As I think back over the past month or two, I can’t help but reflect upon how very different life is today from what I expected it to be. Who among us would have thought we would be limited to being in the company of no more than ten people, sitting or standing at least six feet apart, or that we would be seeing empty shelves and refrigerators in grocery stores, or that we would be washing or sanitizing our hands multiple times everyday and being ever vigilant to wear gloves and or masks when and if we ventured out, or that we would be staying at home with our pets all day? From personal observation, my style may be cramped by all of this, but my pets are happier than they’ve ever been!
Today is Palm Sunday. This is the day King Jesus rode into Jerusalem seated on the back of a donkey, an unbroken colt. But as might have been expected, there was no chaotic scene as Jesus and this untrained donkey, unfamiliar with a burden on its back, walked amidst adults and children who shouted, “Hosanna!” and waved palm branches as they made their way through the streets of Jerusalem.
These people, much like ourselves, had a different expectation of what their lives would look like. After all, was not King Jesus their Deliverer? They sought a political figure, a King, who would free them from Roman rule. He did free them; He freed them from the tyranny of sin and death, and offered them eternal security, but this was not what they expected, nor was it what they wanted. Many of the same people who welcomed Him coming into Jerusalem that day, only a few days later, were clamoring for His crucifixion.
Unfulfilled expectations have a way of changing our thinking, and can be sources of great anxiety, can they not?
I think of all the people whose lives have been forever altered by the advent of the corona virus. They too undoubtedly thought life would be different; that it would not look quite the way it does now. Not only are they disillusioned, but they are profoundly sad, wondering why they have lost a loved one; why their loved one could not have been among those who recover.
I understand these emotions. This week takes me back seven years ago when I was faced with the accidental overdose of our son, Cullen. After years of struggling with addiction, his life seemed to be getting back on track. He had rented his own house, and had accepted the responsibilities associated with home ownership. He had asked forgiveness from us and from others for his actions while in the throes of addiction. He had weaned himself from methadone and the necessity of going to the clinic on a daily basis; on the outside, life looked good. The Christmas prior to his death, we enjoyed the best family time we’d had in years! All was well.
And then April came, and everything changed. Even though the landscape of our family had been altered years before due to the death of our full term infant son, Russell, that landscape once again was irrevocably shifted. Once again, life was very different from what I expected it to be. As Melanie DeSimone so wisely stated, “I didn’t want to remember my sons, I wanted to make memories with them.”
I too was disillusioned. Why would the God whom I love and serve allow this to happen yet again in my life? Why could my son not have been among the one to two percent of heroin addicts who recover and never relapse? So many questions, so few answers.
And yet I know that God loved Cullen even more than I do, or could. He had a plan and purpose for his life, and for the lives of those of us who were left behind; a good plan, in fact, the very best one. It was not my plan, nor would I have chosen this path had it been mine to choose, but it was not.
Cullen left us just eight days after the celebration of Easter in 2013. He knew Jesus; he not only knew about Him, but he trusted Him as his Savior and Lord. Because of his faith in Christ alone, I will see him again. Heaven is a real place, and I have treasure there…two of our five sons.
Yes, sometimes life looks very different from what I expected it to be. And yet as I yield my expectations to His good plan, I find great peace. The Scripture reading for one of the devotional calendars I have for April 8th, the day of Cullen’s death, captures that thought.
I’ve never given much thought to the tower of Babel until this week. The reading was part of the “Through the Bible in a Year” plan our church is currently following. The first nine verses of Genesis 11 reads in the English Standard Version:
“Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.’ And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, ‘Come, let us build for ourselves a city and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.’ The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The LORD said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
Today, we cannot even begin to imagine everyone using the same language, the same words! Verse 1 of Genesis 11 deals a heavy blow to the theory of evolution since there were obvious differences between human language and animal sounds. When I think of the word “babble”, I think of the nonsensical utterances of a young baby, or someone or several people talking so rapidly that his/their speech is incomprehensible. And while this “Babel” is pronounced, “ba-bel” with a long “a” sound and the accent on the first syllable, it seems most appropriately named to me! It may be a play on words, but in verse 9 of Genesis 11 we find these words, “Therefore its name was called Babel, because the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
People born after the Flood are all descendants of the three sons of Noah. This includes us! In the book of Acts, chapter 17, and verses 25b- 26 Paul states,
“He (Jesus) Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things, and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”
Notice what the people who had settled in the plains of Shinar proposed to do. They proposed “to build for (themselves) a city, and a tower whose top (reached) into heaven, and to make for (themselves) a name, otherwise (they would be) scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” I immediately thought of the Scriptures in Proverbs,
“The plans of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motives. Commit your works to the LORD And your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:1-3).
