Synthetic drugs

Stacks on Deck

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…   

Finding Self Part 3: Grace

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.

Operation Find Self - Part 1

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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.

Yes, there is thanksgiving

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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 

To Right Injustice

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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

Happiness be told

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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

Quoted source: https://news.vice.com/article/heroin-kills-white-people-more-than-anyone-else-and-nobody-is-sure-why 

What a day

The next few weeks will be the most wonderful and most horrifying moments of my life.  They will be the most wonderful moments for Nick Motsay, my son, a high school senior.  They will be the most horrifying for me, minus Sam Motsay, my son, who died three years ago as a high school sophomore.  No matter the circumstances, we love our children as God loves us.

In the remainder of the month and carrying over into the summer, Nick Motsay will receive many accolades and promising signs of a future that will be fantabulous.  I will celebrate.  He is a beautiful young man with a mind and heart built of love and promise… he is blessed…

Sam Motsay is not a freshman in college amusingly awaiting the arrival of his brother into the same educational status.  Sam is not at Indiana University studying finance.  Nick is going to Purdue studying Chemical Engineering.  The finest line between the unbelievable and a promising future.  How not to take away from promise… how not to deny the have not…

Life sucks.  Life is amazing.  Life cannot take what we don’t allow it to take… life cannot give what we cannot open our heart to receive.  Many promises… many disappointments… life…

3am

On my drive home… Syrius playing loudly… Matchbox 20… The song is “3am.”  Being one of the songs I naturally feel the rhythm to, I begin singing… actually could be considered screaming but I’m in my car and no one can hear me, right?  My next thought as I’m singing the lyrics loudly and moving my arms in the air when not on the steering wheel and my top torso is feeling the beat too and fro, what the heck is this song about besides 3am?  Why 3am?  I think of the night my son Sam died and the death certificate time of death… again, why 3am? 

Home.  A google or two and at least 30 minutes later I have what my immediate search is for.  The song is about someone who has seen pain and death and gone beyond that… Okay.  It is about how life is so quick to leave us… Okay.  How a future can be like nothing matters because it is changed in an instance… Okay.  Like nothing matters because it is all going to be taken away… We have nothing and yet we have everything, because what we have and what we lose, all has an ending.

Where did that come from?  Why isn’t the song just about 3am with a beat that moves me to move and lyrics that feel good when I scream them?  This week is semester push week and I have many deadlines and will likely see 3am while cracking the books, so to speak.  I will be lonely… yet I’m not alone.  #muchlovetosam

Theology this

A long day today with my first theology class; in my fourth semester of grad school and the time has come.  My faith perspective I arrived at early in life but as my boys were born almost 20 years ago, my faith, too, was born anew.  Then my loss of my son, Sam, at sixteen, faith was not shattered, but it was a process in grasping what is most important in my own faith search beyond the unimaginable loss.  Studying at a seminary for my Master’s, I’ve enjoyed the comfort of recognition that we all are broken and we can be in the same room with one another and be who we are; broken.  Being in a room of theologians, especially those in study, I realize faith is not just a personal search but a mission for argument, arguing, debate.  In my role as a mental health professional, my role is compassion, seeking to understand and being present where my patients are so that I might acknowledge with them their pain and suffering.  There is no skin in a fight for my faith; only passion.  Thanks be to God.

Our closing consideration today was 1 Corinthians 13 read aloud four times with reflection in-between readings.  What a wonderful exercise in closing a day of learning God’s will for us, our will for ourselves and the most significant, salvation that Jesus represents as a person and with his works.  In the second reading of 1 Corinthians 13, we were asked to circle a word as it was read that was significant to us.  As we concluded and in reflection, to me it was: angels, nothing, endures, fully.  Third time in reading we were asked to underline one or more words, and in reflection to me it was:  “I am nothing,” “hopes all things,” “I have been fully known.”   

As I saw the sunset tonight, I was able to process that “I am nothing but I hope all things to be fully known” because as “angels exist around us, nothing endures fully.”  #muchlovetosam #muchpeacetoall

I spoke tonight

I spoke to parents and high school students tonight and as I did so, I realized it has been almost a year since I last spoke to an audience for Sam’s Watch. A year is almost half the time that I’ve been without Sam; it’s been not yet three years since he died overnight at sixteen, unknowingly, from a synthetic drug, 25i-NBOMe. That’s when my whirlwind existence began. The world did not stand still when I lost my son. Time did not cease to exist. So I have not been allowed to either. I’m in my second year of grad school now and actually counseling clinical patients under supervision; they come in all reasons and seasons. We all are broken. For me, while grieving is considered an acceptable, healthy reaction to the loss of a loved one, to use Freud’s term, melancholia, is unequivocally the unhealthy as its pathological twin. I’ve spent much time with Melly… with physically ill health symptoms that permeate my skin but are not really originating from my body but my mind and within the tight grasp of emotional conflict that chomps down on me so intently, like a bone that once in her jaws, my new puppy, Jessie, would not let go of. 

