On Angels’ Wings (drug overdose/no surviving children)

by Ernie Laughlin

Brenda and I have two children: Melanie, who was 32 when she died on September 20, 2009, and Jennifer, who was 28 when she died on July 16, 2011. We have no surviving children. But we DO have a grandson. Eli is 13 and is Mel’s son. He lives with his paternal grandmother in southern Ohio. His dad is in that area also but is not emotionally prepared to raise Eli. We have Eli here with us at least one weekend each month, and for extended stays in the summer.

Our sad story started in the summer of 2006, when Jenn, then Mel a week later, came home to tell us they were addicted to heroin. I’m their dad, and I knew I could fix it. About three months later, I sobbed all the way from Cincinnati to Versailles, KY, as I realized I could not fix them, and that we would probably lose them.

We got the worst phone call of our lives that Sunday evening in September 2009. It was Jenn, calling to tell us her sister was dead. I remember Brenda wailing in the background at the news. Mel had died at 10:15 in the morning and the police were just now letting Jenn call us. Jenn was the one to find her when she woke up that morning after a long night of partying and found Mel unresponsive. Jenn never recovered from that.

Jenn later came home to live with us for over a year and had been doing much better. But when I got no response as I knocked on her bedroom door the evening of July 16, 2011, I forced it open and saw her slumped on the floor, already dead. We were not even close to “getting over” Mel when Jenn left us.

Now, just a year later, we know it in our heads, but our hearts just don’t believe that both of them are gone from our earthly lives forever. We will survive, although sometimes we’re not sure we want to. But we will, for each other and for Eli. But right now it seems that we have no hope and no future. I do what I can to keep them “alive” in the world, and not forgotten.

Below is a poem I wrote, mainly about Jennifer, describing some of the agony that has been our constant companion for several years.

I lie awake under the covers,
the dog snuggled at my feet,
The cat lounging on my chest,
both soundly asleep.
My wife lies beside me,
so innocent, so sweet.
She surely doesn’t deserve this,
no, not this stinging defeat.

I’m tired from the long work day,
but I can’t sleep just yet;
I’m waiting for you to get home,
my daughter, my sweet pet,
And pop your head in the door:
“Dad, I’m home,” you say.
“Get some rest,” I reply,
“and be sure your clock is set.”

“I love you.” “I love you too, Dad,”
you say with a smile.
“She’s home, Hon,” I whisper softly,
“safely home for a while.”
My wife turns and squeezes my hand,
as she lets out a sigh,
We’ve survived another night,
survived another trial.

Sometimes it’s one in the morning,
sometimes it’s four.
Sometimes I get out of bed
and slowly pace the floor;
I listen for your car in the drive,
and the blaring radio.
I’ve been through this scenario
so many times before.

Sometimes when I’m sitting up,
patiently waiting for you,
You walk in and give me a hug
(for me, nothing else would do),
And ask “what’d you have for dinner, Dad?
Are there any leftovers?”
Then you settle in on the couch,
flipping channels on the tube.

Now I lie awake under the covers,
the dog snuggled at my feet,
the cat lounging on my chest,
both soundly asleep.
I still get up at one or four,
and pace the floor for hours.
But before I go back to sleep this night,
it isn’t you I’ll greet.

For loneliness, desperation, hopelessness, and fear
will be my companions tonight.
We’ll meet my wife along the way,
and party into the night.
We’ll wake-up in the morning with
a hangover of sadness and grief,
And face the realization that
this might always be our plight.

Because you’re not coming home tonight,
not at one, not at four.
You left us here to grieve your loss,
nothing less, nothing more.
But this is not our home, nor yours,
and we’ll join you soon enough,
We’ll see you again in Heaven;
Yes, on Angels’ wings you soar!

Copyright © 2012 by
Ernie Laughlin, father of Melanie and Jennifer

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