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Visions and Voices

A Virtual Memorial for Expressions of Grief

Visions & Voices

A Virtual Memorial for Expressions of Grief for Those Who Have Lost Someone to a Substance-Use Related Cause






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Michael M drawingsMichael M

Michael M drawings

HeartMichelle DaPonte Saslow

A heart in a vice grip.

A VisitCaleb Bickford

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Seeing Her

Dr. Roger Singer

August 6, 2021

she was an

empty field,

a song

played out,

a fire

in passing,

washed over

with the

appearance

of a lesser

fashion,

pushing aside

the remains

of dreams and

unchartered

promises,

standing

with open hands,

a survivor of

seasons past

Remember Me

Kerry J. Bickford

June 21, 2021

Sally Ponzio was driving to Florida in 2017 when her son, Travis, began talking to her about the disease of addiction and how he wanted her to write a song. Sally was puzzled because, although Travis loved music, she could not sing or read a note herself.  When he persisted,  Sally pulled over to the side of the road to capture his words, which came tumbling out faster than she could write them. This was even more puzzling since Travis had died of an overdose six months earlier.

 

     

I started writing the words that you were saying

On a napkin in my car

I had to pull over, I’ll never get over

Now that you’re gone

You said I’m alive in your broken heart

Let my love lift you, you can start a new start


 

Travis Ponzio was a bright, sensitive child. His mother says talking to him was like “playing a chess game.” He always seemed to have a plan, a strategy, but she embraced his individuality, and they shared a deep and loving relationship. 

All Eight Floors

Nancy Michalski

October 7, 2021

Ground Floor

You have to be buzzed into this building so Anthony was relieved when a stranger with long hair and a beard wearing rumpled clothing held the door open for him. “The elevator is broken, follow me” he said to Anthony as he opens the door to the stairwell.

Floor Two

He looks homeless but has kind eyes and in Anthony’s desperation, he takes a chance. “I’m looking for heroin. I was told I could find it in this building.” “I’ll show you the way, walk with me.”

Floor Three

For some reason, Anthony is not afraid of this stranger. He continues to follow him and relax. Soon he will be free of the world that betrayed him. Free of all the physical and mental anguish. Free of his failures. Free of the guilt.

Floor Four

“Is this the floor” Anthony asks impatiently. “No, we must go up further but did you notice the windows on each landing? Look at the magnificent night sky, the stars, the heavens, the radiant light of hope, & the message in all of it.” “I used to care about that stuff.” replies Anthony. The stranger sees his eyes soften and the beautiful green color they turn as a tear comes to them. “Help me” pleads Anthony.” “Walk with me, please.”

Floor Five

“Do I know you?” asks Anthony “I know every hair on your head and you have known me all your life. I see there is not much in your wallet but you carry a prayer to St. Anthony.” “How can you see in my wallet? How do you know that”? Anthony is astonished “Saints keep their watch. Walk with me.”

Floor Six

Already knowing the answer, Anthony asks “My God, Is that you?” “I have so many broken places in my life. More than I can fix on my own. Will you help me? Can you ever forgive me?” God answers “No matter how far you have pulled away from me, I have always been with you. Nothing in life or death will separate you from me.”

Floor Seven

Candlelight blessing-overdose awarenessKerry Bickford

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The Sun Will RiseSusi Lordi

A photo of a lamp with the lyrics to "Ripple" by Grateful dead on it

Memories Forever Christine Santos

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Morse 4Michael M

Morse 4 alt text

Broken Sounds

Dr. Roger Singer

July 5, 2021

upstairs,

the hemlock

of heavy steps

pauses with

a pinch of passion,

 

rose words,

cactus response

 

breaking

litters the floor

like triangles

colliding,

 

and then,

silence

 

as night tempts

tragedy into

exhaustion

with the promise

of morning,

and nothing else

A MotherMichelle DaPonte Saslow

Crushed by a cinder block.

Nine Months

Michelle DaPonte Saslow

September 3, 2021

Nine months of expectant waiting.

Heartbeats, flutters, expanding belly.

The joy of those 9 months.

31 years later:

Nine months of unexpected loss and grief.

Shock, numbness, broken-hearted.

A time of waiting for my lungs to expand

and my heart to mend.

 

Morse DrawingMichael M

Morse Drawing

Mother's Day

Kerry J. Bickford

June 21, 2021

It was the Friday before Mother’s Day weekend and I was getting ready to leave work. My cell phone rang, and I glanced at a number I didn’t recognize, but my instinct was to pick up. 

“Hello?”

“Hi,” said a quiet, familiar voice and my heart did a little pirouette.

