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Reflections from a Warrior Mother

Today, I am reflecting on why I’m on this train heading to DC instead of spending a lazy Saturday morning at home. Thinking about the past 20 months and 14 days and this life altering journey I’ve begun. Remembering my son, Matt and his struggle to find help and hope. Feeling that now familiar grip on my heart I’ve come to know too well. A mothers grief over losing a part of her heart. Looking back on the woman I once was but will never be again. 

My grief has changed the way I look at this world. I have no fear of being hurt. I have suffered the ultimate pain. I have lost a child. There are days I’m crippled by my grief. Days the reality is almost too much to bear and I find myself wanting to disappear. Days when continuing to breathe is an effort. Then I see Matt forever in my mind and I feel a strength come over my soul. He is with me. Forever tucked safely in my heart. Telling me to fight for him. So today I’m heading down to DC to once again use my voice against those who think killing our children is an acceptable way to make a living.

I’ve fooled myself into thinking I could do this without tears. That enough time has passed since the last time I marched in Washington for this very same cause. I thought I had buried my pain deep enough to keep it quietly under wraps. That this year I would be stronger. I would be wiser. I would set an example on how to fight the system. I was not prepared for my gut reaction upon seeing the faces of the mothers I’ve come to know and love. These mothers have suffered my loss. They too have received that call. The one we prayed never to receive. The one we feared would come. The call that would both break us and change us into women who have no fear.

Our greatest fear has molded us into angry, mourning mothers. Our anger is not directed at our children but focused on a government that turns its back on the disease it helped create. The disease of addiction to opioids. This disease swept our kids out to a sea so beyond our reach that every life saving attempt was met with a powerful wave pulling them further away from our arms.

Last year the faces that walked beside me were those of strangers. This year those faces all familiar from our advocacy. Faces that have empathy in the eyes that know my pain. Faces that warm my heart and fuel my anger. Faces that wear my mask. A mask that hides brokenness and allows this grieving mother to shout out against those who killed my son. Faces from all over this country fueled by common grief fighting my fight. Mothers who say “No More.”

Flashbacks filled my mind as I saw the majestic Washington Monument in the distance. Memories of my last visit 9 months to the day of losing Matt. Feelings flooding my heart with a grip of pain that took my breath away. Pain now etched in my heart.

Standing on the hill overlooking Sullivan Theater I was empowered by the crowd. Everyone holding signs with names and faces of those loved and lost. I look at my sign. Calling out overprescribing doctors. Killers hiding behind white coats. I look at Matt’s smiling face and feel the overwhelming power to join that crowd. To hold back my tears and join those speaking out. The parents who have traveled across our country to stand together and fight this fight. Fellow warriors who believe that we have suffered enough. Our kids, some gone, some still struggling deserve better than what they got. Those gone are remembered. Pictures and names are everywhere. 

My mind is telling me I’m ok. I got this. Then I see his name and I’m lost in my grief. The wave hit as seeing his name slapped my face with the shock of reality. My Matt is gone. He has earned a place of honor with a thousand others. I am falling into my dark place. Unable to breathe. My body shaking. I’m alone in my grief. I feel arms wrapping around me. Another mother mixing her tears with mine. I grab her and hold on. We hold each other up as we see our boys names next to each other. We were once strangers. We now have a bond that will last forever.

I regain my strength. My flow of tears now mark my face. My mask is cracking. My grief fighting to get to my surface. I feel my anger returning. Listening to the amazing speakers who get it continues to refuel my spirit. Once again I tell myself I can do this.

I’m given the opportunity to tell Matt’s story. Dr. Botticelli is listening. He grabs my hand and engages me in a conversation on how to proceed with my fight. His words fuel me and I feel empowered. Once again I am able to speak with those who will listen. We share stories. We say names and show pictures. We become one.

I am able to beat back my grief. I remind myself of my purpose. To come and join my voice with so many others. To be that warrior mom. To fight for Matt.

We are preparing to march. Holding my sign I hear a beautiful voice. Amazing Grace is filling the air. Those words surround the air I breathe. I am gone. No longer in control as the sobs wrack my body. I am no longer that warrior mom. My mask lay at my feet broken into a million pieces. I reveal who I really am. A shattered, grieving mother. I no longer care about anyone. I put my hand to my mouth to cover the sounds coming from my soul. I am lost in the abyss. A tender voice breaks through my fog. I feel arms wrapping around my shaking body. A head touching mine. A beautiful friends consoling this broken women. A life preserver for me to grab. Pulling me back from the darkness. Wrapping me in the love of someone who gets it.

This moment captured for all the world to see. Our image frozen in time. A warrior mom overcome by the profound loss of her son. A loving women offering comfort. This is the face of addiction. The face of a mother who fought for and lost her precious son. This is the face that I pray will haunt those who say addict’s are unworthy. That their lives don’t matter. My face showing life altering, raw, ugly grief. The face of a mother who for a brief moment in time forgot about everything except her beautiful boy. 

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