I held the canister steady while she aimed and poured in the fine powder from a plastic bag. We were in a dark, old-world hotel room in the Waldorf Astoria in Chicago. In the dimness of that room, with its heavy drapes and poor lighting, we handled Sammy’s ashes delicately. I knew such a finely ground powder would have residue that would land on our clothes, in our hair and even in our mouths. The ashes left a coating on the counter, too. We looked at each other and knew we’d ingested some. We laughed. She touched the ashes and moved them around. She spoke to them: “I love you.” She bent down and licked them. I looked at her, then reached my own hand in the powder. I licked it off my finger. She said, “Now you have Sammy’s DNA in you.” I said, “Good, I’m glad,” then added, “How about we roll up a fifty and snort some?” We laughed again. She was surprised by how I was seemingly unfazed by what we just did. Unfazed? I was honored to be so trusted by her that she asked for my help with such an intimate and precious moment in this journey of her grief.
I have lit memorial candles, cried in bed, texted, called, Zoomed, visited and even cuddled with her in that hotel room. I am only one in a group of women she calls her soul sisters. We are unconditional. We are her home team. We are her family. She thanked us through tears on that beach. We felt her sincerity and felt grateful, because she allowed herself to receive our love, energy and everything spiritual that was floated her way. This was not easy for her, as she was born a maternal soul. Being in need is almost foreign to her. She was my best friend in college, but, surprisingly, she also had the role of a matriarch for me. Whenever I was uncertain, she guided me. I like to jokingly say that she raised me from 1986-1990. She did the same for her own mother and countless other people I’m sure.
The ceremony for Sammy was the next morning. She had flown with his ashes in her carry-on, so she could sprinkle them under a tree on a Lake Michigan beachfront. She raised her boys in Chicago and somehow knew this particular tree was where Sammy could rest. Only 16, he was poisoned by Fentanyl when he swallowed a pill he thought was a Xanax or Percocet. Never an addict, he was experimenting with a drug he had just bought from a dealer on Snapchat. And, just like that, a boy was found lifeless on his bedroom floor, and my beautiful friend’s life would unravel. She was thrown into a universe whose residents didn’t want to be there. On February 7th, 2021 she chose to reach into the deepest parts of her conscious and unconscious minds to do something most of us take for granted, which is just simply function and survive. She had no other choice, because, when her other two sons asked if she would kill herself now that Sammy was gone, she said, “No” with certainty.
She is gifted with an intuition, where she can sense people’s vulnerabilities and frailties. If she loves you, she strokes these soft spots without you even realizing she’s doing it. Now, she’s learning to stroke and swaddle herself. We are trained to “cry and get it over with” and “put on a brave face.” FUCK THAT. She lets herself cry for long periods and really feel it in her being. If she wants to stay in bed, she does. And, she dances her ass off on videos posted online, not caring what she looks like. Mothers who’ve lost children tell her that her naked honesty and dancing have helped them get out of their own beds. All I can say about that is, “Wow.”
The day she scattered Sammy’s ashes was a day I’ll remember always. I watched her get down on her knees and smear his ashes into the sand at the base of that tree. Both of her hands were moving in unison, and I’m sure she didn’t even realize that. There was the sound of women stifling cries and sniffling. Her oldest son was standing next to her, having shaken the last of the ashes on the ground. Six months after his death, it was the final moment of Sammy’s physical odyssey on earth. As tragic as it was to watch, there was a lot of beauty in it.
The ceremony ended with us blowing bubbles and eating bagels. Then later that night, she and I were back in our dark hotel room. We lied in bed in our bathrobes and ordered a bottle of wine up to the room. Uber Eats delivered some Asian food—vegetarian for her and meat-laden for me, of course. We rented a movie, which absolutely sucked, so we rented another movie. That one sucked even worse. We laughed and drifted off to sleep.
Four days later, I received these texts from her: “Woke up at 4:15 am Mon night and never went back to sleep. Then yesterday got this message from [her medium, psychic, healer friend]: ‘Sammy left the house at 4:27 am this morning! He has crossed! He will be sending signs he said…but from the other side…not a [ghost anymore].’” She explained to me that once we let him go at the beach, he was finally ready to cross over. I was so happy for her, because I could feel her relief and pure joy in the text. Then last night, she told me that a lamp in her house would flicker and dim constantly the week that Sammy died. She’d whisper, “Sammy, stop it!” She checked the wires and tried tightening the bulb, which was actually a new bulb. Then last night, she turned on the light, and it shone bright and steady. She sent me a picture to prove it. “He’s keeping his promise,” I wrote.
I dedicate this blog to my friend and all of the other mothers who have lost children to Fentanyl poisoning. I can’t pretend to understand your pain and trauma, but I can certainly lend my support and compassion. You are the bravest people.
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