“Nathan! “I shouted into the phone. “Is that you?”

The response on the other end was a delighted giggle.

“Yup,” he said, “they let me out!”

 

Nathan, our youngest son, had been struggling with addiction. Each recovery was eventually followed by a relapse, and the last one had been particularly excruciating. While he was still on medication assisted therapy, he had been using methamphetamines and had recently undergone emergency surgery for an infection in his heart. We filed a section 35 in a desperate attempt to save his life. The angry, sullen, agitated person we had been so worried about when we sectioned him seemed to be replaced by this jubilant and sober one. I was relieved.

 

“So, what’s the plan?” I asked.

“I want to come home,” was his immediate response.

My son was a casualty of Covid 19

SUZANNE MORSE

June 21, 2021

My son was a casualty of Covid 19. It was not listed as “cause of death” on his Death Certificate, nor will it ever be recognized as being even remotely related. Covid accelerated his beating drum of doom. My son lived on the fringes, a disenfranchised man, incorrectly labeled by the judicial system; he struggled with bipolar and alcoholism his entire adulthood. He surrendered his life on May 15, 2020, coinciding with the first surge of Covid cases.

 

My son lived his life in the shadows. He was destined to a life on the outside with his mental health label -- always looking in.  It was a burden he could not bear, as a loving, big-hearted person who was ostracized from society for a crime he did not commit.  The pain exceeded his ability to cope. 

 

With the onset of Covid, his life went from a weak ray of hope for a future to no chance in hell. He plunged into the darkness, not a star or a beam of moonshine on his horizon. Quickly he succumbed, as his life force was already precariously close to the edge. He quickened the pace of his death march with the onset of Covid.

 

There was no funeral for my beloved son. My husband and I were the only attendees due to the pandemic. There were no shared tears or remembrances; no friends or family to express sympathy or support. Grieving during Covid is a lonely place to be. I found solace amongst strangers online—our new normal world. I am still awaiting a hug. 

Morse PhotoMorse

Finding Peace

Jeanne D. Flynn

June 21, 2021

My son Brian once shared with me the fact that he had overdosed seventeen times.  He said, “Mom, some of my friends have died after the first overdose, but I am still here.  God must have a plan for me if I haven’t died.”

I am here to tell you that heroin addiction stole the last ten years of this family’s life.  It stole the future away from our beautiful son.  It stole the present away from all of us as we waited for a miracle or the next phone call.  Would it come from a hospital, a cop, a friend, or Brian with his standard greeting….” I need a huge favor”? 

We needed a huge favor, too:  A promise, a guarantee, a wish, and a hope that would never materialize.  Our favor was never granted as Brian overdosed for the eighteenth and final time on May 3, 2015.  He died on a bright, clear, sunny, blue-sky day, in the middle of the afternoon in our own home.  Alone. 

As the next several days unfolded, I began to find small snippets of gratitude.  I am grateful he was home and not in some back alley, some basement, or some random bathroom.  I am grateful I was the one to find him, not get a phone call from some other person leaving too many questions unanswered.  I was able to backtrack and have a reasonable assumption of how the events unfolded and ultimately ended up fatally. 

The weight of Grief

Michelle DaPonte Saslow

October 8, 2021

The weight of grief made me collapse.

My legs could no longer carry the weight of my broken heart.

Screams vibrated in my being as I slid down the wall to the floor.

My chest too heavy to take a breath.

The unthinkable…..

You are gone

“It takes time….”

Michelle DaPonte Saslow

September 3, 2021

Time to accept that a part of me is gone forever.

Time to learn to live in this new reality.

Time to learn how to breathe again.

Time to forgive the silent friends.

Time to ignore foolish platitudes.

Time to think clearly and allow the fog to lift.

Time for joy to return.

In the meantime….. I wait, missing his laughter, his “mom can you do me a big favor?”, his hugs. Missing all of who he was to me, to our family, to his friends.

Grief: Lessons from the DesertMichelle DaPonte Saslow

Trees on a dry Hill

Grief takes time

Michelle DaPonte Saslow

September 3, 2021

I am counting time.

I wake each day covered in grief and walk through my day.

Tick, tick the hands on the clock move.

But the grief is still here, weighing me down. Exhausting me.

Tick, tick, tick I walk in step. Doing what I should. Forcing myself to take each step.

I look ahead to ending this day’s robotic movements.

Sleep comes with the help of Melatonin.

Only to wake and feel the weight of grief again.

Tick, tick, tick…..

Moonshine

Kerry J. Bickford

September 13, 2021

Darkness prevails
In the early hours of grief
Much like the night sky
When the moon is new
And our hearts
A cavern of despair.

