Until We Meet Again

Until We Meet Again

By Meredith Bryant 06/11/15

I am not who I was a month ago and I will never be again. 

Image: 
Joseph Biddle
Author

My beautiful, engaging, intelligent and independent son Joseph Biddle died 30 days ago on Mother’s Day 2015. His twin sister, Talia, took the dog out for a walk and found him unresponsive in the back of my parents' (his grandparents) van in the driveway. With an ongoing police investigation and long, numerous talks with his friends, it came to light that my amazing boy had been hanging out in the wooded area by the house huffing Dust-Off straight from the can with two friends. He told them he wasn’t feeling right and that he wanted to lay down. Instead of knocking on the door, or even calling his sister or the house phone to alert someone, his friends panicked and took off, leaving my baby to die alone in the driveway just 12 days before his senior prom and mere weeks from his upcoming high school graduation.

This is the most painful, difficult thing that I have ever experienced. It is impossible to convey the immense loss that our family has experienced. As a recovering addict, I had thought that being open and talking about my experiences would save my children from this fate. The only thing that is getting me through is my promise to myself to spread Joseph’s story so that he might live by educating other young people and their parents through the life he led and the poor choice to use inhalants that cut a life filled with such potential so painfully short.

My "See You Later" letter to my son…

My amazing imperfectly, perfect Joseph. My only son. I try to think of where you might be. What it looks like, who is there with you… what you might be doing—but I can’t. My mind just stops. I squint my eyes, gasp for air to fill my lungs that are constricting, and wrinkle my forehead, pressing my hand to head to try to stop the truth from taking root:

You are gone from this earth.

How does a mother come to accept that she will never again touch or talk to the child she carried inside of her ever again?? So many things I would change, so many I wish could have happened differently, but life doesn’t usually offer re-dos. I assumed that we had time, our differences could be worked out later. It didn’t work out that way for us, my beautiful baby boy. Now, I talk to you in the middle of the night, staring at the black sky. I am still a mom, a wife. You have two sisters, a stepbrother and stepfather that you left behind. They still need me. I must save my tears for after dark, after dinner is cooked, the dishes are done, homework and baths are finished. Then, finally when everyone is asleep, I can unlock you from my heart. It is so deafeningly silent, but I talk to you anyway. I yearn to hear your replies but that is not to be for now.

You came into this world as a preemie, not even four pounds, unable to even take a breath of air on your own. I was elated and terrified by the arrival of you and your twin sister, Talia. I was mesmerized by your tiny hands and feet, your white-blond hair and incredible blue eyes. I just stared and stared and stared. Your tiniest movement warranted an announcement to the world of how amazing my babies were!! Only a mother, right? Your grandmother would get so mad at me because you liked to suck the tip of my nose, and I wouldn’t make you stop. I loved it! I would give anything to have the opportunity to touch you again, to talk to you for a little while. I can still hear your voice clearly in my head. I am so terrified by the thought that one day I may not be able to pull it from my memory.

This past summer I started to know you as a man, with just little bits and pieces of the little boy you once were. You were considerate, opinionated, and protective, looking out for me and being helpful. You knew your mind and I thought of you as the great debater. Incredibly independent and adventurous. You shared your mind with me: so intelligent and opinionated. We talked of my travels and you talked of the places you dreamed of seeing and the experiences you were going to have. You saw yourself as a part of a much bigger world than small town CT life—I loved that about you. I knew it was a piece of me that you had received.

We also shared a deep love for music. I delighted in hanging out with you and listening to you tell me interesting facts about the artists and songs. You were filled with useless, oddball knowledge on a variety of subjects and it made you such a fun person to spend time with. Our walks on the path by the beach, watching you skateboard down the road or surf and wakeboard at the beach are memories I will cherish forever.

I must do justice to the truth, the entire picture of you and us, though. Your life was not perfect. I was not perfect. I was young and not married when I had you and your twin sister, Talia. You never met your birth father. I wasn’t ready to be a parent, but not for one moment do I regret having had you. I absolutely adored you. I know in my heart that I did the very best that I could at that time. Though I have been clean for over three years now, there were many years that I wasn’t. Due to that, I made the decision to ask your grandparents to raise you and Talia when you were 10 years old. I wanted to give you what you deserved: consistency, financial security, stability. I knew how much they loved you both. I also knew that I had a lot of work to do on myself before I could be the parent that you deserved. Though I still believe I made the best decision at that time, unfortunately it affected who you were. You were hurt and unable to process it and I watched it turn to anger and stress. I tried to connect with you emotionally. I wanted to talk to you about what happened with us but I had a hard time getting beyond your anger. I didn’t push and now we have run out of time.

We did talk about drugs though: alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, even safe sex. But not huffing. It was not even on my radar. I think of myself as a very open parent. Some might even say too open. I thought that by sharing honestly about my experiences with drugs and the emotions that motivated my addiction that I would save you from ever having to go through what I had. I forgot what it is like to be a teenager. The youthful sense of invincibility, of having to learn and figure things out for yourself. Who could imagine that your lesson would be so final?

I have pictures, tons of them, your childhood journals, your awards and homemade cards and art projects. But I don’t have YOU. I will not see you graduate, go to college, get married or have children of your own. I will never kiss you, or hug you, or hear your ideas again. What I have to believe is that I now have an angel named Joseph. I must believe that you will be there always and that you have been graced with the ability to see my true heart. I believe that you are now free of the hurt and anger of this world. This is not goodbye, it is see you later. I hope that where you are, you will still get to see the things you dreamed of on earth and that it will be from a far better view than it would have been here. I look forward to hearing all about it when I get there.

Until we meet again…

I love you,

Mommy

5 facts about inhalants from inhalants.org:

1. Abusing inhalants can kill, and can kill the first time they are used. Victims can suddenly die without warning.

2. There are over 1000 legal products that are used for huffing.

3. Inhalants are the 4th leading drug used by high school students only behind alcohol, tobacco and marijuana.

4. Inhalants are typically the first drug tried by children at the youngest ages.

5. Common sign of inhalant use:  paint or stains on body or clothing, spots or sores around the mouth, red or runny eyes or nose, chemical breath odor, drunk, dazed or dizzy appearance, nausea, loss of appetite, anxiety, excitability, and irritability.

Poison Control Centers offer a wide variety of resources if you or someone you now is dealing with inhalant use. Call 800-222-1222 for further information.

Meredith Bryant is a 42 year old wife, mother and grandmother living in Waterford, Connecticut.  As a recovering addict herself, the loss of her son to an overdose has changed the way she looks at life. Meredith now considers it her mission to educate parents about the unseen danger of inhalants and teach young people that life is defined by the choices they make. 

 

 




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