This is an incredibly hard post to write, but it would be wrong to leave this blog up without including this chapter, which shuts the door on an entire period of our lives: seven weeks ago, we lost E when he ended his life with a drug overdose.
It may have been an accident and it may have been intentional. Most likely, it was an accident that happened because he was not fully committed to surviving, and so it is a blend of both possibilities. In any event, we'll never know, because we weren't there when it happened.
There is no wisdom to share from this, and no pithy story to tell. There is only emptiness where for a time we had one of the great loves of our lives, and certainly the most unexpected.
In the last conversation I had with him, he complained that I wanted to wash all of his clothes before I let him wear them, as he'd had bedbugs recently. I started to lose my patience. Then I remembered that I had often told T that we might one day lose his brother, and so we should be sure to never end a day on an argument, and to tell him how much we loved him at every opportunity. Taking my own advice, I pulled back from the knife's edge of frustration and said simply, "I explained why I need to wash your clothes. I can see that you don't agree. But I love you and I want you to have a comfortable bed to sleep in when you're here at home. So you're just going to have to trust me." He gave me a wild look, threw his head back, laughed loudly, and scampered away. And shortly thereafter, he was gone forever.
I have no taste for discussing the various injustices that contributed to E's suffering and eventual demise. If you read blogs like this one, chances are you already know and care about the realities of life for youth in foster care, the wreckage and debilitating insults delivered by the child welfare system, the poverty of services for traumatized and mentally ill young adults, and the disheartening odds for children born drug and alcohol exposed and suffering related disabilities. I can't think about those things anymore. I could make myself quite insane thinking about all of the inadequacies in the care he received and all of the dead ends and disappointments we encountered trying to help him. But it doesn't matter anymore. I can't let generalities replace the particulars of E that I treasured so much, and even righteous anger can't quell my grief. There isn't room for both.
We held a beautiful service for him, modest, with his relatives and some of his previous caregivers. We sang his favorite songs, and his brother T gave the eulogy. Their birth mother whom I've never met came for the viewing though not for the service, although she was invited. While she was there, she and I held T as he sobbed over E's body and then we held each other. She said she was sorry she hadn't been able to mother E; I told her I was sorry I hadn't been able to keep him alive.
It was hard to be with his body, an empty shell that once held his most animated spirit. His ashes are at home with us. T and his birth mom asked me to be the one to decide what to do with them, and after a lifetime of being tossed from one foster home to another, and later, from one mental health facility to another, I couldn't stand to deposit his ashes anywhere other than at home with us, where he was, briefly, happy and so loved. So with us his remains will stay until one day they are buried with ours.
Obviously he was ill, and suffered greatly. He was also the funniest person I ever knew, and we loved him as our own son. He and Tim were true soulmates, everyone who saw them together remarked on it. E showed us things about ourselves that we didn't know, good things, patient, loving, tender things. The time we had with him often seemed other-worldly. It's impossible to imagine that he's gone forever, because he was so deeply a part of us. In the first several weeks, we felt as if we'd been left behind, as if we were meant to follow him. We followed him through so many harrowing events--including hospitalizations and incarcerations--and so many triumphs--his first road trip last Christmas with Tim, his first day of college last month--that it seems impossible that we can't follow him wherever he's gone now. But days pass and he's still gone, and the hard fact of it sinks in slowly with a terrible weight.
There is almost nothing to say about this, no way to interpret in words the unrelenting fact of death. But it is important to me to say that we would do it all over again. We aren't angry with him, we don't regret anything about our time together, and we wouldn't hesitate to embrace the opportunity to be his family again; quite the opposite.
T moved back home the day that we lost E, and the three of us are grieving together and will be for the rest of our lives. Grief brings us closer, clarifying the bonds of family. There are things only the three of us will ever know, including how brilliant a light has been extinguished and how very much has been lost.