Alleluia

Home is home

When today, Easter, came there were so many emotions that came with it.  They were all unexpected.  Having been through one year without my son Sam, the second year the flow of emotions I realize does not change.  First there is the death anniversary, then his birthday, then the fourth of July… school starting and summer ending; Fall and all that his basketball conditioning provided followed by the holidays:  Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, Easter… Each time I take the phrase, “Oh, it’s just the time of year…” Why does it take so long to realize my emotions never end but are an ebb and flow and that today was no different?  

I awoke considering that today is my favorite church service of the year; He has risen, he has risen, indeed.  How many services we attended as a family over the years at our church, shouting out that phrase in response to Pastor Dave’s same.  It always felt so good; the fulfilling promise of hope.  

Today, I traveled the ninety minutes back to my home where my mom and dad live in a home on the lake in Illinois, with many thoughts.  I remember Sam and Nick in matching Easter outfits as toddlers at the same home and the Easter egg hunts we had.  They were ecstatic; everyone was happy.  As the years progressed, I remember Sam and Nick being baptized Maundy Thursday at our Indy home church followed by communion confirmation days later.  They were blessed; everyone was ecstatic.  

As Sam and Nick got older, my parents traveled to our home and we attended church and celebrated that He has risen this day.  He has risen, indeed.  All seemed well.  Until 22 months ago when Sam died unknowingly from a synthetic hallucinogen drug, 25i-NBOMe.  Nothing has been the same since.  Everything has changed; it had to in order to survive.  So today, Nick celebrated Easter with his dad while I traveled to Illinois to spend precious time with my parents.  Alleluia, He has risen.  He has risen, indeed.  Alleluia…  

Let it rain

When the tears fall down like rain, you just got to let it go.  Why?  Because I’ll never understand.  As much as I try, even 22 months after my teen son Sam died unknowingly from a synthetic hallucinogen called 25i-NBOMe, it comes on me like a deep, dark thunder cloud of rain.  It’s that unknowingness of “why?” that sharpens the pain.  I didn’t do anything wrong.  We didn’t do anything wrong.  He was a good kid.  I loved him so, so why is he gone?  Why so broken-hearted?  

When I cry, I at some point exhaust all thoughts and when there is nothing, there still yet lies something.  Crying and being so down that you don’t care, if you manage to make it up to the next day, then you have.  There you are for wherever you go.

I thought our loss of Sam might help save others; most of all those whose hearts I still hold close to mine.  This is besides those that did not know Sam that have been impacted by his death of which I have heard from many and can cry out thankfully.  Those who loved Sam directly also had an experience in his loss and no matter what that experience was, it was not a goal that would keep anyone safe from Sam’s fate unless chosen so.  No, mine was not a goal achievement to save others although that has happened with His grace and glory but my purpose was to share my heart, and Sam’s heart, unendlessly, I now realize.

So if I try to save others and if others are not saved, what then?  Have I failed?  In my own soul-searching from there, what is the purpose in life?  What have I fulfilled?  All that is left is all that I had to give to Sam, my heart.  Today by my own hope; by choosing to meet strangers and share my Sammy and by showing love beyond all else in my pain and loss, my soul’s search aligns.

So I’ll cry, if it eases the pain.  And if there is another tomorrow, I’ll be here.  #muchlovetosam

Every time

I was blessed to be with loving spirits last night at the FACE THE MUSIC fundraiser in Noblesville.  I was there amidst the soulful music and wonderful performers and appreciative audience as well as those newly formed friendships I have in the loss of my 16-year-old son Sam from a deadly synthetic drug, 25i-NBOMe, still just 21 months ago.  I knew that my love when Sam was on this Earth was expressed most immediately with my family as a mother’s love.  I now express my mother’s love for Sam most immediately to those that I have never met before and may never know in combination with those who know what loss and pain means and I remain in contact with many. 

I was to speak for only a brief time last night in between band sets with two fellow mothers championing causes for heroin recovery and the dangers of teen alcohol use.  Mothers I know so well now from the pain we have endured and continue to in order to somehow, in what ever way might be possible, make this world we live in a better place than when our son’s left it.  Still as I arrived last night and felt the comfort of those around me in common goals and heart, I quietly asked myself, “Why do this?  Why speak?”  These are the questions I ask myself moments before each chance I have to share publicly my beautiful Sammy.  And I never really know the outcome of what I might say about Sam because it is intangible. It just is.  So still the questions come.  Last night was no different.  

After I speak, what happens is honestly, what keeps me doing it again.  It doesn’t ease my pain or take it away but it does let the rest of the world know that exists.  Many of us live with pain that cannot be seen on the outside; I talk about my pain so that everyone may know. That is my life now after my son was unknowingly given a drug made by a dealer that was basically poison; it hurts.

The other thing that happens when I speak is always some sort of unknown.  This past Thursday, speaking at the Kiwanis luncheon in Bloomington, my lifelong friend Robin and I sitting at a stoplight and she glances over and sees written in graffiti on a nearby utility platform, Motz.  One of Sam’s endearing nicknames short for Motsay.  Sam’s brother, Nick’s as well since they share that last name.  Last night in leaving the reception hall something similar happened as I weaved through the tremendous number of people gathered.  There seemed to be a clear pathway amidst those standing and sitting at tables so that I could exit with ease except as I did so there in the passage way was a penny on the floor that blended in with the floor tile color.  A glimmer of it caught my eye though, so I had to stop and so I did what we do according to the rhyme, “Find a penny, pick it up…”  Until I speak again next week and far beyond… #muchlovetosam 

Busy is the new happy

Weeks ago someone special was telling me how busy they were. “Super, super busy,” they told me. I wasn’t super, super busy or even a little busy as far as I could tell. I shared with a friend how “super busy” this special person was and my friend told me, “Oh, yeah, haven’t you heard? Busy is the new happy.” Well, I hadn’t heard. My first thought was oh, maybe all I need to do is be busy after losing my 16-year-old son, Sam, nearly 21 months ago, then I, too, could have some form of happiness since his death. I started to “get busy.”

First, I considered my “to do” list which is really just a mental list of my known priorities to be addressed over the next several weeks. First on the list, was to follow up on what was needed for Sam’s tribute page in this year’s high school yearbook. A very thoughtful and wonderful undertaking by the school and staff to remember Sam in what would have been his Senior year. I put that activity in motion by setting a meeting with the yearbook sponsor and set aside time to research beforehand what a tribute page looks like. I knew this would mean finding pictures of Sam for the yearbook. Another busy task that I could be busy with pulling together. I decided okay, if I am busy with the tribute page then what else could I get busy with?

I was already doing daily outreach for Sam’s Watch with schools for participation in National Drug & Alcohol Facts Week so I continued with that, arranging to speak and signing up schools with a total of over 34,000 students to participate this year. Over 1,000 more Hoosier students than participated via Sam's Watch last year. Plus there were registrations from Michigan and Tennessee as the awareness of Sam’s Watch participation has grown. I was also busy with Kelly Wallace of CNN for her awesome article. I was working with NIDA for their excellent Drugs & Health blog on Sam’s Watch, too. Last for media, I talked with the local paper, the Daily Journal, who was promoting the upcoming SWaP Meet (Sam’s Watch & Parents Meeting).

