by Teri Rafferty
I have built a shrine of sorts.
It’s not because he was perfect, I remember all of the faults and why we are here instead of somewhere else. It’s because the thought of forgetting him, as my memories of him slip away, is unbearable.
You know, you think your story is unique until you hear others and realize we could almost tell each other’s stories with a few variations.
Daniel died of an accidental fentanyl overdose 27 days after getting out of jail, where he had been for 8 months.
He was in a friend’s apartment couch surfing because he could not live with us and had nowhere else to go. Truth is, it could have been worse. He could have been alone. He could have been found days later. He still died because of something he could not get control over.
But that wasn’t who he was
When Daniel walked into a room, everyone knew it. His personality was as big as his heart. It’s interesting that the people who seem the happiest can be the loneliest.
Maybe that’s why he was always befriending anyone who was sitting by themselves, anyone, that felt like an outsider or a misfit. He understood how that felt.
Daniel was born early
It’s like he couldn’t wait to be here and that’s how he lived his life, burning the candle at both ends. I know he had his demons. There were times when he would share about how much of a screw-up he was. He also used to say there was something wrong with his brain.
From 2005-2014, I took him to all kinds of places for help, but he didn’t stick with any of the treatment/counseling options long enough for them to make a difference. He was always in a hurry to do the next thing.
I loved being his mom, although it was very challenging- I wish I could have found a way to help him or love him into health, but that’s not how this works.
I wish he had slowed down long enough to get to know himself and love himself the way the rest of us did.
One of his friends wrote:
“all over the place. chaotic. bright. random. hilarious. never a dull moment.
he always was a larger than life, one-of-a-kind character. and he had the gift only bestowed on a few – the ability to spread the healing medicine of laughter everywhere he went.
I don’t think there’s a single person who was ever in his life who he didn’t put in stitches at one point or another.
we all have “Daniel” stories that all start with, “this one time…”
and if we got together, they would take days to tell, gasping for air in between our belly laughs.
and a few knew his other side. his very poignant, creative, reflective, deeply intelligent side that desired for something greater. he was a poet, a writer, a lyricist, an artist.
he was brilliant.”
I read several articles about the solution to addiction not being sobriety but connection, community. I believe that is true for all of us. We all need a place where we feel understood, where we feel loved, where we feel we belong.
I believe if Daniel had been able to find a community like that when he got out of jail, things may have gone very differently. Family is important but it’s not enough, we did not understand all of him and he needed that too.
Giving back to find healing
So, for now, my husband and I keep Daniel’s memory alive by sharing our lives very intentionally in the community where God has placed us alongside an awesome group of people that pour their lives out as well. We share our lives with Northside Cares, a community breakfast that serves whoever shows up two times a month.
We share our lives with Into the Neighborhood and its volunteers who serve at the Richmond City Justice Center. We share our lives by tutoring with Dream Academy a few times a week, helping people get their High School Diploma.
Sharing our lives consists of providing dignity and even friendship above all else. We are helping to create a place where everyone belongs
When we cannot see in ourselves what God sees in us, it is important for us to remind each other that God loves us exactly the way we are.