Thursday, November 30, 2006


Guilt.....I was trying to find him a roommate near where he worked and he didn't want to live with a stranger...probably because he knew that he couldn't live as he was, drinking, drugs, with "non users". I am afraid he thought I was going to force him to do it. Maybe he took those final Oxys because of it.

Guilt.....He would "threaten" to move back to Ohio and I said "go", but go when you have your life in order, don't go back with "your tail between your legs". Maybe he was trying to tell me that he needed to escape the drugs, drinking, violence in NJ. I know that the drugs and drinking was as bad back in Ohio, but in Ohio he had friends that cared about him and would have had his "back". Maybe he would have been alive if I had not made it look like he was failing if he went back.

Guilt....I am so afraid that he could see the pity, sorrow and sadness in my eyes when he looked at me. If he saw what I felt...maybe he felt like his life was hopeless.

Guilt....When I bailed him out of jail, after letting him sit there for almost 48 hours in a tiny cell with 2 extra large men that were in for murder and they were telling him not to sleep at night because they were going to *****, he walked out, looked at me with a big smile and arms out and I refused to hug him because I was so mad at him for being picked up drunk and with pills.

Guilt...I tried to talk him into going into the Coast Guard or the Military. I even got a recruiters number. I thought it would help him to become focused and be a positive thing. He looked at me with those gentle brown eyes and asked me if I wanted him to go to Iraq and get killed.

The guilt goes on and on...........It is not easy to look back at everything that I said because so often I was reacting to his "problems" that at the time affected my "quality of life". My time was spent "fixing" his problems and worrying about him.

Now that he is gone, my time is spent grieving for him.

This is my "normal" now.

When no one is in the house and I am having an exceptionally bad day, I loudly say,
" Austin, look what you have done to me, your Mother! How can I live without you? You are my heart!!"

When I am struggling to move heavy furniture up the stairs, I say, "Austin, baby, I need your help!" The weight is lessened and I move things a 5' 5", 110 lbs. woman should not be able to lift. I can hear him say, like dozens of times before, " Here, Mom, let me help you. You shouldn't be doing that yourself."

And I write to him. But mostly I cry. All the time. Everywhere I go. I went to one Compassionate Friends meeting and I could not even say my name. I couldn't quit crying.
My therapist put me on Lexapro a month after Austin died and I lost all emotion, I couldn't cry at his grave, even. I went off of it in less than a week.
I want to feel the pain. I want to hurt. This is my "normal" now.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Our kid's addictions have taken "reality" from us.

Our kids' addictions have taken "reality" from us. Our emotions when we were with them would change from anguish to pure joy in seconds. We have done things that we never expected to ever do.

Austin was picked up in Camden County, NJ for speeding and they found pot. He was put on probation and had to report to his probation officer once a month. Downtown Camden is VERY scary. In the evening, he would be in a line on the sidewalk leading to the offices, with really hardcore criminal-types. He would take cigarettes with him to smoke so he would appear tough. (he didn't smoke)

I would sit in the car for hours waiting, the car running, double don't dare park where you could be blocked in and robbed. Once, in the darkness, a man threw his hands on my window and yelled "give me money!" I hit the panic button on my key ring and I yelled back "Go away!" He did.

Then Austin would jump in the car and say "Lets get out of here!" We would feel relief as we left the dangerous streets of Camden.

Every week, Austin would give his probation officer a payment towards his fine…totaling
$1,750.00. At the end of his probation, he received a notice in the mail that he was not getting his driver’s license back until he paid back the fine of $1,750.00 plus delinquent fines. We had to pay it….again. His probation officer was pocketing the money Austin gave him.

This is typical in that world and one cannot do anything about it. Remember... Camden is in a "police state", the Mayor and all his friends are in jail for drug trafficking.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sudden, heartbreaking grief...

A few months ago, in a city I don't even remember, I was staring out of my hotel room window when a flock of large birds (I think sea gulls) flew by. There was a loud crash as one hit my window. I stepped closer to the window and saw all but one bird fly on.

