I miss that beautiful curly hair and his sense of humor. I miss his tall, skinny hugs and the way he altered his voice when he greeted his dog, Andy, and the dog’s reaction of pure joy. I miss the way he smiled with his eyes.
I miss the conversations we had in my office. Those days he’d come in after school, sit in his Dad’s chair and talk. He would tell me the stories that touched his heart.
To Charles, everybody mattered.
Their stories mattered and he was never too busy to listen and connect. As smart and talented as he was, this was Charles’ greatest gift and it’s what I miss the most. Charles kept up with people, a trait that is so much like my Dad who has never wanted anyone to feel abandoned or left out.
When my kids were teens I expected to hear, “I hate you,” at some point. Charles said it once to me. Only once. And he suffered from it far more than I did.
I have read in his music how many times he regretted saying that phrase that one time. It ate him up. He hugged me and said he was sorry later while he sobbed.
The light of our lives, the spark that lit the flame of fun is gone from us. His creative genius, soulful nature, complex problems, his heartfelt hugs and his utter lack of any practical sense whatsoever– all part of his charm. All of his made-up rules, made-up board games, stage presence, knack of holding an audience in his hands, his gift for rapping freestyle, his endearing and genuine charm, his sweet boyish face and uniqueness. Gone.
His suicide was the result of a perfect storm. An opiate epidemic combined with a pathetic lack of mental health resources and a stigma that drove him to hide his illnesses.
Charles was a casualty of a broken system where we’ll throw billions at a mosquito virus that has killed one before funding an epidemic that has been raging for 3 years and has killed at least 165k people in the US since 1999.
Our lives were often a living hell the last 5 years of his life– chaos caused by inconsistent treatment for anxiety, drug abuse, depression and stubbornness, all made worse by his ultimate addiction to heroin the last 5 months of his life.
While heroin sucked the life out of my child, there were moments the “real Charles” was with us.
After his death, my son inspires me to reach out to others, speak out and make a difference. Many times I’m not even sure why I write what I do but I have learned to go with my gut. I’ve never been impulsive but he left some of his own with me.
There is nothing that can replace that craving in your heart to have your child in your arms again.
It just takes one agonizing day at a time.