On the home front, I had cleaned out one of Sam’s closet so I needed to continue with cleaning out his room. I set a date during this time to tackle his second closet. After completing that in the morning that worked, the rest of my day I couldn’t be busy. I was left useless afterwards as I tried to process the memories, hopes and pain of loss generated from that one activity. I could not “get busy” the rest of the day.

As I met with the yearbook sponsor, all seemed well with that busy-ness until I had to find pictures. I began to feel like I was moving in slow motion in a direction that I did not want to go because of the pain and suffering that was happening with each picture I saw and that generated again memories, hopes and more realization of loss. I looked on Sam’s phone for pictures that he might have wanted included; it took me days to get busy enough to hook his phone up to the charger so I could turn it on. Once on, it took many outbreaks into tears to reconcile that the so, so handsome young man in the pictures was no longer here with us. I couldn’t be busy.

I ordered the free materials from NIDA for drug facts week and thought about what I would share with students this year in the four assemblies for this week. Then I considered what I could share with parents now that might make a difference at the Feb. 1 SWaP Meet. In the midst of the speaking prep, I found it almost impossible to be busy.

These three main areas were focus above and beyond the quality time with Nick, meeting his needs and participating in his activities as well as the current events of playoff games and planned personal engagements. Those are the high points of what I was caught up in to “get busy.” The low point was I couldn’t be busy, the new happy, with what my life daily has in store for me. I had to take my time, going very slowly, planning appropriately so as not to be tipped out-of-balance, and making very precise baby steps in order to meet what I believe Sam would want, how he can be remembered now and how I can share my mother’s love for him with others. I continue to find myself not knowing what to do; I just know I can’t be busy. #muchlovetosam

Prescription

I want to say it is a tough week but then it sounds like all the other weeks I’ve had since losing my son, Sam, at the tender age of sixteen.  Sam died overnight from a little-known synthetic drug, 25i-NBOMe, just 21 months ago.  Sam’s year-younger brother and my son, Nick, knows what tough weeks are like.  He’s witnessed firsthand.  What I wouldn’t give to take that vantage point away from him.  I know I can’t.

That doesn’t stop Nick.  When I picked him up from his ski trip last weekend and began to update him on what he had missed in the week he was away, he asked me for a piece of paper.  As the tears were streaming down my face and blurring my vision, I searched through my purse.  I searched past the black t-shirt I’m carrying that was Sam’s that I found under his bed while Nick was away.  Past Sam’s basketball picture button which is right beside the pistachio nut that I found out in the yard after Sam died.  I had bought the nuts at the store and Sam had helped carry in the groceries, grabbed the nuts and went outside to shoot hoops on what ended up being his last day on this Earth.  I remember backing out of the driveway to go buy hanging flower pots for the porch and seeing Sam throwing the nut shells in the grass and picking up the basketball and shooting.  Later, Sam carried the hanging flower pots and put them on the porch; an advantage he had at 6’2” to not need any assistance with. Next to the pistachio nut was the mother’s charm bracelet that Sam and Nick gave me; the countless pennies, dimes and quarters that I’ve found on the ground and never pass without picking up; the Sam’s Watch pen and finally, the small notebook pad for Nick.  I hand it to him.  

Nick takes the small note pad and on a blank page writes something and then hands it to me.  As he hands it to me, he says, “Here, do this.”  As I look at the opened page on the notepad that Nick has written on and handed to me I see the following:  “Not give a shit 2x/day for one month” and a messy signature of“Dr N Motsay”.  I smile in amazement at my young son and his old soul.  Then I look out the car window as Nick puts the car in drive and heads toward home.  A smirk appears on my face as I think about my young son with the old soul.  I look to the sky as I consider how I’ll follow his prescription.  Then I think to myself, “Thank you Jesus… for your sign today.”  #muchlovetosamandnick #missyousammy

Dilemma brought me to knees

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It comes up from time to time since my son Sam passed away so today when it did I should not have been taken aback.  But I was.  My breath was knocked out of me as I reasoned with just my own thoughts.  

When Sam died overnight from a relatively unknown synthetic drug, NBOMe, he was a Sophomore and played basketball on the school team.  He had a school gym locker in the boys’ locker room.  After Sam died, I wanted to clean out his locker.  I wanted to go after school, when relatively no one would see, and get the items myself out of Sam’s locker.  As Sam’s mother, with my love for him, I wanted to do that for Sam.  I even made arrangements with Sam’s basketball coach in the few short weeks after Sam’s death to go and clean out his locker.  His coach was so generous and kind with a mourning mother’s wishes.  When it came time to go and get Sam’s things out of his locker, I couldn’t leave the house though.  I was frozen by time’s now past; no longer present.  So instead of going into the locker room and getting Sam’s stuff, the coach gathered the items.  I imagined that he must have had to have the lock cut off in order to open the locker.  I had actually just bought the new lock for Sam.  It was red; Sam’s favorite color.  I had bought Sam a new lock as something had happened that the lock he had been using no longer worked.  What had happened to the old lock is something I don’t now remember.  At the time, it seemed so trivial that it didn’t seem that I needed to remember.  I wish I could will myself to remember now.

This weekend Nick was playing backyard football with friends.  In what he describes with excitement in his voice and a beaming smile,  a fabulous play occurred and he hurt his knee.  Nick’s injured knee seems minor at this point but a knee brace would be helpful for playing basketball.  I had bought a knee brace for Sam his last basketball season when he had a minor knee injury.  I had asked Sam where the brace was when I noticed after many weeks that he stopped wearing it in games because his knee was better; he had actually done weeks of therapy as well so I wanted to make sure he was confident that he didn’t need to wear it rather than didn’t want to wear it.  Sam told me then it was in his gym locker if he ever needed to wear it again.  He didn’t.

Sam didn’t need to wear the knee brace again so I know where one is for Nick right now.  Yet, just like I couldn’t go to get Sam’s things out of his locker, I too, cannot look in his school gym bag that contains all the items the coach gathered.  If I say I’m just not ready, that likely doesn’t make sense.  Sam left this Earth 20 months ago now.  What I’m not ready for are the emotionally gripping, stab-like spikes of hurt to my body that will come in opening his gym bag.  The hurt will not heal but instead will be like what I imagine from a movie scene where someone is being shot at and hit, not once, but continuously as they continue to pick themselves back up and try to run as fast as they can away from the source of where the targeting shots are coming from.  I already know opening that gym bag will be like running as fast and as far away from the source of the pain as I possibly can while at the same time being shot down with gripping pain.