The lone bird sat perched on a chimney directly across from me and appeared dazed. It would cock his head this way and that. I assumed it was trying to recover from hitting the window. I couldn't quit watching it, I just stood there staring. Suddenly, it flew down to the rooftop below me... at this point my nose was up against the window pane, waiting to see what the bird was doing.
He swooped down by a dead bird, apparently the one that had actually hit the window. He sat there for a moment, nudging the fallen bird, as if to try to revive it.

The grieved bird suddenly picked the fallen, dead bird up with its claws and flew off above the rooftops, towards the trees in the horizon, never dropping the dead bird even though they were the same size. I watched until they were out of sight.
I felt like I was watching a glimpse of grief that we don't normally see or even think of, in animals. The heartbroken bird couldn't leave his companion alone, even in death.
We aren't the only ones to know grief.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The funeral memories..

I don't know how I got through those first few weeks, the funeral was surreal, memories are in bits and pieces, my husband and others either filled in the blanks or jolted memories to surface.

The funeral director gave me a lock of Austin's hair.

At the grave site, after the service and music and people were starting to walk away. I turned toward Austin's vault and his father was standing at the foot of the vault. Mike, his Dad, picked up the vault on one end and crying said, "Austin, my son, I'm picking you up one last time." It was so touching. We all cried.

I thought that they say you wake up in the morning and it takes a second to "remember", then the nightmare washes over you . But not me, I have never had a moment I forgot. Although for a while I would run back into the house to grab my cell before getting into the car because I thought Austin may call and tell me he changed his mind.

DNA in a plastic zip lock bag

I wish that I had thought to keep more unwashed clothes of Austin's, but I was totally unprepared to deal with the loss of him. I just did what I thought I was "supposed" to do. Which was clean up, give to charity, box up and store away and even throw away his belongings. No one told me "what to do" except I knew that I had to empty his apt. quickly and I was afraid that I would be responsible for the remainder of his lease because I co-signed for him. I kept his folded laundry on top of my dryer for a long time (until I replaced the old dryer) because it looked like he may came home and, grab his clothes, and say, "Thanks, Mom, you didn't have to do that!", like he always did. I did take his washcloth and bar of soap from his shower...thinking that I would always have his DNA in a plastic zip lock bag.I miss that big teddy bear of a sweet kid so bad...

Austin Loved the Outdoors.

Austin and I used to watch Steve Irwin on TV all the time. Austin was very interested in The Crocodile Hunter, National Geographic and anything about the outdoors and animals.

When I cleaned out his apartment, a week after his funeral, I found a bucket of water (in the kitchen) with a small fish in it still swimming around. I am sure he caught it in the creek behind his apt. and thought he would keep it as a pet. So typical Austin!

When he was a child, he brought every living thing he could find home with him. One time our cleaning lady went screaming through the house, yelling at the top of her lungs that there was the biggest bug she'd ever seen crawling in the sunroom. It was Austin's crawl dad (cray fish) that he had gotten out of a creek and had escaped his aquarium.
The next day on my door step, there was a short, but to the point, note that said....

Mrs. B.,

I have enjoyed cleaning for you and your family.
However I shall not be returning.
Sincerely,M. M.

Such sweet memories of raising 2 boys in a small town in midwestern USA.....

Monday, October 30, 2006

Bittersweet Dreams

I was in London, England last weekend and found a little peace. Saturday morning I had a dream of Austin. So real. He was about 10 years old and lying down, asleep. I was leaning toward him, crying and thinking, "I hope my sweet baby doesn't know that he is going to die young. I don't want him to know what the future holds for him." He looked so sweet and innocent. I laid my hand on his arm and rubbed it. I felt his skin. Really. When I woke, I felt a mixture of sadness, from knowing his fate and happiness, from touching his warm skin. I can still feel his soft, warm skin.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

We are losing our sons...

This awful life-altering grief is such a paradox. At once I feel so alone and disconnected from the world, yet I have such empathy for the pain and suffering of everyone.
Last month, on a commuter plane from Charlotte, NC to Wilmington, NC, 95 % of the seats were filled with somber, healthy 18-21 yr old boys on their way to Fort Bragg, NC. I cried on the whole flight, knowing that their future was uncertain. Many would be going to Iraq and returning to the parents less than whole, physically, emotionally, or not at all. They looked like sweet, gentle, scared little boys. It broke my heart.

