I wish I could make them stop–all those important dates on the calendar–from Emily’s birthdate to her death date to all of the holidays she loved so much. Every year they just keep coming and I want them to go away. I don’t want to be forced to think about missing another birthday with my daughter, or how many years she has been gone. Yet the calendar is relentless in its torture of my wounded heart. The dates come and the dates go and here I am left to forge ahead in life without her.
I miss my daughter every day, but most days I focus on my purpose and tasks at hand. However, as her birthday nears, March 23, I find myself getting sucked back into the pit of despair as grief swallows me like a dark cloud. I found myself alone this morning when a song by Rob Thomas started playing and these were the lyrics that led to a horrible sadness welling up inside me, my chest heaving and I felt as though my broken heart could take no more:
“And she says, “Ooh, I can’t take no more
Her tears like diamonds on the floor
And her diamonds bring me down
‘Cause I can’t help her now
She’s down in it
She tried her best and now she can’t win
It’s hard to see them on the ground
Her diamonds falling down.”
The lyrics reminded me of how sad and lost Emily seemed toward the end of her life and no matter what I tried to do, I failed to help her. This is not how Emily’s life was supposed to play out. Emily was like a cluster of brilliant diamonds with so many gifts and talents. But she took a dark turn in her teenage years and all of her diamonds fell on the floor. I tried scrambling after her to pick them up, but it wasn’t up to me. Emily did try her best to get out of the deep hole that drugs created in her life, but she was too down in it. These lyrics also speak to my broken heart. I tried everything in my power to save my daughter and I couldn’t win. My precious diamond, my Emily, fell and I can’t help her now.
On my children’s birthdays, I served them their meals on our “special plate.” Some of the writing has since rubbed off the back. On her 12th birthday, Emily wrote on this plate. I also still have her writing from when she graduated from elementary school and won the President’s Award for her grades. The fact that the writing is now smudged represents just how temporary everything is in this life. I thought as a parent I was doing all I could to raise a healthy, happy human. Addiction doesn’t discriminate and it robs us of our loved ones, either slowly, or in one fell swoop, as is the case with fentanyl poisoning. I started losing Emily long before she died as the drugs took over her brain and her soul. Yet, on every birthday, I still strived to make her feel loved and ever so special.
Recently I had lunch with one of Emily’s best friends from childhood, now a full-grown woman with a career and a child. I have always loved this girl like one of my own and we reminisced about Emily and the days before she took a dark path, leaving her friend behind. I could almost feel Emily’s presence, right there with us at that table. Although it was bittersweet–while I’m so happy for this young woman now coming into her own–I know that’s something I will never see for my daughter. Huge chunks of life unlived; all potential and possibilities out the window and flown away forever at just 21.
Faith, Hope & Courage,
*You can help mark Emily’s 26th birthday by making a donation to Emily’s Hope.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angela Kennecke is a journalist who lost her 21-year-old daughter Emily to fentanyl poisoning on May 16, 2018. Angela is on a mission to put an end to this epidemic by stopping the stigma and promoting the treatment of substance use disorder as the disease it is.