October 23, 2017Dear Blue,It has been exactly 1,461 days since I lost you, my precious son. And even after that many days, four full years of daily sunrises and sunsets, I still ache in every nook and cranny of my heart. Wow, the heart has such a keen memory! It never forgets a deeply felt sorrow, ever. I can be tooling along, getting all my daily stuff accomplished and then, Bam!, I see a AA Little League game at the local ball field and burst into tears. Just like that, my heart reminds me of the gaping hole it has in it.They say time heals all wounds. Hmmm… not sure I buy that. I think that time allows for an invisible scaffolding to be constructed around a grieving mother like me, allowing me to stand up, walk, and function in a world without you in it. The scaffolding goes up slowly but surely, but on any given day any little thing can suddenly cause it to wobble, threatening to leave me in a heap on the floor in an instant. So, no, I wouldn’t call that being healed, just aided by some kind of survival reinforcement.Reminders of you are constant. I see a Tapatillo bottle and smile, remembering how you doused that hot sauce over just about everything you ate. I get the number 22 for table service at a fast food joint and see it as a sign from heaven. When going through old photo albums recently, I found myself grinning when I saw the photos of your crazy Halloween costumes growing up, and melting at the photos of you and me together. But it is in your daughter’s presence that I am most reminded of you and your goodness. That day, 1,460 days ago, was the absolute worst day of my life. It was like a light burned out inside of me, losing you that October day. I felt like I had somehow failed you, failed to keep you here, even though I had no power to do so. Thinking of how you suffered inside the private space of your mind, the constant chatter of the devil goading you to give up, lying to you all day every day until you finally acquiesced. At the end you felt you were doing us all a favor by leaving. Truth is, no matter how difficult those last few years were, I would give anything, ANYTHING for another chance to help you overcome the demons you battled and live the life you deserved. When people ask me, “How many kids do you have?” I feel myself freeze up for an instant. Once, and only once, I answered, “ I have two daughters.” Blue, I suffered for weeks after that, riddled with guilt that I had not included you in my answer to that lady. Not wanting to have to explain, I took the cowardly path of least resistance. I vowed after that I would never, ever give that response again when asked how many kids I have. Now I answer, “I have three, two daughters and a son in heaven. I have been open about your struggles in the aftermath of losing you—hoping to help extinguish the stigma around addiction and mental health disorders that claim too many young lives. In being open and honest with people I hope it nudges them to address the issues with someone they may know and love and be proactive in seeking help before it is too late. The fact is, I had an amazing son. You were the epitome of a wonderful child and human being in every way. I still ponder memories of sweet things you did or said, thoughtful, kind, and loving gestures that are like jewels in the treasure box of my memory. You and I had a close mother-son bond, a kindred knowledge of how each other ticked because we were wired so similarly. No matter what awful issues plagued you toward the end of your life, you were still my pride and joy.Recently dad and I were reminiscing about you, talking about cute things you did as a kid, your athletic gifts (dad has all your trophies displayed), your love for Brooklynn, and your struggles. There we stood in his garage, crying as we remembered our beautiful boy. Dad said, “I just try to remind myself how grateful I am to have had him for 25 years.” And grateful we are.Love,BarbP.S. For those who don’t know why I called you Blue or why you called me Barb, I will share…. When Chris was a little boy I referred to him as my Little Boy Blue, which later, when he grew taller than me, was truncated to just Blue. He started calling me Barb when he was seven years old in response to his little sister’s attempt to say “mom,” which somehow sounded like she was saying barb. Chris thought it was really funny so after that he called me Barb for the rest of his life.…………………………….Eileen Spatz is a freelance writer in San Clemente, CA. Since losing her son, Chris, to alcoholism/depression-related suicide, Eileen now specializes in writing about addiction, mental health, and dual diagnosis in hopes of educating others and removing the associated stigma. Please support the valiant efforts of COA!