I can, however, with no agony, drive myself to the corner drug store and buy a knee brace for Nick so my question to myself about the gym bag is, why go there?  My grief counselor tells me I may never go there.  When he first told me that, I looked at him wide-eyed and open-mouthed with exasperation as though to express to him without words how unreal that seemed to me.  Never?  At this time in my grieving, I know my counselor is right though.  I may never go there.  It’s all too real.  #muchlovetosam

Last of the last, 2015

The week before Christmas was my last work week with Corporate America.  It was the final step for me in letting go of who I was after losing my teen son, Sam, overnight to a synthetic drug, and finding anew, who I am.  I will miss not having regular trips to our state’s government center at 402 West Washington; a familiar location to me for almost ten years now with the contracts I worked on to serve the neediest of Hoosiers.  My last work day happened in the midst of the holiday season.  As a full-time grad student, it also happened just as I was finishing my first semester exams.  Still, I felt the relief that I had come full circle.  Everything was different:  who I am, where I live, what I do.

The next week went on to be the Christmas holiday.  The week was very emotional still working to get cartons of memories packed from the old house where Ed, Sam, Nick and I lived and into the much smaller, new home, for just Nick and I.  Space issues are easily resolved compared to the emotions which seemingly cannot be stifled.  The holiday itself was one of the better times in recent past, spending it tranquilly with family and priceless quality time with my teen son, Nick, in celebration of the true spirit of the season.  Yes, everything was different.

For New Year’s Eve, I had my first online dating experience.  I was apprehensive even initially and then as the week progressed even more so.  I spent a day in angst over how I would cope with even the simplest of questions: “How many children do you have?”, “What are their ages?”, etc.  Questions with answers for me that are like opening war wounds and exposing flesh and not simple at all.  The trepidations I had were more easily resolved that evening at dinner, thankfully to dear girlfriends who have also lost a child, and laughter.  The “date” itself was an endless conversation that I could write about.  In the end though, I’m not ready for online dating; a quarry of friends though, I always am.  

So as 2015 came to an end, I realized with:  who I am, where I live, what I do, space issues, emotions, intermittent tranquility and laughter; yes, everything is different.

Peace on Earth

I recall it was another of my heartbroken meltdowns after losing my first born son, Sam, at the tender age of sixteen. I was outside and it was daylight but my skin felt no heat of the day as it appeared to be almost dusk.  Still, I was without need for a jacket. The grass I was laying on was the true green of late summer. Nick, my second born son, knelt down and helped me to my feet. I had been laying in the yard looking at the sky, yet searching with my mind's eye for something that I knew I could not see.

Nick has been there at my side when the pain of grief has raged at its worst. He’s been there when I have spoken publicly about Sam’s experience and our experience in losing him, and in that, we have shared so much love to help others.

I always consider Nick to have an "old soul" as his words are far more mature than his age. This was apparent to me in this moment when my pain of the loss of Sam was flowing so strongly through my veins causing my heart to race and my thoughts to run wild. In the midst of this meltdown when even my hope seemed lost, Nick helped me to my feet and as he did so, in earnest he said, “Mom, we’ll see Sam again. We just have to be patient.”

I actually felt a sense of amazement in Nick’s words, spoken in his solemn and believing voice, at his then, sweet age of sixteen. Nick's commitment to patience would need to be far stronger and longstanding than my own would need to be yet he said it to me with simplicity and such faith. All he said is true to me. All that was unsaid between us is the many moments that will occur here on Earth, for each of us, before that will happen.

My patience will be expressed in how my heart carries love for Sam, my son who I physically no longer see, his overuse of wearing Axe body spray I no longer smell, and his friendly touch I no longer feel. More than ever though, a longing for his presence that is no longer met. Our love for Sam will never end and with it, neither will the pain of his loss. Yes, Nick, we do just have to be patient. For me, that is patience with my neverending pain for peace on Earth. #muchlovetosamandnick

It's over; is it ever truly over?

Friday Ed and I signed divorce papers that ended just more than a decade long marriage that encompassed most of Sam and Nicks’ life to date.  We married when Sam was in kindergarten and Nick in pre-school and had been together for more than a year before that.  Sam walked me down the aisle of the outdoor deck at the Danville Boat Club and Nick stood as Ed’s best man. In all, it was a family marriage with each of the boys focal to not only the ceremony but in what would be beyond that.  It was such a happy time.  On Friday, it seemed a far away time and place.

As I drove myself to the attorney’s office on Friday to sign the papers, I thought it would be a quick stop with a signature and I’d be on my way.  When I arrived, I instantly recognized Ed’s car in the parking lot.   I thought about leaving at that point and returning later but with my schedule of activities for the day I would not have time to return later and the agreement needed to be signed that day as far as I thought.  So I parked and grabbed my bag out of the passenger seat and it seemed heavier than it ever did before.  

As I entered the attorney's office lobby, Ed was just leaving and we met as though to pass but how do you pass more than a decade of your life without acknowledgement?  You don’t.  We hugged as though comforting one another in another loss and the words that came to me were, “take care.”  

In the face of yet another loss, my marriage this time, for that brief moment in the lobby, I wanted to shout, “STOP” but as soon as I thought it and before the words escaped my mouth I realized that was not possible.  As a year and a half ago now, I realized the world does not stop when devastation knocks at your door and my beautiful son, Sam, left this world.  I tried to stop and stand still then but the world did not.  It would keep going and I in my daily muster of strength over the past 18 months have done the same.  Some days I don’t know how.  Some days I don’t know why.  In the end, I know I do make it past each day.  And each day I make it past, I know why… #muchlovetosamandnick

Halloween's Past

It came again this year.  Last year, our first Halloween without Sammy, it actually snowed.  I was amazed that it snowed and I was creative in expressing my love for Sam, with a little help from my friend, Robin.  We made a Jack O’Lantern with Sam’s name on it and in place of the “A” in “SAM” we had a heart symbol for the love of the one we so adore and miss.  That evening several of us played Euchre and Rummy in the company of family and friends as we cherished our love for our son and brother who by sign of a vacant seat at the table was not here.  And a year later, he still isn’t here.

This Halloween, at our new home called “heaven’s view” in another language, Nick was off to work at his first part-time job while only yet a Junior in high school.  He really enjoys it.  I experienced the joy of seeing him hard at work while he didn’t notice I was there not too many days ago and he’s such a good boy.  The same as his brother but in a totally different way.  I was there to drop off his cell phone which he had forgotten at home in his haste to get to work after school and on time.  I walked in to where he works and recognized the one who looks like he belongs with me, immediately.  I stood there to watch him until he had a break in his activity and we could make eye contact.  As I waited, another, obviously more senior, likely Nick’s supervisor I quickly surmised,  employee, asked if I needed help.  I explained to her that I had something for Nick and was just waiting for the moment when I wouldn’t interrupt him.  She smiled and past me by.  Nick and I then made contact and I quickly gave him his phone so I wouldn’t interrupt him and get him off the obvious routine he was in and seemingly knew well after working there for nearly four months.  My second-born son gave me that smile that melts my heart as I envision it coming from one of the deepest places from within him and then I left; with a smile on my face.

