Afterward: My Hope for a Better World

Excerpt from my memoir, "Freedom from Addiction: A Mother's Story of Hope," which is about my son, Jonathan, who lived a struggling, unselfish, heroic life before committing suicide on March 5, 2010 at the age of thirty-five.

Purified through Sorrow

I have always been profoundly affected by Jonathan’s courageous life. I am now profoundly affected by his tragic death. Death has a way of crystallizing what’s really important and putting everything into proper perspective. A quote my father helped me memorize when I was young takes on even greater meaning for me now: “Sorrow is the solvent in the chemistry of character which precipitates all the unworthy elements and leaves the soul pure.” I can feel my soul being purified through my sorrow. I am a better person because of my son Jonathan.

Jonathan taught me so much about real life. Through him, I learned to take off my self-righteous glasses and look at all humanity with eyes of compassion. Because of him, I was forced out of my comfort zone and made to walk in paths I probably never would have walked. In spite of him, I rose to face the challenges he put in my way day after day—which made me incredibly strong.

I now understand how short and unpredictable life really is. Every day matters. Every minute matters.  Every person matters. As a woman, a wife, and a mother, I see more clearly what my defined roles should be. I have been seeking, trying to implement, and writing about balance between these three roles ever since I married and became a mother. After thirty-eight years, I now understand the key to a happy, fulfilled life is the balance I have been earnestly seeking all this time. Jonathan has been an integral part of everything that I have learned.

Help Those Who Are Suffering

As a woman, I have learned that I have a responsibility, as Jonathan always challenged me, to reach outside myself and look for ways to help those who are suffering around me. I can’t just sit in my warm, comfortable house and keep the blinds—and my eyes—closed. When there is a need, I must use my gifts, talents, and resources to help take care of that need. When the demands are seemingly too great, I can pray for God to renew my strength so I can keep going—and I know He will. While I can’t help everybody, I can help somebody. Every day I must help somebody.

I have learned that being a woman, a wife, and a mother in today’s complex world is extremely challenging, but as I strive for balance between these three interdependent roles, I have been given a clear vision of what I am supposed to be accomplishing with my life. The most fundamental lesson I have learned while trying to help my son, Jonathan, who had so many needs, is that I can’t go out and try to save the world until I have saved my own family and home first. The skills I have learned by teaching my own family to be loving, responsible, helpful, and kind will be the same skills I will use to be successful in every other area of my life. The time spent with home and family is never wasted. This message is not just for women, wives, and mothers. It is also for the gentlemen, husbands, and fathers of the world to ponder and put into practice.

I do not regret any of the hours I spent trying to help Jonathan. My goal was to inspire him to stay alive, teach him how to live a responsible, drug-free life, and help him accomplish all his goals.  Did I accomplish my goal? Not completely. Do I feel like a failure? No. I know I did the best I could.

Heart of Gold

What I learned through Jonathan’s life and death is that we are all fragile human beings. We all have insecurities. Life is hard, but life can also be full of joy and happiness. It’s what we choose to do with the myriad challenges and opportunities we are faced with each day that determines who we become. Despite his adversities, Jonathan became the best he could be.

Jonathan wanted to change the world.  Did he accomplish his goal? Yes.

Jonathan changed a small part of the world. He changed me; he changed his father; he changed his brothers and sisters; he changed all his relatives; he changed all his friends; he changed beggars on the street; he changed fellow prisoners in jail; he changed lost souls in psychiatric hospitals, he changed angry acquaintances at drug rehabs; he changed cynics at church; he changed strangers at 12-step meetings; he changed everyone he came in contact with throughout his life.  

How did Jonathan change all of us? He changed us with his friendship, with his kindness, with his smile, with his compassionate service, with his warm hand shake, with his enthusiastic high fives, with his cheerful, “Hey, what’s up?”

Jonathan had a heart of gold. He changed us with his love.

Jonathan's Mission

Jonathan’s mission is not yet finished. Not until every person has a decent place to call home, every stomach is fed, and all the innocent are protected from harm, danger, and evil will Jonathan’s mission be over. This is Jonathan’s plea for help—his call for action. Will you please look around you and see who could use your assistance? Will you please step outside your comfort zone and lift the weary, comfort the sick, and bring relief to the poor? Will you please make your home a happy place to live and invite others to come in and share of your blessings? Will you please support your communities and help them become safe places for everyone to enjoy? Will you please put down the pointing finger of judgment and extend a hand of sweet friendship to everyone you meet?

I will always be deeply affected by Jonathan’s courageous life. I will always be deeply affected by his tragic death. I will never forget the many things I have learned throughout my life because of his fearless example of compassion, helpfulness, service, and love. I am accepting the challenge Jonathan gave me to help the addicted, the mentally ill, the poor, the suffering, and the destitute. Please join me in Jonathan’s crusade to love everyone with Christ-like charity and find a way to help those who are truly in need. This is my hope, and his, for a better world.