Everything was created through him;
nothing—not one thing!—
came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn’t put it out.
John 1:5, The Message
A friend of mine wore purple yesterday in honor of overdose awareness. I joined. Thinking back, many years ago, when our children were little, I do not believe either of us could ever imagine that overdose would be a part of our story. But it is. And I am still proud of us. We still have tears and hard moments, but we are showing up. Overdose death is a little tricky and complicated because you have so many who assume they know your story. Stigma is real, and everyone has an opinion. So, here I am in a photo, courageously standing in my purple, with a smile on my face … because I showed up.
As I slipped that fuzzy shirt over my shoulders, I thought about what has transpired over this past week. I reflected on how I felt when Caleb (who many people believe now is my oldest), explained an interesting conversation he’d had with a couple of young ladies who didn’t know that my son Josh had died. Caleb was over a friend’s house, using Josh’s camera when a conversation began. After asking a few questions, Caleb then showed them a few pics of Josh. The two girls paused, looked at each other, and in unison said, “We know him.”
They went on to explain how sweet he was. They’d see him at a shop downtown. – I sighed when Caleb told me that story, all the while smiling inside, remembering just how sweet, lovable, and funny Josh was. At the same time, I allowed the melancholy of the situation to smooth over me, like a dense fog, which I allowed myself to rise above slowly; fully realizing that denial is a temporary comfort that can easily lead to a pit of shock and derangement.
Wiggling my arm through my cozy, purple top, I felt a quick sense of guilt, sadness for not returning a call to a dear family member. I'm not who I used to be. I used to return calls with glee and an extra pep in my step whenever someone had something pleasant to say about Josh. But, I didn't even call her back. The truth is, I didn't want her to hear the tear streaming down my face. She'd left a beautiful message about a dream she'd had about Josh. I smiled as I listened to her voice to describe his age as a young boy in her dream. But, then a tear gently slipped down my face, as she began to explain that he was now 13, and slowly I began to see time slipping away.
My heart broke.
And I waited.
I waited for the dense fog to rise.
And it did.
Straightening the bottom of my top and smoothing it down nicely across my hips, I shook my head at the awkwardness of a conversation I'd had with my insurance rep Tuesday. When will I get better at this, I wondered? I wanted to tell her ... but I didn't. I wanted to say to her that I had another son. As she wondered why her son wanted so badly to live on campus when he had an abundance of space at home, she looked at my children's ages and wondered if I was having the same problem. I wanted, so desperately, to tell her that I had a son who lived on campus. Maybe, he shouldn't have. But I didn't. "No, I don't have that problem," is all I muttered. Then, I smiled ... this really awkward smile (you know, the kind you want to peek in the mirror and look at to make sure it looks like a smile). - Take the awkward smile, guys. There's probably something behind it you don't understand.
Ephesians 5:13 tells us that everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. What’s more, though, the ONE THING TO REMEMBER when everything seems to go wrong is that John 1:5 promises that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
And it never will.
"Denial is a temporary comfort..."
I got a call this morning. Actually, it was a return call. Awkwardness seems to just love me. ;-) It was from the friend who placed the pills in Josh's hands the day before he died. They were close; would do anything for each other. I'd accidentally called him while searching for something on my phone. Of course, I hung up after the first ring. But, he called back. The excitement was in his voice; the kind you put on when you don't know what kind of tone you're supposed to be speaking in ... so you act super happy? Yeah. That voice. I spoke in that same jolly voice, explaining my mistake. And, that was it. 15 seconds. I slipped my shoes on and walked out the door. I thought about his baby, job, and life. Then, I breathed and smiled (a real smile) knowing I was blessed for being able to call Josh mine for the time that I had him, fully realizing that denial is a temporary comfort.
August 31 is not only National Overdose Awareness Day, but it's also Overdose Awareness Month in the very month before Josh died and the month before his birthday. For twenty years, I'd spent this month debating what to get for that boy's birthday, anticipating the day. But, this morning, I watched a video of him sitting in Nashville enjoying some tunes with a friend. What a beautiful person he was. (Boy, did he have his dad in him!) Today, instead of sitting on the cloud of denial for which the bottom's sure to drop, I'm standing here in purple, with a smile on my face, thankful for the time I had with my dear son; knowing that his mamma LOVED him and did her very best. This month, I'll spend some time walking, stretching, breathing, and giving. Giving to others, during this time, brightens my smile. Feel free to join me.
the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Remember, true light will always blaze out of the darkness -- and darkness CANNOT. PUT. IT. OUT! Josh is still bringing light to many, even those who did not know him. Also, if you have struggled with the pursuit of darkness, please remember YOU can still choose to lighten the world.
"Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look
in the light of Christ.
Wake up from your sleep,
Climb out of your coffins;
Christ will show you the light!
So watch your step. Use your head.
Make the most of every chance you get.
These are desperate times!"
Ephesians 5:13-16, The Message
Of the 61,311 preventable drug overdoses in the country in 2017, more than 43,000 involved opioids. Now International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event held Aug. 31 each year to remember those gone too soon from overdose deaths.