As I left, the senior employee past me again, and I recognized then even more so that she was obviously in charge of the evening’s activities that included my son’s paid role.  She asked me, “Are you Nick’s mom?”  I shook my head and proudly said, “Yes, I am.”  She then proceeded to tell me what a great work ethic he had and how he was a real rock star and that she treasured having him work with her.  I smiled and said, “Yes, I think he is pretty special myself.”  Then she most seriously looked at me and she said, “Mom, you did a great job.”  I know it came from her lips and it was her tone of voice but for me, I heard my Sammy and I heard an answer to so many questions I have asked myself over the past year since losing him.

So this Halloween, in our new place, there were some decorations but it wasn’t the years past usual Halloween decoration fare inside or out.  And rather than be at home on Halloween, which was a Saturday night this year, I went out to BJ’s.  That too, was a mild celebration, in that BJ’s was a place that Sam and I went on our own for dinner on many nights as he loved the BBQ Chicken Pizza.  I can remember many engaging conversations there with just Sam and I; talks that will last me my lifetime now.  So that is where I was on Halloween.

The last time Sam truly dressed up for Halloween, he and his probably longest-time friend other than Nick, dressed up as the opposite sex.  Sam thought that was so funny.  I helped him pick out one of my skirts, he chose a black one, and he wore a matching purple sweater set.  His hair was fixed and his jewelry was a necklace of mine he chose.  I didn’t realize it until coming across the picture but it was the same necklace that I actually wore this year Halloween evening.  I don’t often wear it and at the time I wore it that evening it matched the shirt I was wearing nicely so I chose it to wear.  At that time, I didn’t recall that Sam had worn it too, on the same holiday, several years earlier.  

Nonetheless, there I was with the necklace on in a place that I shared with one of the most beautiful inside-and-out human beings that I will ever love and only one of two people on this Earth that I will call my son; with my mother’s undying love.  And then arriving back home from BJ’s Halloween evening, the snow from the year past, this year, turned into rain. #muchlovetosam

Here and now

Sam’s tragic death on Mothers’ Day 2014 was from teen curiosity with drug experimentation that ended with the drug dealers who made and then sold a synthetic drug, 25i-NBOMe, in lieu of what was to be Acid for the teens to avoid detection from random school drug testing.  The death of a child is a traumatic event that can have long-term effects on the lives of parents.  It has for me and for my husband Ed.  The ending of a marriage is never an easy path to take and the decisions involved are innumerable and unexplainable except to the parties involved and even then maybe only to one and not the other.  

Seeing where my marriage is now, it isn’t as difficult compared to the day that Sam died.  That doesn’t mean after losing Sam it’s easy.  It means it is all varying degrees of pain every day.  Sixteen months after Sam’s death, I am now truly on my own with Sam’s teen brother, Nick.  I no longer live in the house that Sam made the tune to remember the address “Fourteen-O-Four, fourteen-O-four…”  A house that before Sam died, I could not really have cared whether I lived in another year or not and then after his death at the age of 16, a house that I thought I would never be able to leave.  It involves what do not even seem like choices as now I live in a world that just is and go from there.

Here and now, I live with Nick, now 16, in an out-of-the-way every day life, in a secluded smaller neighborhood with similar cheerful, chatty, and complimentary neighbors; on a street that in another language means “heaven’s view.”  When I look out my back yard or rest in the lounge chair on the back patio, I look up to the sky and see layers upon layers of clouds that remind me how close I truly am to heaven, and Sam.  The past two weeks I have slept in my new “heaven’s view” place and I have slept through the night and awoken like a “normal” person in the morning; no longer awakening in the middle of the night for hours of restlessness and wondering; overcome by tears and torrid thoughts.  The search for peace continues… hope continues… love for Sam continues…

I know now there’s no question that a marriage can end after the death of a child.  The shattering experience changes everyone in an instant and in total.  Just like Humpty Dumpty had a great fall and all could not put back together again.  

The loss of a child is the hardest thing a parent, and a couple, can go through.  It is really hard.  Oh, so hard. #muchlovetosam #missyousammy

The rest of what happened

As schools are getting back into session, a common question I recall among classmates and teachers was, “What did you do this summer?”  As it is back to school time, I am reflecting on what I did this summer as I am back out in the schools, too, from: the young men at Pendleton Juvenile Corrections; Center Grove elementary teaching staff; and in the coming weeks, again this year, Noblesville High School students.  And what stands out for me from this summer in my ongoing journey from devastation, doom and despair over the loss of my 16-year old son, Sam, to a relatively unknown synthetic drug last year is this:

This summer I appeared in court twice to testify in the drug dealing cases against the men that sold young teens what was described as Acid but in reality was the deadly synthetic drug, 25i-NBOMe.  My first testimony was July 20th, the day before my dad’s birthday, in Johnson County Court in Jordan Adamowicz’ case.  Jordan was a Center Grove student just like Sam before he dropped out of school having started with alcohol and marijuana in his early teens and becoming a juvenile offender with “benzos" as his drug of choice.  He’s tried rehab recently and he believes it has worked but in reality as the judge so plainly stated that day, it will take years to truly know if Jordan will be able to manage the impact in his life of his drug addiction.  The weekend Sam died, May 11, 2014, Jordan, then age 19, was only interested in purchasing his own “high” and in order to do that he needed to sell something to have money to sustain his drug habit.  That is why he sold what he thought was Acid to my son and his friends on Mothers’ Day eve.  Adamowicz testified he did not know that what he had sold was 25i-NBOMe.  The judge sentenced Adamowicz to prison time and a five year journey that at end is meant to provide him the opportunity to be a successful citizen because if not, he will assuredly spend more time incarcerated.  The simple truth of how our society mostly works with addiction today in the devastating aftermath of losing our son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, teammate, friend, classmate…

And the man involved with Jordan Adamowicz in getting the drugs and selling them, was Kyle Hazzard.  I did not testify in Kyle Hazzard’s court case.  He failed to appear at his court date earlier this year and a warrant was issued for his arrest.  The warrant was never served though as Hazzard who got the drugs from the Indy Southside dealer and along with Adamowicz delivered them to our subdivision and into Sam’s hands died on July 4th, at the age of 26, from drug poisoning.  I’m not aware if the substance that killed Kyle Hazzard has been identified yet.  What is certain though is yet another fatality occurred from drugs in a country struggling to find it’s way in how to treat and truly rehabilitate those suffering from what puts money in many pockets around our nation and our world.

The third man, Zachary Catron, made the drug that killed my son on Mother’s Day.  I testified in Marion County Court to the drug allegations against Catron on August 11th, the day before my 40-something birthday.  Zachary Catron, now 25, never made it passed 9th grade.  His parents’ divorced while he was in elementary school and he had trouble getting along with others and in school.  Eventually he turned to drugs to sedate his outwardly evident sufferings and inwardly stifled childhood pain.  He joined a gang and was a member for several years as perhaps his replacement family.  When Marion County Prosecutor Rick Frank asked Catron why he passed off the dangerous 25i-NBOMe as another illegal drug, Acid, there was awkward silence in the courtroom.  Finally, Catron mumbled, “I don’t know.”  And there in that crux that included silence and mumbling, this broken mother’s heart beat so fast and so hard that I was sure it was heard by all over the silence and mumbling of an answer that will in no way comfort me or those who love Sam.  As the judge sentenced Catron to 25 years that day, it did not bring our Sam back.

