I finally rained here in Fort Worth. I’m not sure how much. It’s still dark outside but the weather folks are calling for light rain and possibly sleet throughout the morning (it is forecasted to be eighty degrees by Thursday…), so I thought I’d take advantage of the stillness and wet weather to catch up on “Thoughts From the Porch”.
I haven’t shared many thoughts from the porch lately. I haven’t been on the porch to do much thinking. I quit smoking two weeks ago (two whole weeks so far!) and the porch is a trigger for me. I guess I shouldn’t be overly concerned. Everything is a trigger these days – being alone at the farm, volunteers who still smoke, my kid who is recently out of college for Christmas break, the grief that seems overwhelming this time of year…
Jeremy was my Christmas present in 1982. His death and the absence of the grandkids since Thanksgiving leaves me bereft of Christmas spirit. Climbing in the attic to get Christmas decorations is the last thing I want to do, but my wife loves Christmas and I’ll do it for her later today. Doing for others makes the pain a little easier to bear.
The morning weather report was followed by a news story about opioid overdose deaths this past year. It’s become the leading cause of death for people eighteen to forty-five – more than suicides, COVID deaths, and car crashes – almost 79,000 in the past year. The statistics seem overwhelming and abstract. My son was one of the statistics. He’s one of the 79,000 other faces behind each of those numbers.
I’ve shared much about my son over the last year-and-a-half, but this is the first time I’ve talked of his cause of death. I simply haven’t been able to talk about it. His friends and family have known all along and I’m sure those in the art world of which he was a part have their suspicions if they didn’t know it for a fact. His art was often a reflection of his struggle with addiction – both his and mine. I still wonder how things would be different if he hadn’t grown up with an addict parent. I still wish I could trade places with him.
It wasn’t always that way. Jeremy became a recovering addict shortly after I did in 2005. He stayed clean for six years and became a respected member of the local recovery community. He had two more children and his oldest lived with him during a difficult time for her mother and grandmother. He worked fulltime and found time to paint and create. Still, there was always the underlying fear that his art would suffer without the drugs to fuel his creativity. Seeing the art he created proved that to be an unrealistic fear.
Life showed up -work, kids, parenting, bills – all the things everyone lives with. Time spent with others in recovery became short. He gradually and unintentionally moved farther and farther away from the recovery community and the support that held his addiction in check.
I won’t go into all the details. This isn’t about war stories or moralizing a disease. Addiction can cover up the heart of the addict and Jeremy’s heart was never defined by addiction. We had many “f*** you fights” over the last couple of years before his death – addiction wreaks havoc among families – but they were always followed by moments of kindness and love. That was my son.
I often wonder if he knew what lie ahead. In the last few months of his life, he struggled to make amends and heal relationships with so many family members and friends. In our last phone call, he asked if we could make a recovery meeting the following week.
I’m sitting here this morning and my heart hurts. Grief is a bitch. It comes unannounced whenever it wants and usually at the most inconvenient time possible. I never asked to join this club of parents, sons, daughters, husbands and wives, and the hundreds of friends and family left with the emptiness in their souls – a deep, aching, grief that never goes away. That’s something statistics don’t measure. They may tell of the deceased, but they never measure the sorrow and brokenness that’s left behind.
I wish I had more hopeful words to share this morning. There are so many things I’m truly grateful for. We’re about to celebrate the greatest blessing of all – Immanuel “God with us”. Still, loss is overwhelming, and we’ll celebrate the second Christmas without Jeremy. Please remember that 79,000 other families with face Christmas without the one they love. Keep us in your prayers and be kind to one another…
8 thoughts on “Quitting Smoking, Grief, and Christmas”
I’m so sorry. I love your quote: That’s something statistics don’t measure. They may tell of the deceased, but they never measure the sorrow and brokenness that’s left behind.
So true. The hole is always there and the pain only diminishes a bit with time.
LikeLiked by 1 person
My good friend and mentor, Edgar, lost his son 22 years ago. The pain and grief have eased with time but the moments still come. I hate that he’s endured the loss of a child but I’m so grateful for the support he has been. God put some amazing people in my life!
I hope you all have a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.
I pray you find some solace on the porch. Congratulations on the two weeks! Dealing with grief and quitting is not easy, as you obviously know. Hope you and your wife find some comfort in enjoying Christmas together.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you Jon. I hope you have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year!
Hi Gregory I totally understand your thoughts and feelings. I lost my 19 year old daughter to a drunk driver 19 years ago. Another statistic. I will tell you it doesn’t get better just easier to bear. Even now I have trouble getting into all the Christmas celebrations even with grandkids. All I can say is be kind to yourself and don’t let people tell you how you should feel, act or what you should do. May God give you the peace and comfort only he can.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you Sherri. I’m sorry for your loss. I didn’t know. God is so sweet to hold us close when life rears it’s head. I hope you all have a blessed holiday.
I somehow just found out about Jeremy and am crushed. I’m not on Facebook and no longer had mutual friends of his, so I had no idea. I met Jeremy at Another Chance in 1995 or 96. We became fast friends and ended up dating, which didn’t last because I’d found out he lied to me about his age and was 13 instead of 16. What a hilarious memory that is now. We kept in touch throughout the years, mainly when he wasn’t using. You both actually mowed my lawn a few years ago in Bedford. I know he was proud of you and loved you immensely. He would always keep me updated about how you were, etc. It’s so hard to understand why some of us made it and some don’t. It’s so hard to process. My heart and prayers will continuously be with you. I’ve never forgotten you after all of these years. If by chance I could find out where his grave is, I would really like to pay my respects. I’m so glad I found this blog! My email is Jennifer1massey@aol.com
Thank you Jennifer. I’m glad you kept in touch with Jeremy. I’ll email you later this evening with the cemetery info. He has a mural at Hop Fusion that’s kind of the public marker. The cemetery s for close friends and family. He was a huge presence in the art community and we decided to keep the cemetery info low key so I’ll email that to you. Thanks again.