Remembering Loved Ones Lost to Overdose: Their Lives Mattered
The following testimonials were submitted by members of our community here on Cape Cod whose loved ones lost their lives to overdose. We honor their memory by spreading awareness to others whose friends and family members may also struggle with addiction.
A candlelight vigil will be held on August 31st with stories of and tributes to loved ones lost and sharing of community resources on Smuggler’s Beach in Yarmouth (220 South Street). This event starts at 5:30 PM. If you have questions or would like to reserve a resource table, please contact Dawn at (508) 737-0086 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The event is sponsored by the Yarmouth Substance Awareness Coalition (YSAC) & the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation (MMSFI).
“It was the midnight shift, and she was heading off to work. Their one-year-old baby was safely tucked in his crib, and her husband was to watch him for the evening. Three hours later she received a phone call that her husband had died and she needed to go to Brockton hospital to identify him.
She was my daughter, they were starting their life as a family. She was filling some 10pm-6am shifts to earn extra money. They were starting a transport service. It was going well (we all thought), until she called me and said, “K is dead.” We tried to wrap our heads this around this at 2 am while we readied to fly up to the hospital to be by her side.
He had dropped the baby at a friend’s house and went to a club in Brockton where he met up with some friends, they bought some cocaine, and went to someone’s apartment to party. He took the bag into the bathroom, came out and said, “I don’t feel good.” He collapsed into cardiac arrest and rescue wasn’t called until they posed him sitting in the stairwell for fear they would get in trouble for the dope. Our daughter and baby came home with us that night of devastating reality. We had no idea he was spending their savings on drugs. After the funeral, we found out the cocaine was cut with Fentanyl.
I want to testify that one overdose affects many. A part of my daughter died that night as well. As a parent and grandparent you never want to see your children suffer at the hands of a murderer. And that is what Fentanyl is. It takes a piece of us all.
– Donnajean Lopez
I just miss my friends.
If you asked me how many people I’ve known who lost their lives to an overdose – I couldn’t even fathom a guess. As a recovering opiate addict, who’s been in a million treatment centers and works in recovery, there’s just too many.
The guilt comes in waves.
It’s not fair that I’m still here and they’re not.
It’s not fair that my mom still has her daughter, and my daughter still has her mom, while my friends’ families and children have to try to navigate this world without them.
It’s not fair that I fell down so many times and always had an opportunity to stand back up, while some of my friends only fell once and never had the chance to get back up.
I can let myself drown in those waves, if I want.
Not too long ago, I had this memory cross my mind, something so stupid and funny that only someone who was there would understand. I wanted to laugh about it with someone…but there were four of us there, and I’m the only one left.
If I die, that memory dies completely. And it’s such a good memory.
Tracy, Macy, Grace – I laugh a lot less without you guys here, but I promise to carry that memory and all the others with me forever. I promise I will continue to carry you with me as I walk my path and help the next recovering addict walk theirs. Thank you guys for loving me before I could love myself – I don’t think I could’ve gotten here without it.
As I sit here crying and writing this at my desk, I can still feel a hint of guilt… but more than anything, I feel a deep resolve to not let my friend’s deaths be in vain.
For work, I run a community outreach and case management program for a treatment facility – and I carry you all with me every day.
The guilt comes in waves, but I refuse to let myself drown in it.
– Erin O’Brien
I am a person in long-term recovery, and I have lost so many friends and family to overdose, I often find myself having feelings of survivor guilt for somehow slipping out of the deadly grasp of addiction. I am in my late-40’s so the other friends and family that dodged death are either in recovery or in jail. It is very rare to find someone my age that is still actively using. The Fentanyl that is out there has been killing off even the very seasoned users because of the inconsistency of the dosage and the supplier. I wish that I had an answer or a solution. I often think about the people that I have lost to the disease and picture how they would have flourished if they had ever found recovery.
– Dr. Matthew Donlan
My name is Emily, and I lost my brother Edward “Ed” to an overdose in July of 2021.
I cared about Ed so deeply.