So what about Sam?  The 16-year old who was one month away from turning 17; an academic honors-student with a GPA over 4.0 and college plans to earn a degree in Finance; a high school Sophomore named a two-time Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference Scholar Athlete; the teen who had a family, friends and a welcoming home of faith.  On that fateful night Mothers’ Day eve, along with two friends, he experimented with something they thought was Acid, and from peers and social media would go quickly through their system and not be detected in a random drug test that they as athletes were subject to.  The three athlete-friends took the same drug that night and Sam died overnight from the poisonous dose of the deadly synthetic hallucinogen drug mixture made by Catron and for whom only Catron knew was 25i-NBOMe.

What did Sam think he would be doing with his life?  From his Statement of Faith that he created a year and a half before he died, he speaks plainly:
“I like to think of God as the one driving me in a car through my life.”
“And so I want to stay in the car with God driving me and let him lead me on the journey of life and I trust that he will forever be with me.”
“God is with me on my current stop, high school.”
“As I think about next stops, I see God with me at college where I will get my degree.  I know I will need God at all stops in my life.  Later I anticipate God will help guide me as I get my first job, get married and have children.”

Most devastatingly, those next stops as Sam outlined in his faith statement:  going to college, earning his degree, getting his first job, marrying and having children - are lost forever now for Sam.  But not only are they lost for Sam, they are lost too, for his family and for all those that love him and for all those that would have loved him.  #muchlovetosam #missyousammy

Treasures in the rough

I’m just back from the ninth annual girls’ trip to Dresden, Ohio and the Longaberger basket factory.  Four basket-loving friends started this July tradition in 2006; at the time we started, it was perfect timing for me as Sam and Nick always spent the first two weeks of July with their dad and I missed them terribly so this way I could have something to do while they were gone; a distraction from missing them.  

Last year I went, too, even though it had only been a few months since Sam had died so tragically from what we came to know was a synthetic drug called 25i-NBOMe.  When we went last year, we did a balloon release while we were there for each of the four of us has experienced the heartbreak of loved young one's lost.

As the years have gone by, the area has been hit by hard times due to the economy, etc.  For the last several years, we have pondered in the three hour car ride there what will have changed and if we should consider going somewhere else next year.  But no matter what the changes, by the time we head home we are talking about our trip there next year.

Besides the Dresden, Ohio street signs, Nick Blvd and Sam Ave, the treasures I found this year were:

- A mail basket tray as daily mail arrives addressed to Sam that I’m not prepared to throw away.  While I was gone, both Sam and Nick got college mail and Sam got something from the Marines, too… I paused when I saw it last night and thought if Sam were still here to get his mail would the Marines mail be one that I accidentally slipped in with the sales flyers that I would naturally throw in the recycle so Sam wouldn’t be tempted to read something that interested him further in a career path that this mother’s heart did not want to endure although now I’ve had to face that devastation I feared.

- A large basket to hold Sam’s large blanket that I keep at my side whenever I’m in the living room.  I remember our last time when Sam had that blanket; he brought it with him in the backseat with a pillow when I drove him to Noblesville weeks before he died.  He had a full day of playing AAU games and after his morning game we had gone to his personal favorite Chick-fil-a.  Sam loved chicken biscuits and while we sat and ate he went up to the counter twice for more food; signs of a growing teen.  I had gotten the fruit with yogurt and had not used the granola.  Sam asked if I would put that in my purse and keep it as he might want it later.  I did.  And it’s still in my purse today.  It was also the last day that my mom saw Sam alive.  She had come over for the afternoon games and when we left our last conversation at the car was how well Sam had done on his practice ACT.  He had scored what I had to get into the University of Illinois and my mom was complimenting him and predictably Sam downplayed the bragging of his mother and grandmother.

- A cookie jar to replace the glass fruit bowl that sits on the counter.  The fruit bowl use to overflow with cuties, bananas, apples and the like to go with the large volume of family time, games and laughter.  After Sam’s passing in combination with sporadic shopping, the fruit bowl has remained mostly empty the past year and on the occasion that it did have fruit in it, the fruit ended up in the trash spoiled more than it did anyone’s stomach.  So now a cookie jar so that when it is empty just as much as the fruit bowl has been, no one will know.

- Two decks of playing cards to replace the worn ones we now have from daily card games of Rummy.  Between my friend Robin, Nick and my mom, we will no longer know who is holding the ten of clubs by the torn corner or the queen of spades by the bent crease in the card.

- and many treasures of the Nick kind… 
   - A teacher figurine that will grow grass hair of the chia pet style    that I will help Nick grow this summer and put in a grass ponytail like his favorite home room teacher wears that I can see him presenting to her for a laugh to show what he did this summer.  
   - A gurgle fish, of the mystery nature that Nick thoroughly enjoys… when you tip it to pour water out it gurgles reminiscent of when you put the seashell up to your ear and you hear the ocean.  
   - A basket shaped like a football to go on his nightstand holding little collectibles he finds and then end up on his nightstand.  Right now that includes: a piece of paper that is burned by liquid in a chemistry class project he thoroughly enjoyed and repeated several times; a dollar coin; a peso; a clothes pin that says “keep being you”; a small purple container that holds hand-size cleaning wipes and says Johnson County Memorial Hospital on it which indicates he likely picked it up at one of the forums he helped me with; and a SAMs Watch bracelet.

My treasures found this year in the rough, at the crossroads of glory days and future prosperity, are indeed my personal journey’s crossroads, too.  #muchlovetosamandnick

Sweet 18, Sammy

A birthday wish for my Sammy – With love from Mom –

We wish you were here, 6/26,
even if, just a little while;
we’d tell you “Sweet 18th, Sam!”
and experience firsthand your contagious smile.

Our gifts today, though, will be,
the ones that you left behind;
your laughter... love of life... young happiness...
in memories and experiences of the truest kind.

We celebrate now, all year too,
your innumerable, permanent imprints of love;
while we know you are forevermore,
a Child of God, in Heaven above.

Fathers' Day unexpected

Today, I extend my loving arms around all those out there who are wishing their fathers a happy day in heaven while celebrating and missing them here on Earth. And to those fathers who are missing hearing “happy father’s day” from a child who is not present here on Earth, my love to you. And to the grandfathers, like my dad, who never expected to live a day of his life without one of his grandchildren, my love to you as well. I can imagine your pain from my own.

