Updated: Nov 1, 2021
My son Chad died alone. There were others in the house. Five others partying in the living room, while my son was in his rented bedroom, laughing (they say) and then later (was it moments or hours?) breathing his last. They said he came home around six in the morning, and others told me (in the following days) that they had seen him at an AA meeting the night before. I don’t know how that all went together, but nothing ever makes sense in these kinds of things.
Later that day, around six pm, my youngest son and I, after not being able to reach him, (and knowing in my heart that something was terribly wrong) drove over to his place (which we never did because it was just a house where a bunch of guys - supposedly sober - lived) to see what was up. It was evident when we walked into his room. Chad had died.
It was his fourth or fifth time of two years of sobriety. I really thought we were out of the woods. I actually thought I had prayed him sober. (Well, whaddya know...it doesn't really work that way but honestly that's for a different article.)
The relapses were usually about Chad wanting one last hurrah and then he'd get back on the sobriety train. This time it didn't work out so well. This time he didn't know there was fentanyl in this (truly) last hurrah.
I fell to my knees when we found him. Said a few prayerful words which are personal and private and all mine. Then the nightmare unfolded over the next few hours. The yellow tape came out and I had to leave the room and things had to be ruled out - like foul play and other things. I sat in a camp chair in the driveway with nice people from the trauma unit of the police department, and my son Nick (Chad's brother and my only surviving son - I remember clearly knowing that fact that night) was there and other friends were there too thanks be to God. I held onto walls when I had to walk back inside to use the restroom, shaky and out of my body. The policeman had to escort me because it was a crime scene after all. It was a really bad deal going through all that. It was really really really bad. I don't know how but I did get up the next morning, and I somehow took a shower too. And then there was a funeral to plan and people coming to town and I don't know how I got through any of that. Well wait a minute yes I do. It was grace alone and I promise you I do believe that.
I am sometimes deeply disturbed by the fact that Chad was alone. And then I imagine that he wasn’t alone. I imagine that he was surrounded by angels. I believe this, and if I ever waffle about it, I force myself to believe this. He WAS surrounded by angels. He was, he was, he was. They escorted him into heaven. (I believe there were others too, others who have gone before him, escorting him, but no reason to dilute this story here.)
I keep thinking of the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz saying "I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks, I do, I do, I do!"... except I'm proclaiming angels. "I do believe in angels! I do, I do, I do!"
The angels went with Chad, and they also stayed with Nick and me. They surrounded us and other family members in the following days. I felt them, and I felt ALL the prayers. So many prayers from so many people.
Of course, the angels are still with Chad in heaven now. But that’s not really the issue. I mean, I know that Chad is quite fine in heaven. He couldn’t be in a better place. I knew THAT when I fell to my knees next to his body. It’s me that isn’t quite fine. But trying to be. Giving it the old college try, and then some. At times I still think of the angels. They are here with me, when I’m ok, and when I’m not okay.
Chad's not alone. I'm not alone. Angels surround us. Always.
"I do believe in angels, I do I do I do!"
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