A terrible occasion has led me back to writing. It’s not a first. It’s a last.
I want to tell you a story, but it’s not my story to tell. It’s the story of someone I knew, and loved, and lost years ago. It may be his story, but it’s my perspective on it. Unfortunately, he’s no longer here to tell his story. Although he passed today, the truth is we lost him years ago.
W and his siblings and I spent many summers together growing up. So many stories I could share of these days. Stories of laughter, stories of being annoyed, stories of doing the annoying, stories of child pranks. W had infectious laughter. He found humor in everything — crude jokes, grandfather’s one liners, body functions, everything….. He didn’t seem to enjoy school very much but he was wildly talented. He drew comic figures that would make Stan Lee jealous. He had rugged good looks and attracted the ladies. One time, as a teenager, we gave him grief as he emitted cologne the way the sun emits light while prepping for a date with Donna. In college, my friends looked forward to visiting home with me hoping for a glance of him. My 21st birthday we all went to an area sports bar and had a fun night of karaoke. My college friends were more focused on W than on the song list. He was an adrenaline junkie. While people like me ran away from the idea of jumping out of planes, he counted down the day to each jump. He was preparing for a career to train others in skydiving when the accident happened.
And everything changed.
He always seemed to dance with danger, being an adrenaline junkie and all. He literally laughed at things that made others squirm. He had his faults — walking away from responsibilities that others held closely, but with such a fun-loving personality, it was easy to overlook the faults. Until there was no option but to see the faults, the cracks, the addiction. The adrenaline addiction because a morphine addiction. Who knows? It could have been an addiction to other substances, as well. The man that once nearly bathed in cologne to impress the ladies no longer cared for his appearances….no longer groomed…..no longer bathed. The man that once had a muscular build withered into a skeletal frame.
The last time I saw him nearly a year ago, I hardly recognized him. He was a shadow of the man I knew once upon a time. No laughter, no smile in the eyes….it appeared as if he had aged at least five decades. Yes, five decades.
We had long lost touch. I knew of the demons he was fighting…..and surrendering to. It seemed so sad, but perhaps predictable. But death…..that is the finale. A clear finish. No hope for change, for overcoming, for rehabilitation, for redemption. Just the end. A sad, not-at-all glamorous end with no happy ending….only pain. Pain of final days, pain of loved ones left behind, pain. I have often heard of the sadness and strangeness that exists when parents have to bury children, but in this case, not only parents, but grandparents will attend the memorial. Addiction kills, but, unfortunately it kills well before a body stops breathing. Tonight, hug your loved ones, and do not believe addiction is impossible in your family, in your home, in your social circle. Do not buy into the lie that addiction is a secret meant to be kept in a closet and intended to bring shame. Hug your loved ones, say “I love you”, call your family, reach out to overcome great divides in relationships, fill the voids in your life with relationships not substances. Do not own the addictions of others. Do not blame yourself when an addiction takes over another. But own the sadness, the what-ifs, the loss of potential, of years, of relationships, of future that addiction leaves behind in its wake. And share the story with others.