In our family, we lost my son Sam just over a year ago as a Sophomore in high school. Maybe our loss and the subsequent holidays wouldn’t seem so unexpected if we had seen signs of Sam experimenting with drugs. But we didn’t because Sam’s grades weren’t dropping; he continued to maintain a GPA over 4.0. Other signs like his friends changing weren’t there either; he was hanging out with the same friends he had since even elementary school. He was keeping up, as usual, with his impeccable personal hygiene habits which involved: mass amounts of Axe body spray; an at-the-ready, on top of the refrigerator so it was in clear site, can of shoe cleaner; white teeth strips in his kitchen cabinet space to keep his whites, white, in combination with the bag of brush on-the-go toothbrush wisps in case he needed to brush his teeth in between brushing his teeth while out; and next to it in his cabinet, the roller brush to ensure there was no white hair from T-Bone left in sight before he walked out the door; also where he kept his own personal Tide stick in case he spotted something that needed to be removed while he was using the roller brush; all those things plus the multitude of hair brushes and bags of mints stored in his cabinet, backpack, gym bag, etc. for always being accessible because he liked Lifesaver mints so much or to make his hair “just right” when it was disappointing him as he looked in the mirror. Sam’s sleeping patterns were no different than a growing teens either. He was still health conscious with his food choices. He was still body conditioning in the off season of school basketball and playing summer AAU basketball. And I had access to his cell phone because we had the same iPhone account and there were no friends in the directory that we shared that appeared like anything other than a friend of Sam’s. And the reason why there were no signs; because there was no time. While others are blessed with second chances to learn from mistakes. Sam’s, instead, was fatal when he and two of his athlete friends decided to try Acid of LSD and got what was a synthetic hallucinogen, 25i-NBOMe. And while his two friends were fine after; it was Sam who after, died overnight on Mothers' Day just over a year ago.

So all the father figures in our family today are having an unexpected experience this Fathers’ Day, one year later. I think I understand them; I just got passed Mother’s Day and the anniversary of Sam’s death. But it doesn’t take away the pain that I wish I could take away for them, and especially for the greatest male role model in my life, my dad. My dad has always been self-made; I think that’s where I got that from myself. In high school, he wasn’t into athletics. Instead, living on a rural farm with horses and livestock, besides doing his share of chores and farming as the youngest of three brothers, my dad raised and sheared sheep. And on the farm they had a horse ring but they also had a go-cart track and in that, my dad’s talents were realized. In his high school days, he had his own car and on the front seat next to him sat a worn leather pilot’s cap which as a kid I always thought of as being like what Peanuts’ Snoopy wore vs the Red Baron. My mom remembers it well; it was on his front seat when he gave her a ride home after her family's car broke down in their small town… the day they first met.

My dad is smart; what I would describe as “quiet smart” because he doesn’t talk all the time but when he does say what he is thinking it is commonly profound. He wasn’t interested in college although his mother was a teacher and he had many siblings who went to the University of Illinois; I don’t know how he convinced his parents that vocational school was for him but he did. And after that, he worked a few years in a car dealership service center and then started his own business. First with one gas station and auto shop in our small town, then a second. This business life supported his passion for race car driving that had developed from the competitive go-cart racing he enjoyed. He didn’t have the kind of sponsorships as you see now but through his own investment efforts he raised himself to the USAC stock car circuit, United States Auto Club, which was then as well-known as NASCAR is today. He was home part of the week and then also, traveled with his crew in their custom cab and car hauler or if my mom and I were traveling with, we also took our RV motorhome. My mom was his official scorekeeper; a role well-suited for her. And I was their only daughter so I went wherever they went. Whether racing in the Pennsylvania Poconos, at Michigan International Speedway, Iowa Speedway or traveling South to race tracks on the USAC schedule, that was our family life; unforgettable experiences… love. The scariest moment was one race where my dad ended up spinning in turn four and his car came to rest right under the finish line flag stand; as the caution flag came out, he got out of his car and sat on the hood of the car until everyone had slowed down. He was disappointed for sure but unharmed and unshaken; he was my dad. As I got through second grade and my schooling became more of a priority for our family, my father left USAC after driving with the likes of Al Unser, A.J. Foyt, Roger McCluskey and others. The year that he left racing, the money he had put into racing went into a truck stop that he bought on Illinois Interstate 57 near Gilman. During that time, he also began mentoring young area dirt car drivers that I would come to know by hanging out in his shop until my mom got home from work. He also enjoyed sponsoring up-and-coming stock car drivers. That was just a start of how my dad has given to his community over the past 50 years with his wallet, his time and his heart.

My dad got me my first pets, one by accident and one for Christmas. The one by accident was a small turtle we found when he took me fishing on the banks of the Vermilion River; I named him Charlie and we were planning a fishing trip to return him to where we found him the year after but Charlie died the day before we were going to take him back to the bank where we found him. Then for Christmas I wanted a kitten and he repeatedly told me that wasn’t possible but then on Christmas morning there was this pet bed under the tree and I thought, hmmm, am I suppose to use this for my dolls? My dad said why don’t you go look out in the shop so off I went and there in the wheel well of one of the race cars I found the most precious long-haired black kitten that I named Sebastian after Josie and the Pussycats’ Alexandra’s cat, Sebastian. I played with Sebastian for hours… who turned into a regular in my life for many, many years…

My dad also got me my first motorcycle. A burnt orange Honda 50 motorcycle when I was entering middle school. We had a country property with a cabin along the Middlefork River and two stocked ponds my dad had made and stocked with fish. I drove the motorcycle endlessly on a path I made around the two ponds; I loved feeling all the wind blowing my, at the time, long blonde hair. I would drive it for hours… This is also the same place where my lifelong friend, Robin, and I would have an adult put a worm on our fish hooks at shore and then we would take the paddle boat out to the middle of one of the stocked ponds and drop our hook in the water and instantly catch a catfish because the fish were hand-fed so that they could later be sold to restaurants. Robin and I would then paddle back up to the shore ask an adult to take the fish off the hook and throw them back in, then add a worm to our hooks, etc. We would do that for hours…

My dad also got me my first car. He had bought a hot rod Dodge Aspen with t-tops for me that had to be redone from seats to paint, etc. But the engine was a Mopar so nothing was needed there. My dad had a custom paint job done and the day that I picked it up from his shop with Robin and we set out to drive home, we were in stopped traffic to turn left and a motorcycle came up behind us too fast and hit us. Everyone was okay, thank God, but the custom paint job was not. I called my dad and told him; then Robin and I went off to some other adventure. I remember coming home that evening and there my dad was in our driveway, with the gas can and a garage rag, wiping off the marks the motorcycle left on the custom paint job. I thought about that for hours…

Since Sam and Nick were born, my dad has been there for me, supporting them and until last year, that involved only celebrations of the glory of God in their lives, their academic and extracurricular accomplishments, their smiles and laughter. Sam and Nick grew up around the same love from my parents that I did and I cherish that for them; going back to their home on Lake Vermilion countlessly with the same takeaway… love.

