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My So-Called Life


Susan Hubenthal 

Every parent's worst nightmare is the death of a child. However, when a child dies from substance abuse, the nightmare carries an added stigma. I felt as though my heart and soul were amputated; the pain made me wish for death. My isolation and aloneness was the only familiar thing I could count on. I was stumbling through life without direction, without feelings of hope, without any sense of belonging. I was sick, tired, drained as if I had nothing alive in my body, only dead images. I was in total darkness there, and only a pin hole of light was visible, so far up, I could only imagine having to claw my way to that light by my fingernails. I just didn't care, I didn't have the energy. For more than two and a half years, this was my so-called existence.

Every parent's worst nightmare is the death of a child. However, when a child dies from substance abuse, the nightmare carries an added stigma. People who point fingers and blame the parents only add to the guilt, fear, and isolation. The truth is, we have lost the "war on drugs!" Drug use, among young people, knows no boundaries. It can happen to the Honor Student or the underachiever, the athlete or the cheerleader, the kids from a single parent household to the kids with both parents living together, the kids who go to church, the kids who do not. Drug use and addiction is rampant, and has taken so many of our beautiful, precious children, and left parents to grieve alone with little understanding from society.

My son, Kelly, died June 29, 1996, from an overdose of heroin. The details of that hideous night have not been made clear, to me, and probably never will. The only thing that IS clear is that Kelly is dead! I saw his cold lifeless body, my baby! I entered the Mortuary Chapel.

Kelly was draped with a sheet, only his handsome face exposed, he had his baseball hat on, at first I thought what a sweet gesture, and then reality told me is was to cover his head so as not to see where they had sawed it open to examine his brain at the autopsy. I couldn't stand without help, my baby, my baby, I began talking to him, I bent to kiss him, oh, he was so cold!! I couldn't do it, I just couldn't. I had to sit down, I was going to fall over, otherwise.

I sat on that bench, trying to collect myself, I didn't want Kelly to see me so out of control. After a few minutes, I asked to be helped up, once again, to caress my son one last time. I tried to kiss him goodbye once more, I wasn't able to, I kissed my hand and placed it where his hands were crossed under the sheet. "Goodbye, my beautiful baby boy. I love you, I'm sorry, goodbye." That's all I could do, I will never forgive myself for not being able to kiss him on the lips.

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