Oak Point, TX
My son, Burke, was our youngest child and only son. He was a brilliant physics and engineering student, with a knack for making people laugh. He loved to talk about math, science, religion, movies, our dogs, and outer space. With a rare intelligence for math, Burke could solve calculus problems without showing his work. The thing Burke wanted most in this world was to finish his degree in Electrical Engineering. In high school, he was an award winning athlete. As a lineman in football who played both offense and defense, he never left the field on game nights. He had a truly inquisitive mind, a gentle heart, and gave his trust to people without reservation.
These things gave Burke a charisma that was hard to miss. Unfortunately, he was also a precocious risk taker, thrill seeker, and was usually trying to figure out how to do things that might put him in danger. After Burke went away to college, we noticed that he began to pull away from us, but we didn't know why. Looking back, a perfect storm was gathering in his life and we were completely clueless about it at the time.
Burke left our family for a while, but we continued to have hope that he would find his way back to us. Finally, he called and asked if he could come home. While we were thrilled to have our son back, Burke wasn't the same. Life had presented him with challenges that he couldn't handle. He was also trying to deal with a toxic relationship that proved to be more than he could manage. At the end of his life, after Burke moved back home, we knew that he was using something but didn't know what or how to get help for him. Burke agreed to go to counselling, as he was suffering from depression and anxiety, but refused any other treatment options. I took him to our family doctor, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a drug counselor; and every time I thought we were getting somewhere, something else would happen.
Burke’s cell phone was a real source of torment for him: hateful texts, Facebook posts and the like made him completely despondent. He didn't have the skill set to deal with the relationship issues that were hounding him.
On October 1, 2016, the worst day of our lives, I found Burke dead in his room. A package from Canada was on the floor next to his body. My beautiful, naive son had made the ultimate mistake: he ordered xanax from Canada through a darknet marketplace. The drug was 10 times stronger than prescription xanax.
Burke’s homework is still on his desk. His whiteboard lists all the assignments that won't ever be completed. I cannot bear to move anything for fear of losing what's left of him on earth.
The last conversation I had with my son was about religion. Burke was always trying to make sense of the Genesis story. He couldn't quite reconcile science with his Christian education. It gives me great comfort to think of Burke in heaven, but this is not the way a mom plans to go through life. This kind of grief is like a chronic disease: you only learn to manage it. This is the gravest issue of our time, but many are unaware it is happening.