Moving Obituary For Mom With Opioid Addiction Goes Viral

By Maggie Ethridge 10/18/18

The obituary recounts Madelyn Ellen Linsenmeir's ensuing addiction to opioids and her family’s determination to help her overcome it.

Madelyn Ellen Linsenmeir and her daughter Ayden
Madelyn Ellen Linsenmeir and her daughter Ayden Photo via YouTube

The heartbreaking and loving obituary written for Madelyn Ellen Linsenmeir after her overdose death has gone viral. Her family shared Madelyn’s long struggle with addiction while reaching out to those still struggling, asking them to hold on to hope and keep trying.

Madelyn Ellen Linsenmeir died on October 7, 2018, leaving behind her family and a small son, Ayden. Madelyn’s family recounted how after a move from Vermont to Florida, she took her first OxyContin pill at a party.

The obituary, which was originally published in the Burlington Free Press, recounts Madelyn’s ensuing addiction to opioids and her family’s determination to help her overcome it.

Madelyn’s family also emphasized that she was, first and foremost, a human being who was loved.

“It is impossible to capture a person in an obituary, and especially someone whose adult life was largely defined by drug addiction. To some, Maddie was just a junkie—when they saw her addiction they stopped seeing her. And what a loss for them. Because Maddie was hilarious, and warm, and fearless, and resilient. She could and would talk to anyone, and when you were in her company you wanted to stay. In a system that seems to have hardened itself against addicts and is failing them every day, she befriended and delighted cops, social workers, public defenders, and doctors, who advocated for and believed in her till the end.”

Madelyn’s family wrote about her determination to stay sober after the birth of her son. “After having Ayden Maddie tried harder and more relentlessly to stay sober than we have ever seen anyone try at anything. But she relapsed and ultimately lost custody of her son, a loss that was unbearable.”

The family continued with unusual honesty to recount the reality of what an ongoing drug addiction does to a person. “During the past two years especially, her disease brought her to places of incredible darkness, and this darkness compounded on itself, as each unspeakable thing that happened to her and each horrible thing she did in the name of her disease exponentially increased her pain and shame.”

Yet they cherished every moment with her, writing, “For 12 days this summer she was home, and for most of that time she was sober. For those 12 wonderful days, full of swimming and Disney movies and family dinners, we believed as we always did that she would overcome her disease and make the life for herself we knew she deserved. We believed this until the moment she took her last breath.”

In 2016, 63,600 Americans fatally overdosed with nearly two-thirds of deaths involving a prescription or illegal opioid. Since 2016 the problem has only increased.

Linsenmeir’s family is just one of many that have written searingly honest obituaries illustrating the ultimate cost of addiction. When Gwen Knox lost her son Kurt to an overdose at 49 years old, she also wrote an honest and loving obituary on the reality of Kurt’s addiction that went viral.

The family asked for donations in Madelyn’s name be made to the Turning Point Center. They asked those who judge addiction issues to “educate yourself about this disease, because that is what it is. It is not a choice or a weakness.”

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Maggie May Ethridge is the author of Atmospheric Disturbances: Scenes From a Marriage (Shebooks, 2014) and the recently completed novel, Agitate My Heart. She is a freelance writer published in Rolling Stone, VOX, Washington Post, The Guardian and many others. Find her at her blog Flux Capacitor or on LinkedIn or Twitter.