In memory of Thomas McCue

by Vasiliki Canotas

Dear Anne Moss,

I  read your Woulda Shoulda Coulda article a couple of years ago because I remember Charles. My son Thomas McCue attended Family School and told us about Charles’ death.

I was so sad for him and for you.

But I am even sadder today for his and your loss because of ours: we lost Thomas to a heroin overdose on December 9, 2017.

Only now do I understand your grief.

Tom was 23 and living in a sober house in St Paul, MN. He had made a lot of progress with both his mental health (bipolar disorder) and his addiction.

We are all crushed – my husband Mark and daughter Amelia and son Matthew.

I find your blog entries so touching and so real, but feel too raw to read too many. I hope and pray that this pain softens. I am so very impressed by your passion and work. Reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction is crucial – but also overwhelming. There is so much I’d like to say and share, but it’s still such an effort. Thank you for your efforts.

Happy Birthday to sweet Charles. Thomas’ birthday is also in April,  4/14/94.  He would have been 24. It was a painful day.

We hoped and tried so hard – for him to get to 25 or 26 when his brain might have further developed. He was maturing — making so much progress.  He had just been accepted to Augsburg University in Minneapolis for January 2018 complete with an $18,000 merit scholarship.

Ironically, the letter arrived on the day of his funeral. Life can be so cruel. If only he had had the opportunity to see his acceptance letter. The merit scholarship would have made him so very proud.

We have the same debate as you about his ashes.

Thomas’ ashes remain at the funeral home, but we will be asked to bring them home in the next month or so. I think about taking them with me when I am buried or burying them at a cemetery near our beach house about an hour east because he loved the ocean and our time spent there–which was one of the few spots which was relatively crisis-free.

But in the meantime, I don’t know what to do or where to place them when they are here at home. It’s exhausting to live with this grief each day and to dread so many things in the future. I do know that I don’t want to spread them, for lots of rational and irrational reasons.

I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to reply to your email – and I don’t want to add to your obligations, but thank you for listening, Anne… I am trying to find someone in this area I feel comfortable discussing these things with. We know others who have lost their children to drugs/ alcohol/ mental illness (and, in fact, run a local grief group (G.R.A.S.P.)) but not sure I’m ready for a group.


21 thoughts on “In memory of Thomas McCue”

  1. I am so very sorry for the loss of your dear son. Keep reaching out! I pray you find the support when you need it and comfort knowing so many others care.

  2. Vasiliki,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry for the pain you are going through on losing your son Thomas. Addiction is such a vicious disease and it is taking so many young lives.
    My husband died of suicide almost 4 years ago. He had bipolar illness and I deal with the terrible pain of that illness everyday with my son who is a recovering alcoholic and has had several recent suicide attempts. We all need to continue to discuss mental illness and addiction so that the stigma is erased and more help will be provided for these afflictions.
    Please take care of yourself .
    Ann Harris

    1. Thank you, Anne. I am so very sorry that you lost your husband to bipolar illness and continue to live with the heartache of your son’s health challenges. Addiction is a cruel and cunning disease. I hope and pray that he finds a way to manage his health and to enjoy his life. One of the priests at Thomas’ funeral put it so well… He said something I will never forget and for which I was so grateful he shared: “Sometimes a man has a disease and sometimes the disease has the man.” Take care.

  3. Vasiliki,
    I would implore you to stay in contact with Anne Moss privately or public. Though I have not lost a child ( because of her help and educating us) I feel for you and your emotions. It “is” appropriate as this is what helps heal Anne Moss, helping others. I used to feel I was burdening her too. She knows her limits and she listens and answers to all.
    I read and share and wear those t-shirts in support of all for a reason. Because a parent, mom, dad, sibling , friends and strangers have been given guidance through her work and passion to help. Let her. You deserve it. Your feelings and emotions count and you deserve a compassionate, educated sweet loving person like her to help. Always know that you can go to her. If there were not something she could help you and your family with, she would by her heart guide you where to try and give options. I am so sorry for this great loss of your son.
    keep reading and communicate.

    1. Thank you, Darlene. I can see that Anne is a wonderful source of support to so many. Sadly, there are too many of us who share this experience, but hopefully it will become less commonplace as we speak out and reduce the stigma associated w/ substance abuse and mental health. Wishing you and your family the best…

  4. Thank you for sharing your story Vasiliki. I have a family member that struggles with depression and it eats at my soul. I am learning that mental illness is not uncommon and we all need to support each other through this journey. I am so sorry for your loss.

  5. Vasiliki, I am so very sorry you lost your sweet boy. I know your grief all too well. It is something you cannot explain very well to others. But sadly, you are not alone. You have much company on your journey. It is still very raw at this point – take care…

    1. Thank you, Gray. I’m sorry for your loss… but it is comforting to know that there are others who can understand the depth and vastness of our grief.

  6. I am so sorry for your loss. My heart breaks for you and your family. My son, Matthew, chose to end his life 9 years ago. This is something no parent should have to endure. My thoughts & prayers are with you. Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. Thank you, Lloyd. I, too, am so sorry for you and your son Matthew. These so-called ‘out of order’ deaths bring unbearable pain. Take care.

    1. Thank you, Amy. Yes, beyond heartbreaking… so hard to describe as it permeates every aspect of our lives.

  7. I am so very sorry about the loss of your son Tom. We are losing a generation of beautiful young people to addiction and suicide. My heart is heavy for you.

    1. Thank you, Debbie. Yes, they all seem to share certain qualities… sweet, sensitive, gentle, creative, bright, and loving souls.

  8. By telling your story, you are helping to stop the stigma. (((Hugs))) and prayers to you and your family.

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