My parents often joke that I live my life through “rose-colored glasses,” and I suppose that’s at least partially true. I’m not entirely sure if I’d classify myself as an optimist, but if given the choice between half-empty or half-full, I’d likely choose the latter.
I guess it’s these “rose-colored glasses” that are making the recent death of a high school classmate a little difficult to grasp.
T* and I were not the best of friends, nor were we really friends at all, but we were without a doubt friendly acquaintances, to say the least. For four years, we shared a homeroom and had a few classes together throughout our high school careers. Actually, T was the very first person at my alma matar to extend a friendly gesture my direction when I was starting at a completely new school, filled with nearly 1,200 students, but only a half-dozen familiar faces. Her game of “tiddly winks” during freshman orientation made me feel more welcome than I thought I would.
And here I sit, almost 10 years later to the day, in shock that this former classmate’s life ended following a lethal dose of heroin**.
Today was T’s funeral, back in Scranton. Tears were shed and hearts broke as loved ones said their final goodbyes to a girl who spent less than a quarter-century on this earth. It’s an absolute shame that her life had to cease so soon because of something entirely reckless and rash.
Heroin is something most people never know outside of movies, TV and other fiction, and that is how it’s always been for me. I’ve never encountered or been near the substance, nor have I known anyone - to my knowledge – who even dabbled in this deadly drug. But T’s death brings its usage a little closer to home, even if the two of us never cultivated a close relationship.
This is a girl who I can vividly picture in my mind, who I can still hear laugh, whose sarcasm could easily fill a room. A person who was an honors student and a future social worker. Yet her life stopped at the age of 24 due to addiction. And while I wish I could say it was a complete and utter surprise, I can’t. Unfortunately, despite T’s ability to make anyone smile, her reputation also carried a history of drug use and at least one stint in rehab that the entire 2003 graduating class likely heard about. I just thought, or perhaps assumed, she had more sense than to push that substance problem too far, toward her own demise.
I don’t often think about issues like drug and alcohol abuse. They seem so foreign to me, so outside my own life, that they aren’t something I seriously consider on even an irregular basis. But it takes something tragic like this to bring a variety of questions – What’s the allure of drugs, even pot? Why make it a habit? Why do it if you know its potential consequences? Why, why, why? Etc. – to the forefront of my mind. And sadly, I know I’ll never find the answers I truly seek.
If anything at all comes from T’s death, I hope it’s a lesson for those of us who knew her – or who knew of her – to think a bit more, to appreciate life a bit more, to take this one existence we have as seriously as possible. My heart absolutely breaks when I imagine what her family is going through during this difficult time. To be honest, I’m not even sure I could adequately visualize the sorrow and pain they must feel. And to think that it was heroin, of all things, that caused it? It simply leaves me bewildered and baffled.
I hope T rests in peace and that some sort of lesson arises from her death. It’s incredibly unfortunate that it takes moments like these for people like myself to stop and consider drug use and its effects, but maybe this is the kind of wakeup call we need.
* For some reason, I hesitate to use her name. Sorry folks.
** Her obituary didn’t state a cause of death, nor was a news article written. However, all indications and word of mouth indicate a heroin overdose.