In the first year after my son’s death, the mania of melancholia was only experienced slightly as it was tuned out to me personally with the daily dealing of broken heartedness in my grief work. One-by-one memories were stripped from my mind, segregated and reimagined, devastatingly, with the reality of an unhappy ending imposed upon them. One at a time the withdrawal from attachment to the one that I loved and lost occurred: no graduating high school, no attending college, no first job experience, no wedding day happiness. Some of the memories came readily with bursts of tears while others were experienced in silence as I hunkered on the couch watching movies, drove past places we spent time together or bitterly, sweetly saw his year younger brother or his friends reach milestones that my son would not. It was in the manic of this melancholia or Melly, my friendly term of endearment, that I was able to effectively speak to so many thousands of students, parents, communities. It was also the constant feedback loop of my emotionally blocked amygdala, I was able to recount in great detail how my son left this Earth. My amygdala or Migdy, that place in my brain home to my emotional awareness.

Once Migdy set its block like a football defensive player, my emotional responding was pure fight or flight reactions rescuing me from my trauma. I know the play where my amygdala was officially, emotionally blocked.; taking me out of the game of life and living more or less on pure adrenaline. It’s me walking in slow motion from my kitchen to my foyer, in my striped pastel colored and cottony soft, almost terry cloth texture, robe, hearing the voice of a man I’ve never met before… then seeing his opened left hand lowering to his left body side, elbow bent in a way to reach in and pull something out of his side jacket pocket; it seemed like it was all happening in slow-motion but it wasn’t. I was just trapped there, in time, before I saw what he was reaching for. Then as close to the second before I saw what he was about to show, I heard my voice say… to myself… “Sam is dead.” Between that inner voice moment and the actual moment I saw the man reveal what was in his pocket which was Sam’s wallet, Migdy did me the greatest favor I could have asked for. It blocked the rest of my brain so as not to be overwhelmed with the tragedy I was faced with. Migdy did what it should have done as far as I’m concerned. I’m thankful. It gave me the resource to turn and see my younger son, Nick, coming down the second floor foyer stairs. To turn towards him with open arms as he came to me and put his head on my shoulder and to then put my arms around him and hold him while speaking softly in his ear with only dry tears as I stroked his curly brown hair and with assured strength in my voice said, “It’s okay, Nick. Moms got you. It’s okay. I've got you.” 

Tonight, I was faced with an audience that I stood before and spoke out loud to with a voice that knew more than ever what I was saying… my son is gone.#muchlovetosam

Love and melancholia

This is my first post in two months; my first of 2017.  I feel as though I’ve been to another indescribable hell and back; I know it now as the holiday season.  It’s been two and a half years… In that time, I’ve grieved the loss of my oldest son, Sam; his forlorn physical absence and my own soul searching for life’s now meaning.  I’ve mourned him with personal challenges to survive his death and move him forward with me as well as perceiving failings to be a good-enough mother to his brother Nick who is now in his Senior high school year.  So too, another loss-season now… melancholia.  Here, I am totally submerged in “my work” at surviving loss.  I don’t even know what “work” I am actually doing though.  I do know it consumes so much of my time and energy so my blank stare, buried face, off-beat chuckle, lost words or too much expression of care, likely gives away that I am not really present where I am.  I also know when it isn't hidden by illogical distraction, loss reveals its never-ending pain; loss hurts so physically, painfully, pit-in-your-stomach, head spinning, acid-in-your-throat, endless tearing, dripping nose, piercing stab-in-your-chest, bad.  In the simplest of thoughts, while the closest to Sam can think or talk of him in the past tense as the smiling, self-knowing teen of 16, to me, Sam is aging and he is now 19.  You see, he’s my first born, the oldest brother and Nick, his younger brother, is now 18.  That’s where my life finds me… still unimaginable.  #muchlovetosam

No contest

Sam Motsay did not vote in Election 2016; his first vote. I could not stand in the voting line with him and share his excitement, answer his last-minute questions before he entered the booth and then be with him after to share more of the same followed by a family dinner where it would have been discussed for more loving group commentary that would have had some part of laughter as chorus throughout. No that didn’t happen.

The thought of standing in line voting alone, without him, was enough to bring choked down cries that became stifled tears that streamed clear down my neck and also dripped off my chin while I soaked my shirt sleeve from wiping away what drops I could. It wasn’t that I couldn’t vote, it was that I just couldn’t. There was no conciliating what could not be.