Nick and I shared special time with my parents this past Thursday, a less emotional day. Nick had a great time with grandpa in his garden and with his new Jeep. Today is different though for all of us and we won’t be seeing each other this Fathers' Day as on this holiday we also mourn half our heart is living in heaven. And we love each other always. ‪#‎muchlove‬

A time of "why"

 

It was Friday and I forgot I had a hair appointment although I had been reminded just the day before.  I hurriedly grabbed my ever-ready, black, dri-fit, crop pants and then just as quickly grabbed the first shirt I found.  After returning from my hair appointment, my son, Nick, asked me why I was wearing the shirt that I was.  I had no reason I told him.  Nick changed that.  He told me I was wearing the jersey of the Italian soccer team Juventus; Nick’s favorite team… Motsay is Italian; before being Americanized, it was Mazzei.  In fact, Nick’s Grandpa Motsay’s birth certificate has the Mazzei spelling as well as all his other siblings of his large Italian-American family.  I had picked up the jersey recently shopping because I liked that it was the color pink; who knew.  And I didn’t know until Nick told me Friday, but Juventus were set to play in the UEFA Championship game Saturday afternoon.  So when I woke up on Saturday, pulled my hair back in a pony tail for another no-wash hair day, I wore the jersey again.  Apparently it didn’t help the team though, as Juventus lost to Barcelona 1-3.  Today is Sunday and after another restless night, I dressed in what I saw first which included the Juventus soccer jersey.  I didn’t have any energy which gave me reason for no-wash hair, day two.  And that is where the day’s predictability ended.

Because it is unpredictable.  You never know when it is going to happen.  It seemingly comes from nowhere and latches on to your random grieving thoughts and makes them stronger and more concentrated than they were before whatever “it” was.  Today “it” was a 30-minute awareness video that was posted on YouTube.  The video started out with a “pharm" party which from just outside the house seemed an obvious party with the number of cars parked there, the flashing disco lights that could be seen from inside and the wide open front door to enter.  Anyone in the neighborhood or passers by would know that it is a party and just observing the comings-and-goings would recognize an underage one at that.

Sam’s situation wasn’t like that but the random thoughts while watching the awareness video turn to, “why didn’t I know this wasn’t Sam staying all night at a neighborhood friend’s house like every other time over the recent years?”  And when his two friends arrived back with Sam at our home, on foot, not more than 30 minutes after Sam had left, to get a cell phone charger, why didn’t I know they were also out because they were in the nearby cul-de-sac buying what they thought was LSD or Acid from a fellow high schoolers’ older “brother”?  Why didn’t I know this time was different than when they would go between neighborhood houses on foot to get a game controller or a favorite snack or to raid the refrigerator for a certain flavor Gatorade to take back to the neighborhood home they were staying at?  And that night, Mothers’ Day eve, why didn’t it look like something that shouldn’t have been going on was happening at that house?  Because it was just two friends staying all night with a third?  The investigators that came to our house the Monday after Sam died, told me that the other friend drove there and they parked his SUV inside the garage.  And Sam although 16, didn’t have his license yet, so he had driven his moped the short distance in the neighborhood, and parked in the garage, too.

Reason tells me Sam and his friends were adolescents.  And while we keep telling young people to make good decisions, in many ways, we defy logic by doing so without many forms of educating in return.  From SAMHSA, “an adolescent’s brain is not yet fully developed in the prefrontal cortex, an area affecting their ability to judge a situation, consider the consequences, and control their impulses.  As a result, their is limited ability to make good decisions and to assess the impact of using drugs and alcohol”; aside from ability there are factors such as peer knowledge sharing, social media and peer pressure, to name a few.  I’ve learned that research shows prevention programs take a village.  From the leading researcher on drug use, NIDA, “teachers, parents, and medical and public health professionals must keep sending the message that drug addiction can be prevented if one never abuses drugs.” 

Then as I continue watching the awareness video I become more emotional as the prescription drug misuse goes on and one teen ends up in rehab while another teen dies at home from a prescription drug overdose.  My son, Sam, was one of three who took the same thing that fateful night, yet my son died overnight from what turned out to be a relatively unknown synthetic drug, 25i-NBOMe.  My day today will not be June 7, 2015 because the video has triggered my random thoughts that will take me to hell and back before I can further process and compartmentalize them.  Until then, I’ll have regressed mindfully and emotionally back to a year earlier.  I will not be in the present.  I will be in a time of “why.”  #muchlovetosam

To live again before I die

Today is day four of the Jennifer Aniston “don’t wash your hair” look from the movie “CAKE”; 2nd day-in-a-row for wearing my “Just Do It.” t-shirt.  I'm comfortable with that.  But where have I been this past year marking that I’ve made it through one more day and then months and now an actual year in May since my son, Sammy, died.  I think about him all the time.  When I hear someone, like his brother Nick, say his name out loud retelling something Sam said, I desperately reach outside of myself to remember what it was truly like when Sam said that and how I felt then… alive.

What my sons’ said was a common day, even hourly, occurrence just over a year ago and now one of them is silent and I am no longer hearing his voice, seeing his eyes, watching his movements.  The laughter that was there in all of us now falls as deafening silence around me; within the walls of my house that I try to find again, still, my home.  So much silence that I can hear the “tick tock, tick tock, tick tock” from the clock hanging on the kitchen wall.  I didn’t realize it was so loud before.  Our voices carried over it then.  Now I know.

Outside today it is beautiful with the sun shining and the rays’ warmth attempting to sink into my skin.  Out of the sun’s purview, I perch on our screened porch in a lounge chair that overlooks the backyard basketball court where I’ve watched from daylight to dusk, over the years, many games of one-on-one, two-on-two, three-on-three as well as the routine of individual shooting drills my sons picked up along their basketball journeys.  Sam liked me to rebound for him as he would quickly get on a roll that way.  Today, sitting in my once-favorite lounge chair, it is Nick, his year younger brother, that I am watching.  He prefers to mix up his shots and get his own rebounds to facilitate that.  And with every basket that he makes I give my usual positive feedback and for those baskets missed, equally encouraging words.  Distance and the porch screen separates me and the basketball court so the pain that appears as tears running down my face are not visible with every positive and encouraging word for Nick as simultaneously, there are tears shed silently for Sam.

As my thoughts drift, I’m recalling a few weeks ago a dear friend just marked the second year that her daughter passed away.  I haven’t experienced the two-year mark yet but when I went to take her flowers on a day she’ll never forget, as soon as she opened the door, I recognized the look on her motherly face.  And as she dried her eyes to greet me, I hugged her and tried to comfort her but I couldn’t stop myself from blurting, “It doesn’t get any easier.”  And she in her ever-honest reply tells me, “No, it doesn’t.”  I couldn’t stop hugging her trying to provide some shelter from the pain I saw when looking in her eyes.  As I left her and drove away, I reflected, “if not year two, when?”  

And as I sit here today just after one year, with stifling pain… feeling cold, tired and ragged… on a day that is full of sunshine, warmth and promise… I pray to live again before I die.  #muchlovetosam

 

The key to "courage"

We have received so many prayers and acts of kindness, thoughtful gifts and messages that have touched me deeply; I truly know that is why I am able to still survive what may no more be an unimaginable loss but a way of life for us, after our 16-year-old son, brother and grandson died on Mother’s Day 2014 from taking a relatively unknown synthetic drug, 25i-NBOMe.  