And again in Proverbs 16:9 we read, “The mind of a man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.”
In the first few verses of Genesis 11, we see no indication of these people seeking the mind of God, and as a matter of fact, their motive was just like I find mine to be on way too many occasions, “let us build for ourselves… and let us make for ourselves a name…
In effect, these people were trying to thwart God’s plans. Job, in his contrite answer to the Lord stated, “I know You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). Job finally got it! God’s purposes cannot be thwarted, try as we might, and that is MERCY. In Genesis 9:1, Scripture tells us, “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.'” It was God’s intention for people to be scattered throughout the earth, not to be in one city, rallying around a tower. Had God not intervened and confused their language, they were planning to finish a tower which would have isolated them and left them altogether, after all it was more comfortable that way! But their plan was the exact opposite of what they had been commanded to do.
In the latter part of Genesis 11:6, we find these words, “…now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.” Those are frightening words, aren’t they? When we are eager to have “our” plans work just the way we want them to, we manipulate, strive, pray, and do everything we possibly can to effect our desired outcome. Do we consider that our “desired” outcome may not be the outcome that is “best” for us? Oh, but we think it is, and that is the rub! God knows each of us better then we know ourselves, and He will intervene and thwart the best laid plans to give us His best. It is often the exact opposite of what we desire, and often very painful, difficult to accept – much less understand, but His plans are ALWAYS for our ultimate good and for His glory, because He is ALWAYS good. God cannot operate in a manner inconsistent with His character.
It is so easy to “see the speck in our brother’s eye,” isn’t it? And so many times we tend to harp on “the speck” and fail to acknowledge “the plank in our own?” I could wax eloquently about how wrong these people in ancient times were, how they defied the very commands of God, had selfish motives, and wanted their own way. But the truth is, I do the same things everyday. No, I am not into tower building, but I sometimes find that I try to build myself up in the eyes of others, I make decisions without going to the Lord first to see what He would have me do, or I even fail to go to loved ones, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances with the good news of the gospel. It is so much easier and safe to stay in my “holy huddle.” So in reality, I am not very different from these people who lived so long ago.
Dear Father, forgive me when I have judgmental attitudes toward others; when I capitalize on the specks in the eye of another, and fail to see the log or plank in my own. You have blessed us all with two ears and one mouth by design so that we would listen more and speak less, particularly when are busy “babbling”, promoting our own agenda with little or no consideration as to what You would have us do, say, or think. Help us to remember that while we are to spread your Gospel to the ends of the earth, it begins with our own family members, dearly loved friends, our neighbors and those with whom we come in contact. We may not be called to go to the ends of the earth, but we each have our own sphere of influence and even that sphere of influence is by your design! As we go throughout our days, help us to be mindful of the fact that we are Your ambassadors in a hurting world, and make us worthy of our high calling in Christ Jesus our Lord. In the precious name of “Him who is able to keep (us) from stumbling, and to make (us) stand in the glory of His presence blameless with great joy, to the only wise God and Savior, be glory, majesty, dominion and power both now and forever, AMEN” (Jude 24-25).
October 24, 1980 was the day he was born. I had been admitted to the hospital the previous evening due to severe nausea and susequent dehydration. My due date was the 27th, so like any mother nearing the end of her pregnancy, I was delighted at the possibility of an earlier arrival! But because I had been so sick for several days, I was very weak. Thankfully, my labor was short, and he was born just before midnight. Interestingly enough, since we called my mother shortly after his birth to let her know she had a new grandson, she insisted for the remainder of her life that Cullen was born on the 25th!
David was the big brother, 21 months older, and he welcomed Cullen into our home! They loved one another fiercely from the very start and were as thick as theives growing up! The differences in their personalities were readily apparent. David was forever the talker and the more outgoing of the two; Cullen was quieter, a thinker who was content to point and grunt, refusing even to walk until he was almost three, leaving us to interpret his needs and wants.