I’d like to think that my son was not able to vote because of a purely bad decision but how many of those have we all made in our lifetime? My son was with two boys that did the same thing as well and they voted this election. So what else? I terrifyingly understand the new war on drugs. Drugs which we cannot keep from entering our country and harming our children. Last week two 13 year olds died the same as my son two years earlier. Although it’s no cure for what killed my son, the Narcan struggle is real, keeping people alive from heroin epidemic overdoses. We are losing a generation. A family with three sons has now buried all three as young men, with the third last week.

I have been a very private person most of my life. When my son died, yes, I wanted to run in the street shrieking as loud as I possibly could, kicking and hitting whatever I saw. When my son died and media knocked on my door, stood in court room hallways or attended engagements and asked for my comment, did I want to curse about how unfair life is in such devastation? Yes, I did. I think also of one of Sam’s dear friends who walked many times back and forth in front of our house crying that first summer. Lost, like we all were in the shock.

What could I do though? First, I stood on center stage with my son, Nick, beside me and I cried loudly with my words to educate: young people, adults, law enforcement, communities-at-large, then more with media, school administrators, government officials and agencies. With my family and friends, I started a nonprofit for awareness to try and save others from my pain by sharing it for common good. I left Corporate America and went to grad school to be a mental health counselor so I could try and help others whose journey is not what they wanted either. I focused my efforts towards legislative and support groups where I could aid positively.

With the two men who are today in jail from their involvement in my son’s death, I sat in so many court rooms for excruciating hours and over grueling months to see it come to an end. Even then, there was no end. I have forgiven to unbridle my heart; and I continue to when even true apologies never came. I know what happened to my son didn’t just happen to my son though. It happened to the sons and daughters of many; to good kids and good parents. Our rights taken from us overnight.

For reasons I still don’t yet know, I awoke the morning after the election with a hope I have not felt since my son’s death. It is a sense of hope that I have sought since his death though. Hope is organic I now can know. When it comes, I’ll embrace it for whatever possibilities to make this world better than it was for my son, Sam; better than it has turned out for me; better for what it can be for all including my son, Nick. I’ll try and do this while I cherish every memory and love in each moment. #muchlovetosam

Answering the call

Monday night football with my team… the Chicago Bears; I am from Illinois.  Sitting with the someone I was meeting to watch the game with and the conversation turns to friendship.  My someone says that they have many acquaintances but only a few close friends.  Usually ,I have two buckets:  those with so many acquaintances are extroverts and those with only a few close friends are introverts.  I always considered myself an introvert.  Obviously, my someone considered himself both but then my thoughts returned to the conversation and he said, “I have friends that if they called me no matter what time of day it was and asked me to do something I would do it without question.”  I was triggered back to a time and place that I will seemingly not escape.  

I remember making that call he was referring to.  I called her that morning and all I remember saying is that she needed to come now.  She asked, “What happened?”  I said, “It’s Sam.”  She said, “I’ll be right there.”  And she was right there; for that first hour, that first day, the days that followed one into another.  She made the CD play list for the visitation.  She was there for the visitation and she didn’t need to stand beside me because she knew I knew she was there.  Her husband made the video for the funeral.  She was there for the funeral.  She was there for the nights that followed the funeral.  She stayed with me, she went grocery shopping, she made sure Nick’s schedule was maintained.  She made me get out of bed every day when otherwise I would have slept the day away.  The days she was there quickly turned into weeks then into months and finally into a year.  She was still there.  She took my call…

It's Independence Day

I was just going to go to bed early tonight after a day filled with activities that got me through this holiday… another holiday without my dear Sam, who died at 16 unknowingly taking a synthetic drug as a curious teen in initial exposure to our drug using culture.  I have an early shift at the hospital tomorrow so I wanted a good night sleep.  

After lying in my bed listening to the myriad of fireworks outside as the same myriad of loud bursts of thoughts occurred in my mind, I could not drift off to sleep.  So I am up now in front of my laptop to write what I don’t want to think about.  

As a family, we spent most of our fourth of Julys’ when we were together, on Lake Vermillion, where my parents have a lake home.  I remember the one in particular where we got to see all the air balloons going over head during day light and then at night fall saw fireworks from the Danville Boat Club.  The stuff that traditions are made of.  That particular July 4th, Sam brushed his knee on part of the boat and ended up with a cut that for him was incredibly painful.  He was 3 and he cried a lot as the fireworks were going off… so much so that his voice was heard more than the “oohs” and “aahs” of the exclamations from the visual bursts of light and sound.  I held him and talked to him and couldn’t imagine how it could hurt as much as his tears were showing.  

Fast forward to Sam’s sophomore year playing Center Grove High School team basketball.  Mid-season he sprained his ankle.  I took him to the ortho med center and he got the ankle support equipment that he needed, some physical therapy and attention from the team trainer and he didn’t miss a game… didn’t express any amount of pain.

