Death, Loss and Hope

Dedicated in memorandum of my deceased nephew, Tristan Ray Thompson
            Life is perplexing at times, not just the everyday hustle and bustle of dealing with paying the bills, raising kids, figuring out where our next meal is or who is going to cook it, but, life itself is a mystery. We accept the face we see in our mirrors as our own, but without a mirror, we don’t see anything except what is in front of us and when someone dies, our minds and hearts respond.  Death is the one thing guaranteed to us all, including animals, fish, plants, the list is long and when a business or restaurant dies, the metaphor speaks but the thought doesn’t, when someone we know dies, the thought speaks loudly and sometimes, depending upon our years, could make us reflect on our own mortality. A few days ago, my nephew, Tristan Ray Thompson at a very young age died as a result of life’s hardest lessons, what not to do. A few people will look upon his past and if slated, may say, “Knew it was going to happen” or “Gone too soon” and the well wishes will flow and yes, there is an outpouring of love and compassion upon his mother, who just lost her husband not long ago to one of life’s other hard lessons, Cancer.  In this article, there will be many things that will raise an eyebrow or two, put on your Truth Glasses, this one might take a while, but will teach us all something important about ourselves, just how human we really are.
            The first questions I will address is, is there an afterlife or are we just bones and remnants of a species on a planet.  Don’t worry, this won’t take long.  If your own thoughts of an eternal peace, living in a spirit form and lasting forever where the most heinous are eternally punished and the forgiven are assembled, if your own thoughts include being reincarnated back into another form to roam again and experience life from a different view, if you don’t know but are waiting for some physical proof before your own body gives out, or if you follow the scientific, logical or any other personal belief, then continue to do so.  Do what brings you the most peace, happiness, joy and least amount of troubles and a sense of purpose. In short, be yourself but be open to listen and share rather than defend, debate or crucify someone else because they don’t see what you see, keep in mind, we are a species with all sorts of diversity, thought and individual desires. There, now that is out of the way and we can move on, I will not debate on any level what my own beliefs are, which is Jesus Christ died to provide us a new entry into Heaven and that no one is perfect, but because of an action by a God who loves us, we get that chance.  In our world right now, Ten Commandments leading the way, none of us would make it, period. Now, let’s move on.
            When the physical body dies, several things take place, among the many facets is a cooling that is the direct result of uncirculated blood flow; we cool off at about 1.5 to 2 degrees per hour so if a Coroner examines us upon death, depending on body temperature, they get a decent idea as to how long a person has been dead, whereas if one of us encounters it, we notice a cool and somewhat clam feel.  What they and ourselves don’t know, is, how - unless it is obvious, like a gunshot wound, car accident or God forbid, some other item, but thankfully, there are people in specific fields dedicated to finding out why someone may have passed away.  In this world, just to name a few items, we have our choice of death by way of: Insect, Reptile, Machine, Firearm, Natural Disaster, Drug, Fire, Weather, Water, Food, Illness and a whole lot more.  Most of us, will probably never know most of that list, some of us, will see others die as a result of one or maybe more of the items on that list and when we do, we grieve while we contemplate and seek out “why”.  Regardless of your own personal beliefs, when someone you care about is gone, you grieve, the human inside of you can’t help it and unless you are a cyborg created with no emotions, oh yeah, you will feel it.  For some, it brings tears and loss of words, for others, it brings defiance and a march to rectify a horrible wrong, to all, it brings questions and unfolds ugly hidden truths as well as deceit, though maybe not a deliberate effort, it happens.
