Yesterday one of my Facebook friends shared a link to an obituary; a photo of a young mom beaming, wearing a baby on her back, went with the simple headline: Obituary: Madelyn Linsenmeir, 1988-2018.
The friend’s Facebook status simply said, “Wow. Read this.”
And so I did.
What followed was one of the most heartbreaking essays I have ever read. It was the story of Madelyn’s life: the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly. It was a reminder that a person is so. much. MORE than they way he or she died.
But in the end, Madelyn Linsenmeir’s life ended tragically, and nearly half of it was lived that way, because, as her obituary says, when the incredibly kind, talented, fun-loving Maddie “was 16, she moved with her parents from Vermont to Florida to attend a performing arts high school. Soon after she tried OxyContin for the first time at a high school party, and so began a relationship with opiates that would dominate the rest of her life.”
Madelyn Linsenmeir’s obituary is a thing of dichotomous beauty; it is carefully crafted to truly celebrate her life but also expose the disease that led to her death. Opioid addiction in insidious and it is no respecter of persons; it does not discriminate between the person who was raised in poverty, abused and neglected, and the person who was raised and cherished in a house full of love and given every opportunity to succeed. It comes in an alters your brain in an instant, so that one choice made as an immature teen or one bad accident or injury can lead to a lifetime of battle against the disease of addiction.
It is an enemy that works to eclipse the beautiful person whom it ravages. It attaches to them a stigma so great that people stop seeing their soul. And what a mistake that is for those of us who put those blinders on. As Maddie’s obituary says:
To some, Maddie was just a junkie — when they saw her addiction, they stopped seeing her. And what a loss for them. Because Maddie was hilarious, and warm, and fearless, and resilient. She could and would talk to anyone, and when you were in her company you wanted to stay. In a system that seems to have hardened itself against addicts and is failing them every day, she befriended and delighted cops, social workers, public defenders and doctors, who advocated for and believed in her ’til the end. She was adored as a daughter, sister, niece, cousin, friend and mother, and being loved by Madelyn was a constantly astonishing gift.
Most loved by Madelyn Linsenmeir was her son Ayden, who her obituary says, was her biggest inspiration to fight her disease. “After having Ayden,” it says, “Maddie tried harder and more relentlessly to stay sober than we have ever seen anyone try at anything. But she relapsed and ultimately lost custody of her son, a loss that was unbearable.”
People addicted to drugs are just that: people first and always. This young mom was embroiled in a battle that she lost, but not one that she did not fight.
And there is really nothing in this world but the grace of God that can keep your child or mine from doing the same, except this: talk to them.
Parents, talk to your child about that ONE CHOICE that they can make that may alter their lives forever, that may steal their dreams and potential. Science says our kids’ brains act without truly understanding consequences; and though Maddie is so much more than a cautionary tale, I will sit down with my teen tonight and read the story of her life. Because if he remembers Maddie one day when he is at the crossroads of a similar choice to the one she faced at that high school party, perhaps THAT will be enough to give him the courage to say “no.”
To Maddie’s family: thank you for sharing about Maddie’s life and her disease with such candor. You have truly suffered an indescribable loss, and I have truly been privileged to learn about your daughter. I will never forget her, and I pray her son will be surrounded with her love and presence as you all move forward. Much love and prayer to you and your brave family.
To my readers: please read Maddie’s entire obituary. And then take action in your own home and have the first of many conversations with your kids about addiction.