August 22nd will mark the third anniversary of the death of my nephew Danny. He had just turned 22 when he died of a heroin overdose.
Danny was like a son to Rob and me. Rob was very much a father figure to Danny. The day Danny died was the hardest, saddest day of our lives. I remember receiving the news. I remember gasping for air and struggling to breath. But I don't remember much after that, including the drive from Michigan to Missouri to attend the wake and funeral. I couldn't tell you if we left right away and stopped in Indy to spend the night, or if we left the next morning to drive straight through. It's as though God gave me amnesia to protect me from the sadness of the day.
The hardest part was, and continues to be, sharing the news with my children. Danny was like a brother to them as he lived with us during his sophomore year of college, as well as vacationing with us over many summers. One night, weeks after the funeral, I found myself at 2:00 A.M. holding my sleepless, 9-year-old daughter in my lap as she sobbed uncontrollably over the loss of her beloved Danny. I found myself angry with Danny for his overdose, wanting to shake my fist and scream out, "You knew how much she loved you. She was your favorite. How could you do this to her?"
We had no clue that Danny suffered from addiction. This was a young man who attended Mass with us, who joined the March for Life in Washington, DC, who was in the middle of George Weigel's biography of Pope John Paul II when he died. In fact, my last email from Danny, just days before his death, expressed how much he loved the book and loved JP2.
Let this child's death be a lesson to us all. As parents we can never sit on our laurels, we must forever keep vigil. Even the best kids can fall into the deepest pits. We can do everything right and still lose them to the world.
Danny was introduced to heroin by someone who called himself a friend. It only took that one experiment to create an addict.
I'd like to ask you to join me in a novena for Danny's soul. This request comes from Danny's mom, Sue. I'll post a reminder each day beginning in the morning. And please also pray for Sue. A mother's loss is unimaginable.