            When a person passes on, we may experience one or more of several emotions while we attempt to cope with no longer hearing a voice or seeing a good friend, in this range of things comes a simple word, Denial.  You know it exists, “I was just speaking to them yesterday” or “Oh my God, what happened, they were so young” and includes, “I didn’t want to believe it, but I knew when I saw them”.  In an instant, our minds go into shock, this of course does not include the blood thirsty killer who gets off on the kills, but the families affected; the people they knew; yep, I’m talking to you.  Denial is natural; believe it or not, this is where we muster the interior courage to survive the loss.  Thoughts of “I just can’t go on” and “How am I going to make it through this day” and “I’m so lonely” flood our minds, things become blurry, time is lost and sometimes our work environment is just not where we want to be, but, in this we fight to get through our day, we move one step at a time and for many, years aren’t enough to cope, but they don’t realize years is how far they have gone ahead and pushed forward to live. Which once our minds realize the loss, and try to cope with it, then comes any of several emotions from frustration, stress, worry, violent outbursts of tears, anger and deep depression.
            What we do next is crucial, do we allow ourselves during the loss to live in seclusion, or do we work to get stronger, trying to forget the loss or possibly none of the above we just float along living on without a purpose, without hope.  The time frame for this to happen has its own limits, there is no magical period of normalcy, there is only living on until we can finally move forward without the weight of the deceased on our minds.  I have known persons who have died as a result of natural causes, I have also known persons who have died as a result of alcohol poisoning, cancer, drugs and many other causes and what I saw from all of it, persons trying to understand why or what and many times over, this brings about anger, which we all know in itself is a destructive force, it kills families in times of death and during this time of heavy emotion, it is not the right path to succumb against, it can and will be futile as more hurt will erupt from its grasp once seated.
            Right now, even today, as the body of my nephew lay in wait for burial, there are many things circulating in speculation about the life he lead, the mistakes he made, the things that happened and in truth, none of it necessary because the deceased cannot defend themselves and none of it matters, let the finality of his death be the closing of all items as it should be when anyone dies, in short, let them rest in peace.  In our list from above, in one of the many ways we can die, this young man passed away as a result of a long term drug and alcohol abuse and in trying to seek out help in resolving this issue, ended up dying as a result of a drug that can kill a person, but more importantly, because of his own hand and actions.  While medical science has come a long way, they cannot prevent our own actions, they can give us all the advice, treatment or meds we want, but maintenance has to come from the patient, we don’t get better if we don’t put in the work and that includes the addict who is serious about their recovery, I’m not suggesting there won’t be moments of weakness or that the path will be hard enough to make them do a double take, but speaking for myself, a 25 year sober alcoholic, it can be accomplished if the addict truly desires change AND if they have the correct help available to them to recover. If in doubt, read my article entitled Heroin or Hell, you will gain some serious insight into addictions and the psychological impacts upon the addict, that struggle is very real (Thanks Bayer Company for the ‘wonder’ drug known as Heroin).
            Now here are some harder truths to swallow, from the time this young man was born, he experienced behavioral issues, along with Tourette syndrome, which made his mind misfire and become exceptionally impressionable while seeking out his own understanding in life’s game and relief from being told and reminded he had this handicap, he was exposed to alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and LSD, while only having a small amount of focus on his own setbacks and medicine in those days that wasn’t correctly applied, a failure early on.  Being exposed to illicit drugs and alcohol, violence, irrational thoughts, emotional, physical abuse, being locked up for more than half of his life, exposed to all manner of prison, including Federal - over a 25 or so year span, costing this person his life in the end at an age of less than 40 years old.  Sounds horrible already doesn’t it, probably causing you to ask, why didn’t anyone help him, here is why and you may want to shield young eyes from this unless you are teaching them direct about life and death and the consequences of it.
            From an early age, this young man saw terrible arguments, drug use, alcohol use and a host of other items and never paid attention to the consequences of them, because in his eyes this was a normal thing and no one around him seemed to be suffering much from what they were doing, other than the compassion he may have felt for his own mother and her for him, the support structure that should have been built was breaking apart at every turn until he was left with one final piece, his mom. He experienced life’s setbacks and victories with friends, family, the prisoners he had to share borders with and became entranced in the mystery and allure of it all, seeking spirituality but not able to break the hold that all of the items he had ingested over all those years - in search of and for the relief his mind needed. He had an extensive criminal record; including drug, alcohol, violence, theft and others offenses that spanned over half his life, starting even before his adult record, his juvenile record reflected on the lifelong reckless path he would fall into. Among his earliest legal woes - discharging a firearm in a rural area, his final one, a Federal offense; about now, that horrible thought you had earlier seems as though it was inevitable for this to happen, indeed, it was at the rate his own body and mind needed to release the “happy” endorphins so life would be good, reaching out to the world’s plague: Drug abuse.