Edward “Ed” Priestley was born and raised in Milton, Ma. He was a current student at Quincy College. Growing up Ed spent his time playing sports and hanging out with friends. In his adult life Ed enjoyed going to the beach, sports, traveling, swimming and listening to music. You could always catch Ed going for a nice drive with his music turned up. Ed was a caring, loving and funny young man. He will be missed dearly by his friends and family.
This testimonial is for all of the people on Cape Cod who have died from an overdose who do not have local family members to submit their story. It is for the people with substance use disorders who are experiencing homelessness. For the people who use drugs who are misunderstood and not given the opportunity to share their skills and personalities.
Having worked in the harm reduction field for the past 15 years, I have had the privilege of getting to know the people who have accessed the syringe services programs. And not just getting to know their drug use patterns, what substances they’re using, the risks they may have for HIV or overdose. But really getting to know them. Here’s one brief memory of someone we lost, and his death left a huge gap in the community.
I had never heard of “livermush” until I met M. M was from the South originally but had been on the Cape for some time. He was funny and sweet, crass and loyal, and was always happy to spend a little time at the exchange. Livermush, said with a thick southern accent and a mischievous smile on his face, is a mix of different parts of the pig, cornmeal, and spices, and is eaten like breakfast sausage or spam. Randomly, that word will pop into my head and I hear his voice, telling us stories of his week or his family, talking about his plans for the future, asking staff for extra snacks. There may be better stories to tell about him, I know there are, but this is the thing that has stuck with me.
We miss you, M.
My daughter Elizabeth LeFort died 7 months ago of a drug overdose. She was 23 years old. She was killed…by drugs. She was killed. I will tell you about Liz. I know this will sound familiar to you because we all travel that same road with addiction. We walk together in this journey.Janice McGrory
Liz was brought up in Hanson and attended Whitman Hanson HS. She was an honor student, a cheerleader, a youth cheerleader coach, a dancer, a gymnast, a soccer and basketball player. She had a great group of friends. Liz was on the National Honor Society, and she graduated 10th in her high school class. Upon graduation, she was awarded a scholarship to college.
She was a loving daughter…kind, considerate, thoughtful. She had it all…beauty, talent, smarts…a bright future. She mattered to her family and to her friends. Her drug journey started 7 years ago while a junior in high school.
For two years she kept her drug use hidden. First signs of trouble….an arrest at a hockey game for possession, later followed by a trip to the ER for cocaine use. She went to a drug treatment center and returned to high school. Problem solved right? Kids dabble in drugs, get caught and punished, learn a lesson from their mistakes and move on in life. I knew my daughter and she was raised with “the drug talk”. We openly discussed the dangers and Liz understood the risks. I THOUGHT!!
Her behavior improved for a while but then she relapsed. Back into a program she went. Soon after she graduated from high school, a friend of Liz’s contacted us and said she was worried that Liz was shooting heroin…HEROIN??? I was terrified…my daughter putting a needle in her arm?? That only happened in the big cities, to kids who did not have a caring family…not someone like my daughter. But my daughter had NOT ONLY graduated from high school, but she had graduated from using oxys and cocaine, to shooting heroin. I sectioned her and she went into a holding/detox tank for 30 days.
I delayed Liz’s college start for 3 months until she became drug free. She was tested regularly…again I hoped she learned her lesson. Off to college she went to fulfill her dreams. She even made Dean’s List while there. Little did I know she continued using drugs. She could not stop. Looking back, I had no idea what I was dealing with, what she was dealing with. I did not understand ADDICTION.
Liz returned home that summer, along with drugs, followed by detox centers and programs, another section, court which eventually led to prison and probation. This cycle continued on and off for the next 6 years. Liz attended programs in Hopkinton, Westborough, Foxboro, Lynn, New Bedford, Fall River, Boston, Amesbury, Brookline, Brockton, Georgetown, Haverhill, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.
Liz always did great in a program. She had hopes and dreams and looked forward to the future when we could spend Xmas together again and we could go to the beach together again and we could once again talk nightly over dinner. We had hopes. She had hopes. But every time she got out, she relapsed, and the cycle would start over.
