Three years ago a fear I carried in the back of my mind for thirteen years became a real life nightmare; my oldest son Bobby died of a heroin overdose. I will never forget the details of that day. My husband Scott, a pilot for Delta Airlines, was on a trip. Brandon, our middle son, was traveling in South Africa after recently separating from the US Air Force. Tully, our youngest son, was in Santiago, Chile, where he lives. Bobby was alone when he died and each of us was alone when we learned the news of his death.
Casey, his girlfriend, had stayed with me the previous evening, accepting an invitation to play Bunco with my friends. She returned home the next morning to the condo she and Bobby shared in Leesburg, but was unable to open the door because the deadbolt was engaged. Seeing his car in the parking lot, Casey called his cell phone. She could hear his phone ringing, but there was no answer. Banging on the door and calling his name, she still received no reply. She immediately called me and I told her to see if anyone in the condo office could unlock the door. After learning the office was closed, as it was a Saturday, I told her to call 911. I immediately got dressed and headed to Leesburg an hour away, with a terrible feeling in my chest. My husband called me while I was driving, asking me to locate some documents on the computer. I remember him trying to give me specific details of what I had to do. Not wanting to tell him what was going on, I asked him if he was done flying for the day and he said he was. I blurted out “Scott, we have a situation here!” “What do you mean?” he asked. I told him what had happened and that Casey had called 911. He just kept saying, “oh no, oh no!” over and over again.
I hung up with Scott. I was frantic. I kept calling Casey, but she never answered. Was she not answering because the news was bad? Oh, dear God, I thought, were my fears coming true? I pulled into the condo parking lot to the sight of several police cars and people standing outside on the sidewalk. Getting out of the car I ran over and saw Casey’s face and knew immediately that Bobby was gone. Her face was broken and I just let out an agonizing wail. I wanted to see my son but the police chaplain said I was not allowed into the condo. They continued to console me, but I was numb. Then I had the horrible task of calling my husband back and delivering the news.
Casey and I accompanied the chaplains to the police station while the detectives finished their investigation. Hours passed by while we waited in a private room. I remember both chaplains being extremely caring and compassionate, but Casey and I needed our family. Finally, my brother Myles and Casey’s mother Carol arrived. My husband was en route from Texas and we agreed that we would tell the boys together over Skype.
Each year that has passed since Bobby died, I have recalled the events of that day. I reexamined our son’s life from the time he was born all the way into his young adult years. How did our son grow up to have an addiction? The years we lived dealing with his addiction in fear of relapse and worse yet – death – were replaced with grief. Nothing prepares a parent for losing a child. While dealing with my son’s death was crippling, witnessing my husband’s grief was often unbearable. I have never heard my husband sob until then. The wales of a father dealing with the loss of his son pierced my heart. We had to find a way to survive this together.
Our grief journeys have been very different and difficult. While I have consumed myself in helping other families who are affected by substance abuse, Scott has deepened his faith and turned to God for strength. He often drives out to Bobby’s grave, taking a chair and a cooler of beer just to have a chat with his boy.
As the days crawled by, I noticed something sweet. Every night before Scott climbs into bed I see him look out the window, staring up at the moon and whispering, “Goodnight Bobby.” We never really lose the ones we love. They are always with us. We will be connected forever and one day, we will be reunited again.
But for now, before I go to bed, I whisper, “Good night Bobby…”