            Through those years, his mother tried her best to understand what was happening to her son, why was this grip so strong, why wouldn’t he just stop abusing things, get help, stay out of prison, live and be a man who comes by and says, “Hey mom, let’s go to lunch”, instead, she cried, spent tons of money, allowed self medication, became an enabler without knowledge of what the future would hold and in the hopes of just trying to give her son’s mind a much needed rest and defending his right to it and him all the way into his death.  While a few of you would applaud this, many of you now are saying, that itself isn’t right, an addict with an open pharmacy is never a good idea, you are correct – all of you.  There are circumstances that exceed logical thought in our world, circumstances where you do your best to prevent by controlling an outcome using what you hope are known parameters, sadly, this is rarely successful, and to an addict, could be read as something acceptable and even lead to requiring it or becoming angry, sad, depressed when not provided.  Trust this, if an addict wants their fix bad enough, they will find a way to get it, regardless of how or who they hurt and affect.
            Now, over the years of his life, his criminal actions, mis-wired brain and impulsive actions caused quite the split in opinion about Tristan, the person. In his family resume, that is, in actions, he has robbed from family, threatened family, partied with family, laughed with family, became a fear with family (as to his whereabouts), was knocked unconscious by his father, kicked out more than once, has helped move family members and worked with family and does have a child from a relationship at the time, like many of his others, volatile.  Is this starting to paint a picture of someone who fits a typical addict’s profile? Let’s throw you a curve ball, how about, through all of it, in and out of the jail system, asking for medical help, for all sorts of reasons, including his own recognition of his addiction levels (by the way, a couple of years ago, he almost overdosed on street drugs).
            In those days, he, his mother and occasionally his father would reach out to family and ask for help in coping with this unfolding disaster and with the best of intentions, none of it helped, though he did have his favorite people who he drew inspiration from and loved very much, he even told his dad he understood why the knock out happened, admitting fault and recognizing that too much of anything does destroy things, alcohol and drugs are no exception.  At the end days of his life, he learned that he had contracted Hepatitis C and tried to seek out medical help for that, thanks Obama, your structured program told him he would have to be near death in order for them to help him and get the coverage for the treatment.  Let’s stop a moment to reflect: Addict of Alcohol and Drugs. Extended Prison life, family turmoil, rejection from family, society, even a few police departments who asked for help, more than a dozen times, refused treatment for a life threatening disease, now deceased as a result of a Methadone Clinic treatment.
            If in fact, he was administered the drug Methadone or any “treatment” drug used to help addicts, then that staff had to have informed him of the risks associated with the treatment, or at least, that is what we would expect especially if given a drug that has, shallow breathing and slowed heart rate as one of the side effects, take too much = death.  According to what is known, Methadone Toxicity is the presumed cause of death and as one could expect, this caused a bit of an outcry over the amount of deaths that happen as a result of this and other treatment drugs, this stage, is known as anger.  We get angry that the death is just wrong, too soon, could have been prevented a host of stuff.  This is also normal and sometimes justified, wrongful death lawsuits all over the country, including O.J. Simpson speak for themselves and we all remember the anger then.  Suppressing this anger is harmful, just as harmful as misdirecting it or using it to falsely accuse the very persons who over the years actually tried to help, again a destructive force, but entirely necessary.  The more you release that anger, the more it dissipates and allows you to heal from the hurt and pain of the loss.  In my time as an author for this outlet, I have created a couple of video’s about anger and the issues around it and as with all the other times I have witnessed the end result of death, anger is common.  Words are misspoken, we start looking for someone or something to blame to assert some sort of dominance over the situation, in reality, we drive wedges between people and say things that promote hurt rather than heal, death causes this and more, not just the loss of the person.