Her journey also included loss of a boyfriend from an overdose, car accidents and broken limbs, multiple overdoses and trips to hospitals. It continued to abusing other prescription drugs as well. But Liz never gave up trying…never did until her dying day.
My hope never faltered….my daughter could beat this. She was the most self-disciplined, hard-working person I knew. She would reach her bottom and THEN pull herself out. But I did not know the depth of her addiction. I did not know what to do to help her other than to encourage her and support her in any way I could…I loved her.
My mantra became “I will hope for the best but prepare for the worst”. This was my beautiful girl; my daughter and I could no longer protect her. I had to rely on her to help herself…I prayed for her to reach “her bottom” so she could begin her recovery and find her way back home.
You see, Liz always thought that she could beat it…but IT, the drug, was bigger than she was. The drug became more important to her than her family, than her love for her family. It was more important than her health, her friends…It WAS bigger than her.
Liz would say “I wish I never took that pill” referring to Oxycontin. So kids…Make the right choice. You are playing Russian Roulet when you play with drugs. Don’t do it…because the chamber might be full, and you will be on the road to addiction. It happens that fast and without warning. So I am warning you.
Make the right choice…your life depends on it.
I have talked to several student and parent group, and I mention that kids unknowingly and innocently get hooked on drugs. A student of mine told me last year, after she heard me speak, that after she had some minor surgery that the Doctor wrote her a pain prescription. My student asked, “Is this a narcotic”?? He answered Yes….and she said, I don’t want them. I was so so proud of her and her decision!! So parents BEWARE of what Docs are giving your children…whatever happened to Tylenol??
I really didn’t know much about drugs available to kids today in the school…furthermore I knew my daughter would never do them. Oxycontin, I knew nothing about. I never heard of it, I never knew how addictive it was. I did not understand the true meaning of ADDICTION. Oxy was a medicine prescribed by physicians, right? How bad could that be?!!!
I was IGNORANT…with a Capital I. HEROIN?? That was a street drug, only people who lived on the street in big cities took that. Who would ever dare take that drug?? I was so IGNORANT.
Drugs robbed Liz. They robbed her of the life she deserved. They robbed me the joy of watching my child grow and prosper. Drugs stole my daughter away even before her death. She was not my daughter most times. I was usually talking to the drug not Liz. They changed her personality, weakened her body to that of a 50-year-old, weakened her mind and her spirit.
Liz died on January 6…life will never be the same. Her life mattered – to me, to her sister, to her relatives, to her friends, to society. It still matters.
A vigil by definition is a demonstration in support of a particular cause. Our cause is not only to pray and offer support and guidance to those suffering, but to stop this madness. We as parents need to be vigilant. We know when our children are not acting right. We know in our hearts that something is off even though we don’t want to accept to fact that our child might be trying drugs, after all, we taught them, right?? They could not be so stupid. But they are, and they will experiment, and it is our job to make sure they don’t. If they do, then we must be able to offer them help.
You see, we parents are born with special gifts. Instinct and Intuition. Moms especially are blessed with a strong intuition when it comes to our offspring. DON’T DENY IT……use it. If something does not feel right, trust your gut. Act on your gut. Trust your heart.
My Liz was an addict. Addicts don’t want to be addicts. They made a bad choice in the past by taking a drug offered to them. The word addict should no longer bring to mind a derelict living on the street. That was my vision 8 years ago. We have to change that picture. If it can happen to Liz, it can happen to anyone. Liz once said to me, “Mom, I would rather have cancer”. Addiction is a disease just like cancer and should be treated as such. Do you know that if my daughter wanted help, she had to shoot up before a treatment facility would take her?? Really?? Do we shoot up cancer patients with more cancer to help them recover? There is something very very very wrong about that process. One which has to change!! Addiction is an illness!
