Well, you did it. You’re dead. Your body is lifeless, and now we wait for someone to find you. Who knows how long it will take, but your friends and family are either sleeping or coming home from work when they get the call you are dead.
The police have been called and now the coroner. They place your body in that bag you’ve seen a hundred times on TV and haul you to the morgue. They make the first call to your family to tell them you’re gone and someone needs to identify your body.
The loud, hysterical cries are unbearable to control. Who do we call first? Your best friend? Your sister? Do we send an email to inform everyone of what happened? What do we do? Oh my God, do we have an open casket or do we cremate you? Oh my God, how is grandma going to handle this? The crying is uncontrollable. I can’t catch my breath. I can’t breathe.
We are at the morgue sitting in the hall. Your aunt and uncle are with us. It’s cold in here, and I can’t control the tears. The medical examiner approaches and escorts us to the area where we identify you. I can’t swallow. I can barely breathe. I grab your hand: it’s cold. The tears fall from my face onto your hand, and it brings the only sign of life to your corpse. Your uncle is sobbing, and we all hold on to each other as we leave the room. This is not the way we wanted to say goodbye to you. If only I had one more chance to talk to you. One more hug. One more dinner.
We’ve tried so many times to help and have spent a lot of time getting you in the right rehab center. I don’t understand. Why do you go back to the drugs? Why have you lied when all we’ve wanted to do was help you? How have we failed you? Why do you love the drugs more than yourself or your family? I don’t understand why.
I think we have contacted everyone we know about your death. I have to call off work so I can meet with the funeral director. We look at casket options and then discuss cremation. It’s hard to decide since we never talked about this. Why would we? You were so young. Oh my God, do I bury you in your favorite hoodie? I can’t bear the thought of cremation, but it’s probably the right thing to do? We can’t decide but have no choice. Where do we bury you? Who keeps your ashes? It’s hard to fight back the tears and uncontrollable sobbing as the funeral director hands me a tissue.
It’s the day of your funeral service, and people are starting to arrive. There are lots of tears, and I can see anger on some of the faces. Some people are really mad at you, and I don’t blame them. It’s hard to stand here, next to your dead remains, trying to console the line of people here to pay their last respects. I feel like I might lose it again. A few of your friends and family stand up to speak about your life. It is so painful to listen to as they struggle with their words and fight back tears. I am numb.
Life will never be the same without you. I think about you every single day. Your best friend is keeping your dog, and it has been a struggle sorting through all of your clothes, trying to figure out what to do with everything. We kept the watch we gave you at Christmas. We knew how much you loved it and will never forget the smile on your face when you opened it.
I guess you’ll never really know how much you were loved. And we’ll never fully understand why you choose drugs over life. We hope you are resting peacefully, addiction-free and know how hard we all prayed for you.
We‘ll miss you.
(In November, 2013, Michelle Enigenburg of Fayetteville lost her niece, age 19, to a heroin overdose as well as a family friend, age 34.)