago. I live today in the glory of love. I had avoided the holiday season in years past like the plague. This year I thought was different. Truth be known, I’m still in many ways dead to the world. I celebrated the holiday for my family that remains post-mortem because they deserve that. With what they have faced and dealt with in the past three seasons, warrants that they deserve a peaceful heart… if not a peaceful day as well for Thanksgiving.
What I deserve is not even a question. I don’t use the same measurement stick. Instead I lick my pointer finger and raise it to the air and see which way the wind blows, day-by-day. On Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, I was busy with what the holiday provides... love. I was thankful. I was prayerful that God watch over those who are not here with us this holiday season except in our hearts… always, in our hearts.
The day after Thanksgiving, I slept through. What seemed five minutes was actually an hour and by the time I could groggily awaken my spirits the day was over. I existed that day no other way. I was thankful.
I thought I had sufficiently celebrated and survived the holiday until I was in grad school class Monday afternoon. My professor shared how his mother had been ill and his emotional roller coaster of the Thanksgiving break. As he concluded, I could empathize with his roller coaster and I felt I could share that my holiday, too, was emotional. As that led to his questions and my answers I only know to be mine, he shared how a friend of his had experienced loss and in the throes of grief had told him he had laid in the grass for a period of time one day. I then felt open enough to share that I too, had experienced a time with a blanket laying in my front yard in the late summer grass after my Sammy had died. As I had laid there, I had fallen asleep and a neighbor had passed by and disturbed my blanket to ask me if I was okay. I had told them I was. And I was. For my okay. Then as dusk approached, Nick had come out to the front yard and awoken me again. He helped me up and inside at that point. My professor then asked me what it was that I was trying to achieve by laying out in the yard like that. I was trying to achieve surviving I told him. And I did. I lived another day of the horror in losing my child. #muchlovetosam
It was barely one year after the tragic loss of my sweet 16-year-old son, Sam, when I started grad studies, Fall 2015, at Christian Theological Seminary. I was immediately embraced by the community of my CTS cohorts. I felt loved. I was so thankful. Many of them still remain to provide love and support but they are in other programs now. What I’m left with in my third year of grad school, I felt intensely Monday night. A cohort’s comments provided a trigger for me that reeked with lack of information. As I provided vehemently some of that information, although hidden until I said it out loud in the room, was my cohort’s agenda of a race issue around the opioid drug epidemic.
He laughed when I voiced, “So is this a race issue?” His laugh continued as he smiled and said, “Yes.” His affect seemed so odd to me. I would never smile about the death of my son from experimenting and unknowingly taking a synthetic hallucinogen drug that killed him overnight, or the sadness and life changing pain I experienced in the devastating aftermath. My cohort’s pain was with race, yet it seemingly allowed him to smile. I was envious. Still I was the one that brought the idea of race into the room and out from the shadows; a single, 50-plus, suburban, white woman.
What he had been commenting on, was that now the “media” as another student cohort chimed in, was talking of treatment for the opioid drug epidemic. I asked where this treatment was in our community. Neither cohort responded. The smiling cohort grinned again and said, “You act like you expect me to know what the treatment is.” Yes, actually, I did. When I go out and speak about my pain, treatment updates are something that I unfortunately consider for passing on to my audience.
The thoughts voiced thereafter by the same and other students, included the preface, “Not to take away from Jeanine’s loss but…” As if my loss could be taken away? No, changing the past was not an option when I was suffering my pain. Death is not temporary. Instead, with no other option, I worked to change the future.
Now, if I am to listen to my cohort, that work that was my pain is not to be recognized either because it came after the past crack and heroin epidemic and injustices. In fact, my work and that of the army of families effected by the opioid crisis, shows what wasn’t done in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s drug epidemics. But that is precisely why I used my pain for betterment… to right injustice; life is not fair. In grief, I empowered myself. I created a nonprofit. I work painfully as an advocate. I just want to change the world. #muchlovetosam
My life didn’t turn out. No life map to be imagined now will paint a pretty picture when a life no longer exists. What I had to offer the world left me when my 16-year-old academics-honor son, Sam, died three years ago from unknowingly taking a synthetic drug called N-BOMe as a curious teen. I am not alone in unbelievable devastation of the loss of a child. “A recent analysis of the CDC data by the New York Times found that the rising death rates of white adults between the ages of 25 and 34 made them "the first generation since the Vietnam War years of the mid 1960's to experience higher death rates in early adulthood than the generation that preceded it." But while the mortality rate for whites has been steadily rising, the death rates of blacks and Hispanics has continued to fall.”