Austin's (political statement) tenth Halloween

Austin's (tin soldier) fourth Halloween

Austin's (Orphan Annie) third Halloween with Ryan (clown) and Mom

Austin's second Halloween

Austin first Halloween with his brother, Ryan

Friday, October 13, 2006

Really gonna miss you...

The Loss of a Son to Oxycontin

We took Austin back to Circleville, Ohio, where he grew up, for his funeral.

All his family, friends, their parents, his teachers from school were there for his funeral. After his graveside service, his friends asked if they could play a song for him. They had brought a CD player, speakers, etc. They played a Smokey Robinson song, "I'm really gonna miss you, my friend".

Everybody sobbed...

I Miss You
Really gonna miss you.
It's really gonna be different without you.
Time is going to be hard and slow.
For the rest of my life, going to be thinking about you.
Yes I am. Time came when you had to go.
"I'll miss you my buddy. I'll miss you my friend.
I'll promise my love for you will never end."
In your finest hour, I was there with you.
And without you things won't be the same.
there's a higher power that we answer to and you heard him calling your name.
"Really gonna miss you.
Everything about you. Your smiling face.
I know you want us all to be strong.
I'm really gonna miss you."
I know you've gone to that magic place -- singing you a brand new song.
Really gonna miss you.

-Smokey Robinson

I am desperately seeking solace.

The Loss of a Son to Oxycontin

I am desperately trying to find solace and meaning to my life.

My other son, Ryan, is 28 and lives in Ohio. He is doing well and I am proud of him and thankful that he has his life together. I don't know what I am supposed to do now that I am no longer needed as a Mother.

My husband is very supportive of me, I travel with him on business trips, I don't want for anything, yet I am an empty shell of a person.

I feel like I have fallen into a deep, empty well and have no hope of climbing out.

Austin talked to me about the things he did.

The Loss of a Son to Oxycontin

Austin talked to me about the things he did, the places he went, the risks he took. He told me of going to a street corner in Philadelphia, with his girlfriend, for drugs. The dealer told them to meet him in a nearby drug house. Austin walked in and immediately Brielle was grabbed by a second dealer and Austin had a sawed off shotgun pointed at his head. Austin was 6' 3", 270 lbs. and because his girlfriend was in danger, he went into a survival mode. He threw Brielle out the door and wrestled the gun away from those heathens. He survived that night.

But that addictive lifestyle has no happy ending. Brielle went looking for drugs in Philly by herself and ended up raped and beaten, probably more than once. Austin had his apt. and truck broken into and many things stolen. He had his pet snake sliced and left dying.

Towards the end, ....Brielle, the girl he loved, wanted to marry and have babies with, the girl who he went into the relationship trying to get her off drugs and ended up using them himself........

In the end, I was in California and couldn't reach Austin. In a panic, because I thought he might be in jail, I called Brielle. Her Grandmother answered, and said, "I am sorry but Austin was found dead yesterday." I am sure you know the deep, primal scream that rose from deep inside me.

Nothing prepares you for those words.

Why are we sending our sons to Iraq?

The Loss of a Son to Oxycontin

"For it is impossible for a man to put forward fair and honest views about our affairs if he has not, like everyone else, children whose lives may be at stake"
-Aspasia, ancient Greece

Why do we send young boys to fight for us??

I suppose the young boys are more vulnerable and easily influenced to fight wars they don't even understand... As my son was vulnerable to outside influence. I think about the pain and anguish their families are going through. I imagine it drives them crazy knowing their sons died in the horrors of war.

I (a mother) would have gone to war and tried to destroy those that were responsible for the deaths in NYC on 9-11.

But that is not the war we are sending our precious sons into.

I identified his body at the morgue.

The Loss of a Son to Oxycontin

I identified his body at the morgue read and reread the reports, I spoke to the Medical Examiner, the policeman who was at his apartment, the maintenance man who found him after his girlfriend ran screaming out of the apartment. I sat on the sofa where they found him sitting up with his head on his arm like he had drifted off to sleep watching TV.

