My Son, My First Child, His Story

by Faith Bierbaum
(Kennesaw, GA)

My son, Don, was born in 1965. I knew from the beginning that he was "different". He didn't know how to suck, he didn't know when he was hot or cold nor when he was hungry. He didn't sit up on time, or crawl, or walk. However, his smile would light up a room, and full sentences would come out of his mouth at 15 months. He loved music and sang like an angel.

When he got into school the real trouble began as he didn't act like the other little rough and tumble boys. He was frail, tall, thin and very awkward. Unless the subject was science or English he was totally lost. He tried so hard to fit in with his classmates, but was bullied by students and some of the teachers. At 13 he started smoking thinking that would make him look "cool" and fit in with the "in group". It didn't work. After years of tears and trying, he eventually graduated from High School.

After High School he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, but 23 days later they discovered that he was bi-polar and not suitable for military service and gave him a medical discharge.

He drifted for the next 12 years, living on the streets of Miami, eating at Missions, sleeping under bridges and finally he moved into his late grandparent's abandoned home until Hurricane Andrew hit. Don called me on a pay phone before all communications ended to tell me where he was and that he loved me. My older brother found him 3 days later living under some wood and part of the roof of his grandparent's house. He was wet, hungry, thirsty, and filthy. Everything he had (which wasn't much) had been destroyed. My brother brought my son home.

Don quickly found out that he couldn't hold down a job due to his mental illness. He increased his smoking to 3 packs a day. He went on disability and unfortunately found a doctor who would give him pills to make him feel better. Pills that he quickly became addicted to that had nothing to do with his mental illness. He sat, stoned, and smoked 24 hours a day.

He got tired of me trying to help him get off the drugs and cigarettes and took off to parts unknown. Occasionally, I'd get a phone call from him, but usually I had no idea where he was.

Finally, he found someone who would overlook his dark side of drugs and cigarettes, and let him move in with her. I think it was the happiest time of his life. He had someone to love him and support him. He found a doctor who helped get him off most of the drugs so his personality came back. I'll always be so grateful to his girlfriend and his doctor.

In June of 2011 he called me and told me that he had Stage IV COPD. He previously had been diagnosed with MS and Diabetes II. With all the medical and psychological problems, Hospice stepped in to give him regular care. His girlfriend continued caring for him at her home to the best of her ability. However, she had a full time job and was often kept up all night by his medical problems.

In February of 2012 I moved 1,200 miles to be near him and to evaluate the situation. For 3 months I lived in a motel, caring for him and working with Hospice to find an Assisted Living Facility that would take a smoker. In May we found a place. It wasn't perfect, but it would give his girlfriend a much needed break. He was happy there with a lot of help from Hospice.

October 1, 2012, while a Hospice volunteer was visiting him, my son took his last breath. He was 47 years old.

I'm grieving. Grieving for the difficult life he had due to his mental illness and eventual physical illnesses. I'm grieving for the brilliant mind who could write beautiful music and stories. I'm grieving for the dreamer who had no common sense for daily living, but could make me smile and laugh with his one-liner comedy act. But, most of all I'm grieving for the loss of my precious son. I hear him tell me "I love you, Mom" everyday. I remember holding his 90 pound body as he was dying.

A memorial service will be held on his sister's boat, and his ashes will be placed in the Gulf of Mexico sometime Thanksgiving weekend. Our family will be together one last time.

Comments for My Son, My First Child, His Story

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Feb 08, 2013
Your son
by: Kate

What a touching story of all you and your son went through!
We are tied to then forever here or not. His inner light was what you knew and loved. God bless you in your loss .i lost my 39 year old son in Nov from this earth but he lives forever in my heart.

Oct 24, 2012
Thank you, Rita
by: Faith

I'm sorry for your loss, too, Rita. We are not suppose to bury our children, it should be the other way around. I hope you'll find peace. My thoughts and prayers will be with you. Thank you for writing back to me.

Oct 24, 2012
All of us are SPECIAL
by: Rita

I'm so sorry for your loss. Your Son was blessed to have you for a Mother! My daughter, 26, was extremely gifted, but seemed to always make poor life decisions. I can't help but think something was wrong with her mental health, that her IQ testing prevented a accurate diagnosis. Like you, I did everything possible to help her, & I never gave up on her. My heart continually aches for her, & I can only live for hope of a easier day, hen hopefully this wont hurt as bad. Ericka Griffin was a loving, generous, beautiful person. She was indeed special, as your son was too, & you will be in my prayers.

Oct 23, 2012
To Louisa
by: Faith

Thank you for your loving thoughts and prayers. How kind of you to take the time to think of us and remember us. God bless you, too.

Oct 23, 2012
My Son, My First Child, His Story
by: Louisa Okoro

Dear Mom B and Mary,

Two women united in love for one man,a son and a lover. What a story of love and a life-time of loneliness. Thank you Mary for your unconditional Love. Thank you Mom B for being and always will be his great cheerleader and thank you Jesus for blessing the world with such great 3 souls. Here in Lagos, Nigeria, Africa, know that Louisa will always remember the 3 of you. God bless you.

Oct 22, 2012
Don will always be in my heart
by: Mary

I will always love your son. A piece of my heart will always be his. And with all the heart break i feel right now I would do it all over again for him. I seen the inside person not the mental ill person or the smoker or drug addict. I seen the song writer, story writer. the crative person, and the love he had for life and his family and the few friends he did have. And Mom B I don't know how it is to loss a son. But if its feels the way i have been feeling. It sucks And your wondering if and when it going to not hurt so much.

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