His friends called him Jonny or Jon, but to me, he was always Jonathan. I like that name, it suited him. He was my oldest son. He made me a mother. From the moment I felt him inside of me, I knew he was going to be active. He was already walking by 9-months. You should have seen him riding his bicycle or playing basketball. Or getting into an ice-cold lake to just touch a piece of ice that had broken off from a glacier in Alaska. But no matter what he was doing, even if he was just quietly reading (he loved books!), you couldn’t take your eyes off him. There was something about him, hard to explain what it was. People always commented on his smile, but it was more than that. He could talk to everybody, but I mean EVERYBODY. And they liked him so much. He was sweet, compassionate, caring, and very generous. He was a very loyal friend. He was proud of his heritage, of his family, of his friends. He loved animals and sports, and was very knowledgeable, especially about football, so much so that he would call radio stations to share his opinions and sometimes he got on the air!
Jonathan had a hard time in school. He was very smart, but he was dyslexic, and it took him many years to embrace that. He finally got his college degree in construction management and the day he graduated was one of the happiest of his life. He also got his certification as an HVAC technician. He got a fantastic job with a great company, but he didn’t get to enjoy it. He died a few days after starting that job. What he took was adulterated with fentanyl. He was 28 years old.
Jonathan had struggled with anxiety and back pain for over a decade. When he was younger, we brought him to doctors, but they all said that he was just immature and a sensitive boy. That he will outgrow it. His behavior started to change when he was around 16, but they told us he was just frustrated with school, that once he finished high school he will be fine. He wasn’t. He started experimenting with drugs and alcohol and he got addicted. Jonathan was very good at hiding his feelings and his addiction. We didn’t know the magnitude of the problem until recently. For years we were frustrated and sometimes angry with him. We thought he was being irresponsible, and careless. A year before he died, we learned that addiction was a disease. Substance abuse had changed his brain. He sometimes would tell us that he was ashamed and not proud of what was happening, but he kept saying he had it under control. We tried to get him help, but he never acknowledged he had a problem.
Since he died, on June 13, 2019, I have been transported into a parallel universe, where beautiful young people like my Jonathan die of this horrible disease, where mothers and fathers are grieving their ultimate loss. The stories are so similar. Since our tragedy, I have been feeling the need to help others and fight this terrible epidemic by bringing awareness and a better understanding of others. He hid his addiction because he was ashamed, but we are not hiding it. We are not ashamed of our son. People need to know that it is a disease and not a choice. That they are victims, just like those afflicted by any other diseases, like cancer or heart disease. I am very proud of my son. He grew up to be the kind and compassionate person every mother wants her son to be. He touched many lives and inspired people with his resilience and determination. He never gave up and rose against adversity. The disease might have taken his body now, but it will not take his voice. I will make sure of that.