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Christopher T. Van Wagner S.C.
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JEREMY, KAITLIN AND TONY, GONE TOO SOON, TOO SOON

This picture is of a painting of the drafty, rambling barn of a house in which my 10 siblings and I grew up. It was hotter than blazes in summer and suitable for meat storage in winter. The fridge was empty, but for milk, margarine and dad's shirts awaiting the iron. We slept in beds together and we fought like dogs together. Our social media had a rotary dial and a party line. Our gaming involved lumber and leather. We were spanked a little, fed a little more, clothed enough and loved a lot - the toughest love you ever felt from a shoe or a belt or a wooden spoon. And all 11 of us are still here. Our parents are gone, yet their DNA and their favorite Catholic epithets live on in the eleven of us.

But something has changed since we raced up and down the wooden stairs of that old gray-blue house. Something is different now. Something is worse now. There's something none of our parents ever had to do, and there's something we never had to do as their kids. And I was reminded of that again today. A painful reminder.

We never had to take a phone call telling us that a childhood friend or a neighbor's kid was found dead of a heroin overdose. Never.

Sure, there were alcohol problems. Sure, there was abuse - verbal, child, spouse. But even with our 60’s pain and hurt aplenty, we didn't know the silent killer heroin. We didn't ever have to learn, too late or ever, that our closest friends' brothers were fighting a secret, silent battle against heroin addiction. And so we never had to go to the funeral of a friend who died, suddenly, unexpectedly, and prematurely by heroin's snare. We never had to call upon St. Michael the Archangel to beat back the devil in a needle.

We didn't ever have to watch as our friends' parents' faces fell forever hollow and gaunt, or have to see those wan, superficial smiles. We didn't have to watch friends’ mothers in their prime, weeping uncontrollably at the sight of us - because the sight of us was too painful a reminder of their own silent, silenced child, lost forever and a day to the scourge, the suffering, of heroin.

Today a mother, Patti, said a belated and teary farewell to her bouyant son Jeremy. He was found cold and dead two days after his last injection. Five years ago, Kevin had to say goodbye to his beautiful daughter Kaitlin, found cold and dead after her last injection. Seven years ago Larry walked through that same emotional quicksand when he bid his gentle son Tony goodbye, cold and dead after his last injection. Dr. Bob and Grandma Cis never had to do anything like that.

Tony was in intensive drug treatment when he took his last breath. Jeremy was exceeding all expectations in intensive drug treatment when he last closed his eyes. And Kaitlin, Kaitlin, she thought she had loosed the bonds of addiction when she bid her silent goodbye to this world. These deaths defy logic. They defy reason. They defy fairness.

Tony, Kaitlin, and Jeremy were my clients.

Please keep their families close in your prayers. Please ask the Lord to grant eternal rest so that their souls find a peace in heaven that eluded them here. And talk about this heroin plague with everyone you know. Bring light to the problem. Invite the families of addicts out of shame and shadow, and into daylight and hope, in the hope that by doing so they might spare another parent the need to bury their babies. None of these clients were bad people. They each had a bad problem. Don't fault them and condemn their mistakes as if it were a simple, easy choice, to use or not to use. Support those around you and let them know you care. Because you really don't know which one of them is battling that same silent battle. Or you might soon learn in the hardest way possible.

Christopher T. Van Wagner 110 East Main Street Suite 705Madison WI 53703(608) 284-1200
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