I wanted to feel and know and understand everything he had gone through those last few hours of his sweet, precious life. I wanted to be "inside his body", I wanted to change places with him. Or at least be with him, part of him, take away his pain, look after him as he leaves this earth......

But I am uncomfortable with TV shows showing autopsies, even the News, how they disrespect families by showing covered bodies being taken from murder scenes, reporters asking questions of grieving family members as they are sobbing....The public is so insensitive and as a whole the world has been desensitized.

I feel hypersensitive now. I think of all the sadness in each obituary I read, every ambulance I hear, every sad news story, every young soldier that dies.....

Bye, Austin, I love you.

The Loss of a Son to Oxycontin

I have so many emotions.... guilt from my ignorance of drug addiction, not knowing how to help him, demanding that he "just grow up", it was all useless in fixing the real problem. He once said, "Mom, I know you are trying to help me, but you are going about it the wrong way." Unfortunately, he never told me how to help him.

Last summer, he was given a leave of absence from his job "dispatcher for a trucking company" (he was so good at his job!). I took advantage of him being in his apartment during the day and I visited him several times a day. I took away his car (so he couldn't go into Philly for drugs), gave him a bicycle, a phone card, (took away his cell phone, so he couldn't call drug dealers), took away all his cash (I paid his bills, so he couldn't buy drugs), I took him out to lunch every day and took him to the grocery store, so he would not be hungry. And every day, I sat with him and told him everything I wanted him to happy I was when he was born, what a sweet child he was growing up...little excerpts from his life.

I would put my fist on my heart and say, with sadness " You are my heart." Then I would walk down the hall to his front door and say, " Bye, Austin, I love you." and he would say, "Bye, Mom, me, too."

His girlfriend, had a really bad drug problem, Austin actually entered the relationship thinking he could get her clean, but , in fact, she turned him into an addict, She would "date" guys for money and drugs for Austin and her. She procured the Oxycoton that killed my baby. She left him to die alone on a Thursday night.

Austin Nicholas Barthen
Feb.26, 1981 - Sep. 16, 2005

"You are my heart."

The Loss of a Son to Oxycontin

I talked to Austin daily last summer, he was told to leave his job and not come back until he got his life in order. The drug use was affecting his performance on the job.

Everyday, I was with him, talking, buying him food and telling him "You are my heart". He said he was going to be OK and by the time he was 30 he would pay me back all the money I spent on fines, bills, etc...$30,000 worth of keeping him out of trouble, in a safe place and fed. It was all the money I had. I would just look at him and sadly smile. I hope he didn't see the hopelessness in my face. I felt like my son was slowly dying and there was nothing I could do about it. He refused to believe that drugs were a real problem and could lead to his death.

In death, Austin has reached out to Ryan and watched over him. Ryan has transformed into an amazing man. Ryan tells me that he will not put me through again what I went through with Austin. I love my boys.

"Mom, Why are you doing this to yourself?"

The Loss of a Son to Oxycontin

One day when I was having an exceptionally bad day, I was sitting on the floor, sobbing, surrounded by Austin's pictures, birth certificate, death certificate, obituary and all the other papers that I ended up with....Literally, I was torturing myself........I could clearly hear Austin say in a sad tone, "Mom, Why are you doing this to yourself?" I can just picture him looking down at me and shaking his head.

Unconditional Love

The Loss of a Son to Oxycontin

When I was at my wits end dealing with Austin and trying to figure out what to do, I read everything on the net I could. Most of what I read was along the lines of "Tough Love". Then I came across a mother saying that she was not going to kick her son out of the house. She wanted to know that he had a roof over his head, a bed to sleep in, and food in his stomach. She didn't give him money or condone his behavior. That really struck a chord with me.

That is what I decided to do for Austin. He had his own apartment, but he was going to lose it because he was on leave from his work until he "got clean". He had no income, so he was to move in with me. I bought him groceries, took him with me to restaurants, gave him a bicycle (he lost his license), gave him a phone card (didn't want him to have a cell phone because he would call dealers) and I spent a lot of time with him talking about everything. I am so glad I spent the time with him. He died 3-4 days before he would have moved back in with me.