            Remember the mention of how his mother defied most everything and defended him all the way to the end, in a small way, this is a bit like trying to bargain with life, even more so if we are relatively certain about what the end path will be, as much as we wish, we plead, we beg, they don’t respond and the people who surround that person, they themselves begin to close up, especially if it’s a parent trying to stop a path of destruction in their kids.  Thoughts of “What if” or perhaps, “If only I “start to flow through our minds, seeking reasoning; In a drug addicts world, there is no reasoning, there is only, get the fix, even if it means guilt tripping the ones we love, forcing them to enable the addict to get what they need. A scenario: Wake up, get high, eat breakfast, get high, get high, eat lunch, get high, get high, eat dinner, get high, get high go to bed, asking God to let you live another day and you won’t do it again, next morning, repeat cycle and do this endlessly - it will catch up to you. We beg for not letting someone die horribly or in pain, we beg keep them alive longer than me, we ask for time to extend longer, in many cases, time comes to a screeching halt and then we bargain with ourselves, “why did I let it happen”, “If only I had done something”, do not let this emotion overwhelm your sense of self, though the losses are tough, time doesn’t heal the wounds, it does afford us new days to move forward and cope.
            Earlier in our range of emotions, Depression was mentioned and the blues over a death sometimes feel so heavy, we ourselves wish it happened to us, rather than to those we love, this is the time we draw from the energy of our supporters, I said this in a post on Facebook not long ago, “even the most evil or heinous of persons who have died, have had persons to mourn them” and yes, that even includes Hitler, Richard Ramirez, and will include Charles Manson when his time comes.  While chronic depression is a mental illness, the depression we feel during a loss isn’t as much.  We feel empty, alone, at a loss; we wonder about how to fill that part of our lives or who will we call for a laugh or two.  Make no mistake, if allowed to last over months, weeks or years, the depression is harmful to us, it restricts who we are and those around us trying to help that person snap out of it, need to keep in mind, tough love and loving through tough times go hand in hand, same as the person suffering, I and others know you are hurting, confused and grieving but that also means you must not lash out at them for reaching out to you, even if what you think is something insulting, know that all of it are people looking for answers about that same loss and how to help you, if your depression is out of control, seek help and know that you have to put in the work with it and not just succumb to the medicines, try and when you fail, try again.
            Remember my nephew, Tristan from above, his mind may not have been working at one hundred percent, his body’s cravings may have had a hold on him to the point of the – can’t help it and long criminal records – but the cause of his death was his own hands, he had many things he wrestled with, many torturous thoughts, but he also had access to the treatment and knew the risks.  He faced the same questions anyone fighting to live would ask, is it worth it, how long do I suffer, when do I throw in the towel and how do I say no to what is so easy to get vs. what isn’t so easy to be prescribed.  Make no error, he had those choices many years ago and when the addiction wasn’t as dominant, still took the street vendor’s word for it.  How many who read this and knew him, partied with him, bought him or gave him anything feel like that right now, you in his short life, did in fact contribute to this long journey?  How many of us can throw stones in his glass house and hope not to break a window or two giving in to desires, physical, mental, emotional that at one time made us grab a beer, take a shot, smoke a joint or something else? Those who he made his criminal victim, they won’t forget it, a few will never forgive it.  Those he made his friend, will never forget him and forgive him.  Do you see this struggle every day? Do you have someone like his own mother trying her best to cope and calm and fight over 39 years of he own life, how many parents out there would do that now? Do you have family who hates each other who won’t speak to one another due to an addict in their family and the actions from it?  Death, Loss and Hope are all players in this game of life.  We hope we don’t lose someone, we hope they will get better, we hope to each live a decently long life and when we drop our guards, Death becomes the final answer. 
In this life, we can help one another by learning to be more human and less hateful. By recognizing that a human is in every one of us and that Death will separate us in the end. ~Scott Hall
Rest In Peace my nephew, the torture, the addictions, the woes and inner hurt cannot touch you  but memory is something not even death can destroy.

            The only reference you will find in this article, is the reference to real life events.

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