25 April 2013

~ The Greatest is Love ~

Often, here on my front porch, I am fortunate to have 
someone else take over this space and share a story.
Today my good friend, Geri, has written 
a piece that is so very close to her heart.
For me, it is a lesson in endurance, patience, and love.
And reminds me of this verse....

And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love.
But the greatest of these is Love.
1 Corinthians 13-13


~ Geri with her husband, Pete ~

Thank you, Misha, for asking me to write a guest post. 
I have struggled to find the words to write about my son Nick,
 and I realized the other morning I wanted to share something he wrote me.

Nick sent me this letter when I went to a 12 step weekend retreat in October of 2006.  I’ll give a little background about it.  I had joined Al-Anon a few years before this retreat, as Nick struggled with the disease of alcoholism/drug addiction.   For those who might not know, Al-Anon is a wonderful support group for family and friends of alcoholics.  Maybe someday I will write another guest post (if I’m invited back again!) sharing with you and your readers how much it has changed my life, taught me, meant to me.  For now I’ll just say that because I was a member of a 12 step program, my dear, dear friend Kathi, herself a long time member of AA, was able to invite me to this wonderful weekend of recovery.  

One of the most touching parts of the weekend is ‘the letter ceremony’.  It is held on Saturday evening, in a room filled with candlelight, soft instrumental music and love, lots and lots of love.  As my sponsor for the weekend, Kathi had sent letters to my family and friends, asking them to tell me what changes they might have seen in me, how my recovery was affecting them, what I meant to them, things of this nature.  All the letters would be sent to her, and she would present them to me during the ceremony.

~ Geri with Nick as a toddler ~

 As she told me later, the letter she knew would mean so much to me, the one she really, really wanted to make sure I got, was a letter from Nick.  So, Kathi being Kathi (I have a whole other post I could write about her, and what true, long time friendship looks like. We've been best friends for 50 years!), she wanted to make it as easy as possible for Nick to get that letter written and sent back to her.  She was a little nervous that since he was a 22 year old college student, busy with full time school and a full time job, he might procrastinate writing it, or maybe not take the time to write one at all.  So in the letter she sent him, explaining what he might want to write about, she included a self-addressed, stamped envelope.  
She said she was prepared to call him, or if necessary to even drive to where he lived to make sure I got a letter from him.

~ Nick in his graduation photo ~

She needn't have worried.  Within a few days of mailing Nick the letter, she noticed an envelope in her mailbox, addressed to her, in her own handwriting.  
Nick was the very first person to get a letter back to her.  

Here’s what he wrote:

Dear Mom:

What’s up?  (he always opened a conversation with that phrase).  I hope you are enjoying your retreat so far.  How lucky am I to have a mother like you?  Pretty darn lucky! Your constant generosity, caring and understanding have greatly helped make my life what it is today.  I can think of countless examples of you being all these things.  Like our daily phone conversations.  When half the time I’m in a bad mood and acting like a jerk, and instead of hanging up on me and calling me an asshole like I deserve you listen and give advice, showing you care.  Or even after my second drunk driving, you never gave up on me, even when a lot of other people did.  You gave me encouragement that I needed to stay afloat.  The two years of you driving me places, so I could get to work and meetings.  That was extremely kind.  Thanks!! Or better yet, when I was feeling down about not getting any hours at work and you said, “don’t worry, your family’s got your back.”  That was really something mom.  It meant the world to me.  I’m truly grateful for the way you make me feel loved, even when I think I don’t want to be loved.  You know, I’m lucky.  I truly feel I have the world’s best mom.  Stay strong like I know you will.


~ ~ ~

Nick lost his battle with this disease on June 10, 2009.  He was 25 years old.  He died of an accidental alcohol and methadone overdose.  I know he did not want to die, he just overdid it.  People tell me he went to sleep and did not wake up, that he was not in pain.  His roommate found him on his couch, in the same position he was in the night before, so I think this is true.  His beloved dog, Maggie, was with him when he passed. 

