Today is International Overdose Awareness Day, and even though I have lost many people to opioid overdoses, including my dear cousin, Joey, on this particular day, I would like to remember Lance by sharing the tribute I read at his funeral.
I’ve chosen Lance today because he has weighed heavily on my mind. He is intertwined into my memories –connected to my own story of addiction because we experienced heroin addiction together, as a family, with my mother and my brother.
And it’s time to remember. It’s time to Humanize. It’s time to end the stigma.
If there is someone who you would like to remember, please leave a tribute in the comments, or I can also publish your story here.
I believe this is also a beautiful way to remind people that each overdose statistic is somebody’s someone.
In Loving Memory of my stepfather, Lance: September 6th, 1961 – November 28th, 2017.
It’s been many years since we were a family, but I’ve learned that death is quick to shrink the passage of time. Knowing Lance is gone, I’m left with a wave of memories and words I wish I had said to him.
Suddenly it all feels like yesterday. It was 1995 when I first met him, and I was 11 years old. He asked if I liked wonder bars and I told him they were my favourite. He smiled and pulled a wonder bar out of his jacket pocket and gave it to me. We strolled down 13th street, in Kamloops, chitchatting with our mouths full of chocolate.
Over the years, he taught me not to litter and told me to drink more water.
After our dog attacked my leg, he boiled pots of water on the stove and hauled them up the stairs to fill me a hot bath. He lectured me on the importance of keeping my stitches clean.
When I was a teenaged girl and needed a bra, it was Lance who was there – and in his own funny and crazy way, he made sure I got one.
The day he married Mom, he skipped around the house with the joy of a schoolboy.
Our family was living through dark times, and he was a part of that chapter – a part of our family – forever bonded by those years. When I look back and think of him, he makes me laugh. These are stories no one else could possibly see the humour in, so I’ll hold them close to my heart.
He was gentle, loving and kind.
Some days he brought Grandma and the girls bags of muffins from the foodbank and other days, he made sure Grandma had her tea.
For those ten years, he was a father to me. But, I was too young to acknowledge or appreciate that role. I wish I had told him. I wish I had thanked him for his small acts of kindness and nurturance along the way. No matter how low our family sank into heroin addiction, he gave those gifts freely, and they were like raindrops in a dry, barren desert.
I thought he’d always be here. And one day in the future we would have a heart-to-heart and reminisce about the outrageous days when we were a family. And once everyone climbed onto their feet, we would celebrate for how far we’d all come.
I cannot go back in time, and I cannot change the past. But, I’ll be looking up to the stars to find you, Lance, and I’ll continue to read your letters and keep your memory alive inside my heart.
This is my tribute, a small way to acknowledge and honour you!
Lance, you will be missed, more than you ever had the chance to know. I’m sorry I didn’t do a better job of showing you that you mattered. You did! And you still do.
You are and will always be a part of my life – a part of my story.
May you finally find peace.
Thank you for taking the time to read and to honour him. On this International Overdose Awareness Day, is there anyone who you would like to pay tribute to? If so, please share in the comments below or share your story, and I will publish it for you.
And if you know of any awesome initiatives that are working to end the stigma and overdoses, let me know! Also, here is a link to some simple and effective ways to help end the stigma: You can reduce stigma and help save lives, just by changing your language.
Feature Photo Credit: Žygimantas Dukauskas