As time passes
And sorrow remains
Slivers of light
Appear like stars
And for a moment
We imagine our loved ones
Faces in the sky

The moon waxes on
And so do we
Whether we want to
Or not
And we remember the days
When moonbeams
Shone softly
On their pillows.

Then one luminous night
We are blinded
But not fooled
By the light
For soon it will wane
Into darkness
But take heart:
Love, like the moon
Is always there
Even when we cannot see it.

Deconstructing Stigma

SUZANNE MORSE

June 21, 2021

“People need to hear these stories, as uncomfortable as they are. It’s a step in the right direction to have public conversations that make us all more aware.” 

Suzanne’s is one of those uncomfortable stories. 

“My experience is best told on my son’s behalf. He’s no longer here to tell his story. I myself have been consistently sober for 36 years, however, the majority of alcoholics, including my son, are not as fortunate. Michael was born in 1976, but it wasn’t until he was in his 30’s that I was made aware of his bipolar diagnosis. Up to that point, Michael had been in constant pursuit of something to make him feel balanced and normal. Anything to take away the constant pain. I didn’t consider bipolar a factor at that time, although I was aware that addiction and mental illness often appear hand in hand”

When Michael entered his teens, Suzanne realized the extent of her son’s pain. Because of her years of recovery and her family history of alcoholism, Suzanne knew what was evolving. During this period, Michael went from being an Honor Roll student to not being able to graduate. 

“The happy, carefree essence of my little boy no longer existed. Instead, a young man emerged, hell bent on self-destruction. His number one goal in life was to find the next party, the next drink, the escape from this place he was stuck in.” 

Hello Darkness

Gordon Bullard

June 21, 2021

Hello darkness my old friend…..

 

As with much of the world, I have been exiled to working remotely at home during the COVID pandemic. I do, however, occasionally have the opportunity to venture back into the office from time to time. On this particular day, as with so many countless commutes before, I started my truck, took a sip of coffee, tuned the radio to a classic vinyl station, and backed down the driveway. It wasn’t long before I settled into autopilot mode. The music soon drifted off into the background, and I was once again alone with my thoughts.

 

My mental wanderings led me to think about Cory, my 30-year-old son who died from an opioid overdose three years ago during a momentary relapse. I started to conjure sweet memories of him growing up and experiences we had together; the laughter, the pranks, the banter, the proud moments, those times of joy that we so often take for granted. As the train of thought went from memories to wondering what his life would be like today, a familiar sadness began to creep in.

 

As that sadness began to grow, coincidentally (or not), my attention was drawn to the radio as the lyrics coming through the speaker seemed to read my mind. “Hello darkness my old friend. I’ve come to talk to you again….”. 

 

Heart Shaped Rock Colleen Bullard

Reaching In

Dr. Roger Singer

August 6, 2021

the silence

between

   a breath

 

casual eyes

creating avenues

 

reaching in,

touching layers

   buried

 

retrieving the

least part

of what was

great

 

burning

   love letters,

   old photos

 

while tripping

over the

   ashes

A Mother’s Story of Loss and Peer Support

Judy Kelly

June 21, 2021

Losing my 28 year old son Geoffrey to Substance Use Disorder at the beginning of the pandemic was a heart wrenching and turbulent experience that is still difficult to bear six months later. I didn’t think I could possibly survive the devastation and heartache I felt the day my husband found our son -- deceased.

 

My greatest need initially was to enter a church and say a prayer for Geoffrey, but (because of COVID) -- the best I could manage was to enter an empty one and say a rosary with my siblings. There could be no service at the funeral home or at our church, so we made arrangements for one at the cemetery, since that was our only option. We then had to wait an additional week for Geoffrey’s burial because our daughter needed to quarantine per travel requirements from California. Our extended family was very supportive during this time, keeping in touch by phone and visiting once during the next week. We all attempted to do our best with the social distancing recommendations. 

 

The maximum number of people allowed at the service was limited so there was not much planning to do. We chose a few songs for the vocalist and guitarist to perform during the ceremony. We were surprised and touched by the presence of our local Learn to Cope support group who stayed at a safe distance away but wanted to be there to support us.

 

Mourning Dove

Kerry J. Bickford

June 21, 2021

High above the chatter of birds

The wailing of a mourning dove

Echoes

Mouth closed; chest puffed

Coo- coo coo coo

It haunts the sleepy morning

 

Something deep within me stirs

A sadness that cannot be spoken

A silent, painful moaning

Mouth closed, hand over my heart

I reverently listen

 

Sometimes there are no words

As the waves crash

And wind blows 

And the ancient carriers of secrets

Console me with their songs

Of love.

 

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