“The drug epidemics that devastated minority communities in the '70s, '80s, and '90s created a shared aversion to hardcore drugs like heroin and crack. Marcus Anthony Hunter, an assistant professor of Sociology and African American Studies at UCLA, said minority communities are still feeling the effects of the zero-tolerance response by law enforcement to those drug epidemics. "Now that the problems of drugs have noticeably reached the vanilla suburbs, questions and claims or morality have been contested in ways often unavailable to urban minority communities," Hunter said. "Where urban minority areas are thought to be amoral breeding grounds, suburban white areas are thought to be upstanding, respectable force fields from the ills of drug use. As it turns out, neither is exactly true.”
What I offer now. No, neither is true. I’ve lived the undeniably, devastating pain to know that it is not. In the shadow of my darkness with the gallows of my heartache hanging from above; it is the only life I have to live. Trying to find my survival, my brain has aptly followed my heart at a cautiously, safe and guarded distance as my mind suffers, too; recalls, plots, plans, still dreams and wishes. Yes, just here to change the world by blazing a trail and finding the way that shows my heart is full; not dead. I will always love you Sammy; and our sweet, precious, forever memories. #muchlovetosam
I'm so excited to be traveling to the Purdue campus and West Lafayette this weekend, Parent's weekend. I'm the parent for a young man about campus that I could not be prouder of and could not love more, or so I think. In his first semester, he is adjusting responsibly to his class requirements and it shows in his GPA. My son, Nick, has made it onto the Purdue Men's Club Basketball team, last year's Club National Champions. He has found his peeps. He is going to have a guest performance back home during the holiday season, locally, in "The Nutcracker", with his high school sweetheart. And he seemingly is doing these in an "it's a day" moment. Enjoying his life. I love him. I couldn't love him more. I wanted this for his brother, Sam, too, originally his year older brother who died instead from unexpectedly in his curiosity, taking what he thought was LSD but instead was an hallucinogen designer drug, N-Bomb. It was three years ago at the age of 16 that Sammy left us.
In 2014, I never thought I'd get to seeing Nick in college as I didn't think I would be "here." Instead, I am seeing Nick excel at college, at Purdue, his dream, and experiencing his early engineering studies. Not defined by his brother, Sam, now gone, Nick is loved by so many and lifted up in blessings, yet so realistically still a young man of 18. Where life goes, no one truly knows. Who we become, never who we imagined we would be. Pushed beyond our original measures, enduring what we never knew life provided, we become what we never knew before. In the midst of love, is my hope. #muchlovetosam
Tonight I pull into the driveway of my home on a street that means "heaven's view" in another language. A home new to me since I lost my son Sam three years ago at the sweet age of 16. He was curious about drugs and he thought LSD or Acid would protect him from a possible school random drug test after the weekend was over. He was unknowingly sold poison. A synthetic hallucinogen drug called 25i-NBOMe. It was legal six months before he died. A drug user bought it over the internet from overseas, like China. It arrived in the mail at his door step where he was on house arrest at the age of 24. He never left his house when he mixed it with Everclear and put it on blotting paper as he described to law enforcement when he was arrested days after my son's death. He sold it as LSD to the 19 year old drug user my son had been put in contact with. The Marion County Assistant District Attorney asked him in court why he sold the dangerously lethal synthetic drug as LSD. After a deafening silence that lasted way too long, he said he didn't know.
I was alone in court that day just as I am now when I pull in my drive. Once a younger brother with joy at his fingertips from being the baby of the family, Sam's brother Nick is now 18 and a Freshman at Purdue. Sam gone at 16 and a Sophomore at Center Grove High School. Three years after loss and living life on another level. The home I'm walking into is deafly quiet although the portraits on the wall show eyes filled with laughter and smiles that overflow happiness. Home.
I was in a place I never thought I’d be today yet it was a place that I was familiar with. A conference speaking engagement similar to many I’ve had over the past three years since my son, Sam, died at the age of 16 from an accidental drug overdose of unbelievable proportions to my family and ultimately, my life existence. He had “only been experimenting.” As if that changes the final outcome. No, he is dead. And I experience that he is no longer in my life every day; a multitude of times, many moments of every day, moments that are never ending. Do I wish that was different every minute of every day? Yes, just like millions of other mothers who have lost children in this new war on drugs. Excruciating, never ending pain. A period of my life I wasn’t prepared for. A period of my son’s life that he was not prepared for. Had I not prepared him?