Looking back now, the brush with the metal guard on the boat must have been painful.  I’m glad I was there for him whenever he needed me.  I now miss not being there.  In the time following his death, I needed others there for me instead.  I remember the first year, just months after Sam’s passing, and I had stayed a week at my parents and then we were all sitting at the boat club for the fourth of July “celebration.”  I remember looking down at my phone and going back through my text messages and seeing a group text that included my mom, Nick and Sam, etc.  Even though I knew Sam would not get my text, I text in that message that I missed him and loved him.  I don’t know why I did it.  

Then I walked the short distance from the boat club back to my parents and when in the house, had my personal melt down.  As I thought in the house, I got up and walked outside just to be walking.  My dad, always the observant, must have seen me leave the boat club and followed me home as when I walked outside there he was sitting in his usual lawn chair.  He held me as I cried and that was the best that I could do at that time.  I had been comatose most of the week reading books that I had gotten in Danville about a mother that lost three daughters all in one accident and her struggle back to the living in the year that followed, plus there was the mother who lost her son to an uncommon cancer that allowed them time to say good-bye before he died.  Then there was the two families where each lost their spouse and the two families joined into one.  Happy endings?  

May 11, 2016: What to do

It’s been two years… it’s only been two years… Oh, what the mind ponders when dealing with grief post-year one and now marking the end of year two.  Different? Yes.  Less painful?  No.  Resigned?  Maybe.  

The beautiful boy embedded in my heart is still there.  In the outside world, he is now safe from all harm.  In reflection, I see the power of light from my broken heart but it is dim in the darkest of places we walk with ourselves alone.  People exclaim, “I don’t know how you do it.”, “I couldn’t be as strong as you.”  No one told me I had a choice… to walk on Earth with the joy that my son, Nick, brings to my life, or to pass on to Heaven and be reunited with my son, Sam, who died on Mothers’ Day 2014 from unknowingly taking a synthetic drug.  I didn’t know I had a choice because I don’t.  We mourned Sam this Mothers’ Day, the day he died and again we mourned him this May 11, the actual date he died.  Whether a holiday or a date on the calendar, we are always in mourning, even now; even behind what we do, be it bowling, golf, etc.  

This anniversary I managed myself enough not to melt down in public… not to hurt those I love by revealing the most complicated grief in my soul.  It’s there.  It does no one good on display; not even me, but it is who I am now.  Everything in my life has changed in two years.  Losing Sam; losing sense of family.  Experiencing God’s grace and mercy through loving thoughts, prayers and acts of kindness so many time over to sustain me during a long time for which I could not make it on my own any given day. Starting graduate school in clinical mental health counseling with wonderful, kind souls that speak to me in such positive and loving ways whether they say something or not.  Moving from the family home that I couldn’t care less whether I lived in before Sam died, then couldn’t imagine ever leaving, to having to leave to be able to breathe.  Leaving a healthcare business career I cultivated over a decade and starting a new career in order to save myself, by helping others in a way that also helps heal me.  That’s what’s different.

I still think about him night and day.  Not with precious memories that bring a smile to my face but by reliving memories that were to have happy endings that no longer will.  I don’t love Sam less; I love him more.  No, it’s not less painful.

Today as I realized where I am in making a difference in this world with my pain, it is because of Sam living, not because of Sam dying.   There is no rest because this current life was not what was to be.  But it is. #muchlovetosam

It happened; his name is Sam

I had heard about it in other families that I have come to know in my parent grief support groups but I didn’t know when or if it would ever happen in mine.  Instead of saying his name so as not to have a crackle in our voice or tears stream down our face, he was the silence that hung in the air after a thought of him came to mind.  

Too soon it will be two years since my son Sammy left this Earth at the tender age of sixteen having unknowingly taken a synthetic hallucinogen drug that killed him overnight.  Here on Earth, we are still in recovery mode; protective mode; don’t let them see you cry mode; can’t stop thinking about him every moment even now mode and all the other modes that try to put into words what is not definable to you as you experience it, let alone enables you to express it to another living soul.

It happened though.  I was at dinner with my son Nick, Sam’s year younger brother. After we had spent the day together at Nick’s AAU basketball games, wrapping the day up by filling our bellies with Nick’s favorite cuisine, Japanese hibachi, seemed appropriate.  We were both laughing as we shared stories back and forth, naturally flowing storytelling between a mother and a son.  I asked him a question.  Then he asked me one.  We laughed some more at each of our responses and how crazy we think the other one is as we clearly established long ago that we don’t beat to the same drum; as well as many moons ago expressing we decidedly like that about each other. 

Another round of questions occurs and with his response I, without hesitation, go on to say something about Sam’s interpretation of the same.  Then Nick, not skipping a beat, grins from ear to ear and in a raised voice laughs and says Sam’s thought on that as well.  It may not happen again soon but it happened.  We didn’t miss a beat together; we missed Sam.  #muchlovetosam 

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