Oh, I have regrets...a week before he died, he asked me to take him to see "Dukes of Hazard" movie and I told him I was too busy. But I am so glad that I took care of his basic needs. I guess all our kids need unconditional love. That doesn't mean we like what they do.

Today I Buried My Son

The Loss of a Son to Oxycontin

Those words "Today, I buried my son" is something no parent should ever have to say. Today I was going through photographs and came across a photo of me in an airplane, on my way to bury my son. I looked so bewildered and confused. I remember it being so surreal at the time.

As odd as it seems, strangers have given me the most comfort. And they don't say stupid things like, he is in a better place, you are lucky to have another son, etc.

The gap growing longer...

The Loss of a Son to Oxycontin

I wish time would stand still, I don't want a year, months, days, hours seconds to add up, making the time without Austin even more. If I can't have the day before he died back, at least I want the day after.

I don't want the gap growing longer.

Memories of Grief

The Loss of a Son to Oxycontin

I can hardly remember what it was like those first few days after Austin died. The thoughts, visions, flashes of memories, conversations with all kept replaying in a super-fast motion. I felt like I was propelled into a lifetime of memories every day, hour, minute, second. It was all a blur. Now, it is the same horrific emotions, memories, sound bytes, but slower, as in a slow motion film. It was a year ago, Sept. 16th, 2005 that my son, Austin died in NJ, minutes from Philadelphia, from Oxycontins.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

"I Am"

The Loss of a Son to Oxycontin

Four weeks after Austin died, I flew back to Columbus, Ohio and got a room with two double beds at the Westin, Great Southern Hotel. Ryan, Austin's big brother (although Austin is 4 yrs. younger, they always looked after each other) was driving in from Michigan and met me there.

We went to sleep with a nightstand w/clock radio and my glass of water between us.At 6:00am the radio started blaring. Ryan reached over and shut it off. At 6:30am it went off again. My glass of water seemingly was lifted up and drenched me in the face. Ryan shut the radio off again! Austin was really trying to get our attention!

When we woke up at 800am, Ryan was shaking. He said "Mom, I had a dream that was so real. I know that Austin really spoke to me. I was sitting in a booth and Austin walked in wearing plaid boxers and a t-shirt and his hair was messed up like he just woke up." (this is what we found out he was wearing when he died, later) "He sat down across from me and explained to me that he accidently took too many Oxycontins and there wasn't anything that could be done to save him." (at this point Ryan is crying) Ryan said, "No, Austin, something can be done, you can't leave us! You have to always stay with me!" Now, Ryan really broke down. He said that Austin looked at him and smiled the way he would always smile at him when he knew that Ryan wouldn't be able to understand. And then he said something...but the thing is...Ryan couldn't remember! Ryan was heart-broken because he couldn't remember the last thing Austin told him.

Later that day, I was driving back to NJ with a friend, he called my cell phone. Ryan was yelling, "I remember! It just came back to me so clearly! When I said You have to always stay with me!.....

Austin said "I am"."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

My Angel Son

The Loss of a Son to Oxycontin

When Austin was 5 yrs. old he drew me a picture of an angel! He was standing on the ground, beside a tree, under a sun. With big, beautiful angel wings. A few days later I found an antique cameo (for $1.00!) at a shop, edged in solid gold with a cherub face and wings, I swear it looked like him, with his curly, blonde hair. I put it on a gold chain and wore it. He looked up at it and said, "Mommy, don't wear that, I'm not an angel yet."

I kept it...and now I wear it. I kept his angel-boy self portrait, also. I guess in some way, we both knew that his life was to be short. He always seemed able to understand things that were unexplainable.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Loss of a Son to Oxycontin

The Loss of a Son to Oxycontin

I lost my wonderful baby boy Sept. 16,2005 at the young age of 24 to Oxycoton. I am in intense and overwelming grief. And guilt for not understanding that "hitting bottom" means death. I thought once he hit bottom, he would realize that he needed rehab. I want my Austin back! Oxycoton killed a intellegent, sweet, handsome, wonderful 6'3". 270 lb. gentle giant of a boy that had everything going for him. My mind can't comprehend the finality of death.