The detective assigned to Hagen’s case called me yesterday to let me know he received the autopsy report. I knew we were getting close to having that final piece of information, but I never expected that the man that investigated my son’s death would also be the one to notify me of the official cause. I thought it would just arrive in the mail and that I would be left to sift through it trying to make sense of it by myself. It is his profession to sift through the aftermath of death and its various degrees of gore and his responsibility to make the heart wrenching calls to loved ones. It is more than a job. It is a calling. It has to be because there is no way that a person can do that just to pay the bills.
The day I met him I told him I only wanted to hear one thing come from his mouth - that my son wasn’t dead. He said “ma’am I can’t tell you that.” For the next hour or so, this man’s sole purpose in life was to talk to the mother of one of the bodies from a crime scene. I thought that would be the last time I ever saw or talked to him, but it wasn’t. He was there again a month later when I needed to make sure that I had heard him correctly the day he delivered an overwhelming amount of information. For a second time, he devoted all of his attention to me. He was patient and kind and a voice of understanding to the mother of a man that had died of an overdose. His kindness caught me off guard because most of the world just didn’t care, and I unfairly assumed that he was no different. I assumed that his opinion of the matter would be simple. He was an addict. He died. The end.
That disgusting word “stigma” had left me fighting, like so many other parents, to be heard. To be a voice to the world for a disease and a culture that had taken my child from me. To me, his reaction was having someone from that world in my corner. He didn’t know Hagen. He didn’t have to care, but he did.
Yesterday, he had to deliver more unsettling news. And again, I had his full attention. He didn’t just make a call. His voice made a difference. From the beginning of my walk of acceptance, he has been there. Not in a day to day sense, but the mark he left from one encounter to the next was there.
It is so tragically easy to feel forgotten. Only those that have gone through this kind of loss will truly understand how easy it is. The only ones advocating for change, being a source of encouragement or even willing to say the words “addict”, “mental illness” or “overdose” without disdain are the ones that have experienced all three. There is a “not me - not my child” mentality that overshadows how insidious, dangerous and all-consuming this trifecta of darkness is and how quickly that darkness will spread.
My son was not the first, nor will he be the last, child to die as a result of this darkness. I am not the first, nor will I be the last, mother to bury a son and find that sympathy is measured by a cause of death. There will be others and it pains me to my core to know that they will suffer even more and their pain will be needlessly greater because society spits in their direction. The support is self-contained and minimal causing an already extraordinarily difficult grieving process to be unfairly excruciating.
The world labels my child, and others like him, regardless of how remarkable they were as “less than”. Oh, world, you are so wrong about our children. They aren’t less than yours. They could be yours. All of the parents you see raising fistsand voices aren’t just doing it for our children. We are doing it for yours. We aren’t judging yours or condemning yours or labeling yours because we know that ONE reckless decision, one chance experimentation, could have you walking in our shoes. We are a united voice. For your children. That is why we fight.
Nothing will bring our babies back, but we might just be able to help keep yours here.