~ Nick's beloved dog, Maggie. She now lives with Geri and Pete ~

 He had relapsed again, and didn't share that with us.  I spoke with him two days before he died, and when I asked him how he was, as I always did, he said he was doing great, just great.  I believe he was trying to protect us, that he did not want us to worry, that he was embarrassed and ashamed that he had relapsed.  He was one class short of completing his degree at the Great Lakes Culinary Institute, where he had been studying to be a chef, a dream of his. 
 He was our first born, one of the two great joys of our life, and the person who taught me what it really meant to love another person.  He made me laugh and he made me cry.  I prayed, begged God to take the illness from him and give it to me, but we know it doesn't work that way.  I choose to believe he is at peace now, his struggles over and fears gone.
 I choose to believe I will see him again someday, somehow, and that his spirit, his essence, his true self is still with me everyday. 
 I am lucky, and honored, to be his mother.  

~ Nick "The Baconator" during class at culinary school ~

At Nick’s visitation the night before his funeral, after his sister Rachel read a poem for him, I asked people if they would like to get up and say something.  You could see people start to fidget a little;  this kind of thing is hard to do.  The first person to go up to the podium, with shaking hands, and a trembling voice, was Kathi.  And she told the story about the letter, because she felt it showed just how much Nick loved me, how considerate and thoughtful he could be, even though his disease led him to behave in ways that hurt us all deeply.  

Nick, I’m staying strong like you knew I would. 
But oh how I miss you!
How I ache to hug you, and talk to you and laugh with you. 
You tried; you fought the good fight.
I witnessed that personally. But it was too big for you. 
You have nothing, nothing to be ashamed of.

 As you heard me say so many times, I fell in love with you the minute I saw you, and that love has done nothing but grow stronger. 

 Sleep well, my sweet boy.  
 You were loved, and you loved.  
 And that is everything.

Thank you for this, Geri.
And you are so right.....
Love is everything.
Thank you for your friendship!

Please feel free to leave a comment for Geri!

And if you would like to contact Geri,
{ You can either *friend* her or message her from this link! }


Denise Rivers said...

Oh Geri, what a beautiful testament of love to your son and your strength in his absence. Thank you so much for sharing this. Healing is so difficult and your grace throughout this loss is beautiful.

Nancy said...

Thank you for sharing this Geri. I pray you continue to find peace in the good memories you have of him. God bless.

Buttons said...

Oh Gerri this is beautifully written and I do know personally how hard addictions can be on a family, I cannot imagine how losing your son to that addiction and how very hard that would be. I thank you for sharing this very personal testament to a Mother's love. I am sitting here crying and the pain I feel for you is overwhelming but I do know your son loved you and knew you loved him and there is nothing better in this world to know that you are loved no matter what addiction or anything else for that matter has tried to take away.
Thank you. HUG B

Bianca said...

Tears are running down my face....
I feel for you Geri, but just don't know what to say.

Kathi said...

How honored I am to be a friend to someone who loves this much and this well. I miss Nick, too, my sweet friend, but he lives on through you.

And though he died much too young, Nick was, as he wrote in his letter to you, a very lucky man. He could not have had better parents than you and Pete. That boy was loved! And he always will be.

Thank you for writing this and sharing your story with the world. And Misha? Thank you for inviting Geri to write -- I hope you have lit a spark in her and that maybe, one day, she will, indeed, have a blog of her own!


ain't for city gals said...

oh my...love is beautiful.

Betsy Tant said...

Geri- I've known form all that you've shared about Nick that he was a wonderful, kind young man who loved his family and was trying to love his life. Thank you for sharing more of his story and of your story. You know I hear the stories of young people struggling with addiction all of the time. Some of them have found sobriety and continue to fight for it every day. Others, like our Henry and your Nick, lost their battle. Many of them have similarities in their personalities, interests, families, experiences.... but the common thread that i want people to see most is that NONE wanted to live the life of an addict. It's a horrible, painful life. You've shared that so well here. I know that Nick is proud of his mama for fighting to be happy and live life. xoxo Betsy

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Dessa Wolf said...

My heart goes out to you, Geri. What a beautiful tribute from a loving Mother to a loving son. Bless you, Sweetie.

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Ashleigh Burroughs said...

There is nothing like the love between a mother and her son, her first-born. This is beautiful. Revel in the fact - and it is a fact - of that love. Sending loving vibes your way, Geri.

Susan Hemingway said...

Dear Geri,
Thank you so much for sharing your story about Nick. Although sad, it was full of hope and life. I lost my son when he was little, almost 23 years ago. Please know that it get's easier and the time you had with Nick was a gift for your life and always something to smile about.

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Geri said...

I just wanted to thank everyone who took the time to read about our Nick, and for the lovely comments left here. And of course, dear, dear Misha, for asking me to write this. Much love to you, my friend.

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