One of the gifts I received, from the day I received it, I carried close to my heart for strength.  It is a necklace with a key engraved with the word, COURAGE.  It is part of The Giving Keys collection.  The Giving Keys exists to employ those transitioning out of homelessness to make jewelry out of repurposed keys that get sold and shared around the world. Each key is unique and carries a message. When the wearer of the key encounters someone else who needs the message on the key more than they do, they give it away and then post on thegivingkeys.com site the story of their key being paid forward.  I learned all of this when I received the “Key of Courage.”  I thought I would have it forever.  It turns out I had it a shorter time than I had planned.  This month, on the same day that Sam died a year ago, another teen lost his life in our community and as I contemplated a heartfelt note in the card I had selected for his mother, I remembered where I was in the midst of devastation a year earlier and how I wanted to help this mother now.  It was quite simple really.  I realized there was someone I knew who needed that key more than I did so I took it off and placed it in the card with a note about The Giving Keys. 

And so I let go of the “Key of Courage” to hopefully, help another in some small way.  And a few days later, I received a gift of my own.  It was a necklace as well. The “Heaven” necklace by Premier Design.  As I opened it, I was immediately aware of it’s many elements that remind me where my Sammy is… starting with the Heaven’s gate key lock charm and the key itself.    The circle charm that represents Heaven and Eternity with the dozen city wall foundation stones encircling (Jasper, Sapphire, Chalcedony, Emerald, Sardonyx, Sardius, Chrysolite, Beryl, Topaz, Chrysoprase, Jacinth, Amethyst).  And on the other side of these, the twelve stones encircling are the pearl gates of Heaven along with the pure gold streets of Heaven charm.  Although made as an expression of faith inspired by the scripture of Revelation 21:18-22, my “Heaven” necklace tells me that we’ll be with Sam there, forever. #muchlovetosam

The imaginary ways of year two

It’s been a year now since losing Sam overnight at the sweet age of 16 to a little-known synthetic drug, 25i-NBOMe.  Now comes the second year but what heartache, if any, has dissipated?  None, it’s just different is all.  In the first year, every morning is waking up like Ground Hog Day, the movie with Bill Murray.  Then with daily realization that you've lost your son, the memories then continuously come straight on at you with every twist and turn you naturally make.  Every time I pull into the garage, I remember that last time Sam and I cleaned the garage and how he was listening to music on his headphones while using the blower.  How well we had worked together and accomplished much in a short amount of time.  Then as I step out of the car and begin my path to the house, I pass his moped remembering that he last drove it that fateful night that he went to stay at a neighborhood friend’s and never came back.  I see the moped’s glove box has fallen opened and Sam’s hair brush is leaning out; he always had to make sure the hair brush was there as it was a requirement that one fix their hair just so after arriving at destination and taking off helmet.  It was Sam’s way whether his hair was cut summer short or approaching that Jerry Lee Lewis wavy, crazy length.  In the house, in the laundry room, Sam’s hoodies hang as always on his chosen wall hooks.  From the hallway, when I enter the half bathroom off the kitchen and look in the mirror, I am reminded of the picture of Sam I shockingly saw on TV one night unexpectedly.  Sam had taken a mirror-selfie in that bathroom and used it on Facebook and it was then staring back at me on my TV screen.  I ponder how many others know what my main level half bath looks like now; knowing I really don't care but that doesn't erase the initial shock I had.  And as I sit in my home office daydreaming, I remember the after-school routine where Sam, as soon as he was home, would round the corner in the hallway outside my office to head upstairs and how he would say something about the day, what he was going to do next or any other amusement, like a song lyric that was stuck in his mind that he couldn’t keep from boasting to me as he took the stairs two at a time.  Then there's Sam's bedroom that I walk by countlessly knowing what is and isn’t on the other side of the door now.  And next to Sam's room, is the double-sink bathroom that he and his brother, Nick, shared but now it has a sink that is no longer used.  And I’m going to stop there; that is a mere impression of a day, year one.

And a day in year two; well last night was about par for the course.  I waited to go to bed until I knew that I would close my eyes and hopefully, instantly, be off to sleep.  Then two separate times I woke up with a start and the sweats from the fierce imaginings that I was having while it was pitch black and deadly silent in the night.  I have learned never to look at the time when I awake in the night because then I will instantly think about Sam dying overnight and at what time according to his death certificate and whether the time now was before Sam died, the hour that Sam died, or that Sam was already dead at that time of the night.  There is no acceptable thought to any of those.  And the sweats that bring dampness clear through my night clothes and drench the back of my hair quickly cause chills.  And by the second time I awake with the sweats, a headache has kicked in full force.  Finally, knowing I won’t be able to sleep no matter how exhausted I am, I roll out of bed and feel the nausea come on.  I try to eat something which sometime works to settle my stomach although it is not an empty stomach that is causing the nausea.  It is the thought of the worst day of my life, the day my son died; then the funeral and his body in the casket.  Those thoughts clash with the wondrous pictures of my son in my mind and happy feelings that came when we were alive together.  And then it becomes about survival; getting by the next hour of the morning somehow.

I remember picking Sam up from practice once and he asked me if I had had a bad day; I was quiet contemplating handling something professionally was all.  I think of that now and I know when Sam asked me that question how ill-equipped at the time I was to answer it.  I had never known a bad day then.  I consider that further when I hear someone saying what a bad day they are having because of a parenting dilemma, a not-so-nice family member or friend situation, or their workload, schedule, etc. or even that a personal outcome they were seeking led to havoc instead.  I hear the tone of their voice; the frustration, the disappointment, maybe anger… and I think how temporary that all is.  In year two, I live in imaginary ways because on Earth, death is not temporary.  Life is.  #muchlovetosam

#1 of the top 10 list of what teen moms of sons must know: Everything will smell.

It was as both Sam and Nick were in middle school, a year apart, that I first found the need to buy AXE and spray it profusely in their shoes any time they weren’t on their feet.  After a year or so, the stinky shoe smell became less noticeable, actually I think it was still noticeable, it was just that I was more accustomed to it as time progressed.  That was when each morning before heading off to school,  Sam began to pick up the AXE spray can out of his cabinet stash in the kitchen and spray it from head to toe.  It was amusing and Nick and I noticed and commented on this morning ritual from time to time. 

As second year of high school began it was when Nick and I noticed Sam’s then love for AXE because not only was the once from head to toe not appropriate anymore, it was once from head to toe, clean shoes with shoe cleaner, spray head to toe again, and then just as it was time to head out the door, grab the can for one more circular all-over spray in case some area might have been missed the first or second time.  That was when Nick would say, through the smell that lingered stiffly in the air, “Sam, stop spraying the AXE.  You’ve but it on enough already.”  That of course did not deter Sam if he thought he had one more moment before heading out the door because he would do a second circular all-over spray one more time after he had his book bag on his back.  Sam’s ways filled our hearts with love as it was the simple things of what we know about one another in our family that cried out to us, family… love… and we thought it would be that way forever, until it wasn’t. 

We lost Sam just over a year ago to a synthetic drug called 25i-NBOMe.  As last school year was ending without Sam, the most notable to me each morning was the silence as now Nick prepared for school alone each morning and I got up to be there with him any way I could… but no more morning episodes of AXE scent thick in the air.  And this school year, in moderation, Nick sprays cologne on each morning, we talk quietly and the drive to school no longer includes the smell of AXE but holds an unusual silence.  #muchlovetosam