My life forever changed on April 26, 2011.
We had been on a family vacation at the beach where our son Shaun proposed to his girlfriend on a rose petal portion of the beach while we all watched from a short distance away. The entire family had helped plan and execute this hallowed event and we were the happiest family on planet earth. We spent the rest of our vacation together on the beach enjoying the grand kids, family, ocean and life.
We drove home April 25, 2011 and arrived at around 9 PM. Shortly thereafter we all went to bed. Little did we know that a room away our son would be fighting the battle of his life.
Shaun had an addiction to pain killers and had been clean for 3 years. He had gotten badly sunburned soon after arriving at the beach and laid around much of the time after he proposed. It never dawned on me or even the doctor that examined him at the beach that he was experiencing the physical pain of heroin withdrawals. Sometime that night after we all went to bed, unbeknownst to us, that pain got the best of Shaun and he made the cruelest decision of his young life. On his cell phone, later, we saw that he’d called his dealer 6 times that evening; call, hang up, call hang up, call hang up, call, hang up, call, hang up. The last time he called he didn’t hang up. He arranged a purchase. His dealer made a house call sometime after midnight delivering 182 units of heroin. The therapeutic range for morphine, a heroine derivative, is 0 to 80. Shaun took 3 times that amount. A lethal dose. When we found him the next morning the needle was still in his hand. He never had a chance.
Even while I’m writing this I can feel myself shutting down. It’s like I flicked a switch and I’m the little boy in my earlier poem, at the dam with my finger firmly in place. Don’t cry, be strong, keep your finger in the hole, keep writing. Most of my life when painful feelings like this come on me, I withdraw into myself. It’s lonely there but gives a sense of security, safety. Because you see, I’ve learned a very painful, gut-wrenching lesson in all this. Addiction, though a disease, is also a failure of relationships. Somehow, some way I failed my boy and that failure will follow us both to our graves.
My Boy God’s precious gift arrived on Gabriel’s wings with cherubim cheeks and few other things. Ro grabbing him out of the great angels hands, while I’m staring at my boy from a faraway land. The little boy who brought such joy and delight, dark skin, brown eyes and cheeks you could bite. He and his “twin” sister only nine months apart, Megan blonde and light skinned, Shaun black hair and dark. Shaun drawing transformers and scouting the ditch, Megan running to the neighbors never slowing one bit. Shaun standing by the delivery room door worried about his Mom who he truly adored. There was nothing more special to Shaun than his Mother and where one was, not far was the other. His little brother Kris always wanted to be with him and was shocked when told that Shaun might have sinned. The good old days at the grandparents’ house sitting on the porch swing enjoying life in the South. Riding bikes on the trails and down to the pool, watching the kids playing never expecting life to turn cruel. Ripped out of Jackson then Memphis, heading north we all traveled not expecting for a moment that our lives soon would unravel, cause evil was waiting just ’round the bend though we prayed to God please make it all end. There’s nothing harder than watching your child self-destruct while our faiths being tested & we’ve run out of luck. At last it looked as though things might turn for the best as Shaun looked outside himself for help with his mess. God blessed him with Tiana, The woman of his dreams maybe our prodigal story was not all that it seemed. But perhaps when you’re OCD you can’t start afresh when perfects your standard and to your past you’re enmeshed. For its hard starting over once you’ve taken a hit for like a fish out of water you’re hooked after you’ve bit. To make sense of evil you must go back to the fall where Adam & Eve took a small bite but the price cost us all. And the serpent continues crawling in & out of our lives but the apple he dangles is an orchard of lies. Satan’s attacked with a vengeance but the victory’s not his cause in the end Shaun’s with Jesus and Satan’s in the abyss. So now Job is my best friend and my dreams have been shattered though I cling to God’s promises ’cause it’s only Jesus that matters. And Tiana who always wanted to give God her best, never dreamed for a moment Shaun’ d be His request. But it’s hard not to wonder what might have been though I take comfort in knowing I’ll see Shaun again. But still change is hard and separation so lonely so you avoid the why questions and ‘what if I’d only’. But life must continue and we numbly go on cause that’s what’s expected but please hold the shalom. I cling to the memories of my boy and his life his sweet smile, sensitivity and desire to be right. God give us Your focus on all these events & never forget t’was Your glory that Your Boy’s life was spent! Mason Swinney
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