Today I spoke… I spoke many times in the aftermath of months after the knock on the door that Mother’s Day that communicated to me that not only was my son not alive anymore but my life was dead… a divorce, a move, a casualty of a blessing of a brother that is so unforgivingly lovingly that life through him is not only bearable, but saving grace.
So I am blessed. Even today. Especially today. I traveled to the conference with the most comfort I could ever have in this storm. And upon arrival, I spoke my heart, as we all do, and at the end, there was a standing ovation. A standing for us all in the loss of the massive storm that has taken away just like the tide dissipates, those we love beyond all measures… those we wish to see again yet know wishes are for those who believe in miracles… we know we are just here to change the world… #muchlovetosam
He said, “I’m not going anywhere, babe.” I knew he meant what he said. I trusted him.
Just hearing the words, sent me reeling, whirl winding, back to another who was to be there early the next morning after he spent the night with a friend. He was my son. He was 16. He intended to return the next morning. He had free will. In the midst of the night, though, he was gone. A night that until the next morning when the Sheriff and the Coroner’s office knocked on my door, I had not known a dark side… of myself or of others in a struggle I am too familiar with now. I slept innocently, naive, and lastly, soundly, through the night that my Sammy died but from that night on, I would not know that level of deep sleep for the thoughts of what happened that night while I slept peacefully would not allow me. No time for a rest. No escape. No sound. Silence in the night is maddening. My son, Sammy… 16… curious… died. I was not there. I was not alone in my loss. I was in absoluteness, purely broken. No, he wasn’t going anywhere. #muchlovetosam
I wanted to remember, yet couldn’t forget. I wanted to forget, yet couldn’t not remember. Another birthday without him; here on Earth Sam is 20. My first born on June 26, 2017…
In my heart, the joy of him turning 16 is still with me. As I saw his best friend this past month and saw how much of a grown man he is becoming, I realize my Sam of 16 would not be 20 now.
His last birthday we celebrated together; Panama City Beach, Florida. A time and place I’ll remember the rest of my life. My last vacation. My last true vacation. There will be no more rest. I want to remember how much I love him, yet not forget. #muchlovetosam
I thought I should stop writing. Not because I felt better but because I felt no one cared to hear how I really felt. It has been three years now since my beautiful, enlightening son died at 16. He was so young I realize now as his younger brother has turned 18, graduated from high school and prepares for Purdue in the Fall. Sam is not in college; Nick going to college is not a repeat of an experience I’ve had in some way with his year older brother. No, this is Nick’s experience for the first time. This is my experience for the first time. And I love Nick. And I miss Sam. I wish it wasn’t my first experience. I wish… I wish but it doesn't change my reality. #muchlovetosam
It was a trying day and at the end of it, in the dark, I walked my way to the the mail box… the place I only go once a week if at most, so as not to be reminded of reminders I still cannot yet deal with… Tonight, as I opened the mail box, there was but one small envelope. I was relieved at it's small site… and then I picked up the envelope, turned it over and looked at the return address. My heart sank. I knew it was an even more trying day than I had known yet knew not why.
The envelope was not addressed to me, but to Nick, so once inside, I placed it under his eyes. As I then watched, focused on his eyes, as he opened the envelope and then read, line by line what the handwritten note said, the tears fell behind my eyes as I only imagined what it said. He smiled and was pleased with the words… I was relieved and glad he was happy with the mail's arrival. He handed the notebook paper with handwriting to me and I waited to read it until I was alone.
Behind closed doors where no one could see, I read what Nick had handed me. There was a picture of Nick attached. Nick as a 5th grader. The note was from “little Nick” sincerely. It was dated May 26, 2010. A time when all seemed right with the world. Nick played chess then and won the weekly award of the “Hallowed Geode of Chess” in Mr. Wooten’s class. His smile at such an awesome achievement was priceless.
Today's mail letter came in Nick’s handwriting and said, writing from fifth grade, "that he raised the flag every day"… indeed he did with one of his then and now closest friends… It says he "liked Mr. Wooton"… of course he did, Mr. Wooten was his and Sam’s fifth grade teacher and a man among men… It said his "favorite subject was social studies" and he would be waiting for this note in seven years. It arrived today…
I’m so glad for Nick. Sam had Mr. Wooten as a teacher also… Sam did not get his letter in seven years… How do you smile and cry at the same time? Just how?