I'll never hear him say "Hey, mom" again...
Stephen & me June 2013
My name is Lisa, and my son, Stephen died on 12/08/12, he was 29 years old. He lived 6 hours away from us in a townhouse with 2 roommates. One of his roommates found him, dead in his bed and the local police came to my door at around 7:30 p.m. that Saturday evening to inform me my son had “passed away”. This is a moment etched in my brain – I can remember every detail about it even though I can’t remember simple things like why did I come into this room? LOL.
Anyway, Stephen was my oldest of 2 children. He was also MINE. I divorced his father when he was one year old and raised him on my own – he only saw his biological father a couple times between the ages of 2 and 4. I married again when he was 6 and he never saw his biological father again. We also never got any child support – but I’m not bitter ! Stephen and his new step-father, Daren, did not get along very well at first – there was a lot of vying for my attention between the two of them (Daren was only 22 when we met & Stephen was used to having me to himself) Things smoothed out over time as we adjusted to our new family. I had a baby when Steve was 9, and thank goodness it was a girl this time. I worried that had it been a boy, my husband would compare his own son to Stephen and make Steve feel more left out. Stephen and his sister got along very well considering the age difference / or maybe it was because of the age difference.
By the time Stephen went off to college, he was drinking – as most high school kids do around here. I didn’t think much of it. Boys will be boys, after all. The one thing I made sure of was that he never drove after drinking. We had a long talk about the repercussions of drunk driving and he was always good about calling me for a ride – even at 2:00 a.m. I would pick him up / no questions asked. But the drinking increased. When Stephen would come home for Christmas (his favorite holiday) we would find an empty rum bottle in his dresser or under his bed. Still, I didn’t worry too much. He had a good job now and still called me weekly, if not daily to ask questions about laundry or cooking. We loved to watch Michigan sports so every Saturday during the fall and winter was our day to catch up on the phone and watch the games. Every phone call started with “Hey mom”.
Stephen began to lose weight. I looked at this as a good thing, because he’d gained quite a bit over the past couple years. It never occurred to me that anything was wrong. On his last birthday in September, he asked me if his color looked odd to me. He was a little grey. I told him I thought it was due to him not being outside enough. He worked nights and slept during the day. But what was really happening was his liver was shutting down. In December, he came down with “flu-like” symptoms and called us, wanting to come home for a while to get “straightened out”. We all knew he meant his drinking. We agreed to have him come home to live while he got treatment for alcohol abuse. I never knew we were too late.
On December 8, 2013, the day before we were to go get him to bring him home, the police came to our door. Even when they were coming up the stairs, I never dreamt anything was wrong. I figured they were going to ask some questions about a neighborhood burglary. Even when they asked me if I had a son who lived in Iowa City, it didn’t occur to me – I assumed Stephen had gotten into some trouble. When they told me he was dead, my husband jumped up off the couch yelling “Oh dear God!” I remember looking at him like he was crazy. What was wrong? It did not sink in. Until it did. We were too late.
Here are a couple entries from my journal a couple weeks after his death:
I’m so very sorry that our last conversation on the day before you died had to be me nagging you about your phone bill. You cannot begin to imagine how GUILTY I feel over this. I wish I’d have said I love you at the end of that conversation. Instead, you said you’d call me “this weekend” and we’d figure out how to get you home since you weren’t feeling good enough to drive. It never dawned on me that this would be our last conversation. Had I known, I would have told you I loved you and I was proud of you.
If you saw your funeral, you would know how many people loved you. The church couldn’t seat everyone; so many people showed up to say good-bye to you. I was touched by all your friends and co-workers who all told me wonderful, funny memories about you. (I have to quit for now, because I’m at work and starting to cry. I miss you so …)
I wear your “thumbie” daily, or the earrings you bought me long ago, or your watch. As long as I have something of yours on, I somehow feel better, which is not logical at all but it helps me. I feel so guilty about our last conversation – I should have known! I feel guilty that we didn’t come see you more often. It was such a long drive that once a year seemed okay but now I know it wasn’t. I knew you wanted us to come more often. You would make comments about the other boy’s parents coming down and tailgating with you all. And we should have come and visited you when you were in college. You were too young to be totally left to your own devices. If I’d stayed in physical contact with you, maybe it would have helped with the drinking. The guilt is terrible. I miss you.
I got your autopsy report last night. You had a broken rib, bruises on your chest and back – did you fall? I can’t imagine the pain you must have been in. Maybe you fell in the bathroom and that would explain the bloody handprint on the wall in there. Did you try and call me but your phone wouldn’t work? I’m so sorry that I wasn’t there for you when you needed me the most. I was watching a stupid movie – because you and I always watched Dark Shadows on Friday nights, remember? I thought it would be fun to watch the remake with Johnny Depp. It was really stupid and I never finished watching it because the police came when were about 1/3 into it. Why didn’t I know you were in trouble? I should have known.