We have to hold vigil. We have to protect. We have to stop drugs from coming into this country, into our communities, into our school, into our homes. We have to stop pharmaceuticals from knowingly producing highly highly addictive drugs like Oxycontin for the sake of making money and at the expense of our children. We are all fighting back. We have to. We are at war with drugs, we have to beat this war. We cannot let the drug beat us and take our children. The drug knows no boundaries, no town is spared, no socioeconomic status is spared, no school is spared.
Many people in the community are attacking the drug epidemic. Lisa Murphy formed Parents Supporting Parents to support families of addicts. That started at least years ago with members and now has members. Parents of middle schoolers are now attending these meeting. Mid schoolers!!!!
My daughter, Amy, speaks to middle and high school students about making RIGHT CHOICES.
It takes a village. This village of the Cape. Together, all of us. We can make change. We must make change. We will make change. It takes all of us///our community, the school, police, friends…all of us to watch…to be vigil. This problem is way too huge to be silent…that would be a deadly silence.
Liz and all others who have died because of drugs are here with us in spirit. She never gave up trying to beat the addiction and she whispers to me “Mom, don’t give up. Keep trying”. I will because she matters. WE will win this battle.
The expression “undying love” has new meaning to me. I loved my daughter from the moment she was born, and I continue to love her while she is gone. Where there is love, there is hope. Love is powerful and the human spirit is remarkably strong. She lost the battle with drugs, but she would want me to continue the fight. Liz says to me “Mom keep on trying, you can do it” She would want US to continue that fight. And we, together, will win this battle. We need to do whatever we can to stop the drug and help our children. It is a good thing. It is the right thing. It is our only alternative.
By being here tonight, you are taking action. We are comforting those struggling and praying for them and we are honoring those lost and praying for their families. By holding those candles, you are holding onto the light and bringing hope and promise of a bright future for those now struggling. It brings ME great comfort and hope.
The last time I overdosed I was in the bathroom of a shopping mall on Christmas Eve while my sister and brother were shopping for Christmas presents for my family. I was revived in the bathroom by a woman whom I would never recognize today. Paramedics had to narcan me twice on the public bathroom floor. I was brought in an ambulance to the hospital— where I had to leave my little brother and sister whom could not drive, at the mall with my car and my purse full of drugs. When my parents came and got them and brought them to the hospital— I pretended I was fine. The next day I pretended it didn’t happen and I used again Christmas night. This was the fourth time I had been revived with narcan.
It was several more months before I finally got clean — but I have now been clean for almost ten years. I have two kids who have never seen me use. I have a beautiful relationship with my family and a partner who loves me. I have a full time job helping others in recovery and countless true friendships. I have gone back to school and received a bachelors degree and a masters degree, and I have been able to help provide a place for women who have gone through what I have been through by owning and operating sober homes. I have a life that would have never existed, had Narcan not existed. I am grateful every day that I had another chance at life.– Lana A.
My niece Brandi passed last year from an overdose. Just over 30 years old, single mom, with three young children left behind. I don’t think she meant to go, but had no idea what was in that stuff she injected. She was stressed as many are, but I don’t think she even knew the risks of what she was doing. Probably just trying to have some fun. Be safe people, and talk to your friends and family.– Stan Rose
It’s been about 7 months since I’ve lost you, I don’t even know really what to say, because I like to pretend that your still here just at home in your bed waiting for me. This feels like a really bad dream. Your death has completely changed me for the better. Your overdose made the reality of this disease & what I will eventually succumb too if I don’t surrender fully to this program. I know you’re free from the pain of active addiction which is all you ever wanted. I could never be upset or resentful with you because I know you would never be with me, all the times you’ve Narcanned me. Since you’ve passed away I’ve been able to think more clearly. I can’t blame you for my addiction it’s not your fault you only did what you knew. But I know a lot now mom, I know that I can live a life without substances no matter what. I know that I’m strong enough and worthy enough of being clean. I know that I will die too this disease if I don’t stay clean. As I’m sitting here 6 months pregnant with your grand daughter and a life that is unrecognizable, I wake up everyday loving the life I live, surrounded by people who love & support me. And I thank you this wouldn’t be possible without you. I wish you were here too see me shine but I know your watching from above
Love always,– Morgan C.