High school years accentuated those personality differences even more. When David got his driver’s license, I was delighted he could drive himself and Cullen to the high school every morning! Little did I know of the battles that would ensue every day over their departure time. The social butterfly wanted to leave at 6:45 while Cullen wanted to arrive no earlier than two minutes till eight! Mornings were less than optimal times for relationship building in our home!
Raising boys four boys was quite the adventure! For an only child like myself, it was pretty overwhelming at times! I mean you do question your parenting skills when at age four Cullen asked, “Are you sure you are raising us right?”
“Well, I am doing the very best I can; no one came with a printed instruction manual, so some things are just trial by fire,” I explained.
Since Cullen’s birthday was just prior to October 31st, David was anxiously anticipating dressing up and going from house to house to get candy on Halloween night. Having just gotten home from the hospital myself, I left Cullen with my mother while I took David to a few of our neighbor’s homes to trick or treat. I will never forget sweet Mrs. Mitchell saying, “Oh Susan, David is just precious….and when is your baby due?”
“Oh!” I said, “he was due on the 27th, but he was a few days early! He is at home with my mother.”
I am sure she wanted to crawl under the steps leading up to her porch! I learned that day NEVER to comment on any phase of a woman’s pregnancy…either past or present!
Cullen had to wait a couple of years before he could dress up on Halloween like his brother, but here is our little pirate!
Speaking of birthdays, we had some great birthday parties! We had one when Cullen had chickenpox! And since the show had to go on, we invited friends who’d either already had chickenpox or who had it simultaneously! Train cakes baked by me and decorated by Harold were the rage! On his thirty-second birthday, Madison wanted to have a surprise party for Cullen at our home. I was working full time, so I suggested we have it on Saturday. “But his birthday is on Wednesday!” she exclaimed. I thought to myself, “Yes, I know it is on Wednesday; I happened to be there at that blessed event!” And so Wednesday it was! We had a great time celebrating him and I am so thankful Madison suggested having a party. We had not done that in many years, and as it turned out, it was the last birthday we would ever celebrate with him.
Since I was able to stay at home with our boys, I did a lot of cross stiching, sewing, and smocking. They had a few matching outfits with cross-stiched initials. And they loved playing on their swingset in our backyard in Homewood!
Harold built a pretty elaborate treehouse for them in that backyard as well. One day, when they were still rather young, they somehow figured out a way to climb onto the roof of our house! No, I was not a negligent mother, but I had rather ingenious children! Once they got up there, the story I was told was since Cullen had on his Superman pajamas, David convinced him that he could jump from the roof to the nearest tree branch and then from there, climb into the tree house. With David cheering him on, Cullen jumped with outstretched arms and just missed the branch, landing flat on the front of his body and knocking the breath out of him! It was then that I heard screams in the backyard! Superman was not supposed to be unable to fly; he had his cape on and everything!
He ALWAYS loved his food! I think that is the reason he decided to be a chef. As a baby, when I fed him a bite of baby food, spinach, beets, carrots….he loved it all, he swallowed it and immediately placed his thumb in his mouth! As I filled the spoon and brought it to his mouth again, he took his thumb out with a florish and inhaled the next bite, always returning his thumb to his mouth! Eating was oh so terribly messy, but always so enjoyable for him!
Growing up, Cullen always liked to look neat, and put together. David, not so much. One of David’s teachers in elementary school asked, “Does David wear his shirt-tail out as an act of defiance, or does it just come untucked?”
“That’s an easy question.” I replied. “David is in constant motion; his shirt-tail simply comes untucked. On the other hand, if you notice Cullen’s being untucked, that clearly is defiance!” As they grew older, Cullen became the beatnik, and David became the neatnik!
Throughout their lives, our summer vacation was most often spent at the beach. We went to the Gulf coast often, but also frequented Hilton Head and Folly Beach on the Atlantic coast. They are vastly different beaches and each has features they loved. Cullen was an avid boogie board fan, and he enjoyed the Atlantic coast with the flat beach and hard packed sand. He also loved surfing!
He and David enjoyed the east coast very much, choosing to live and work in Charleston. During one of the major hurricanes to hit Charleston, I had been unable to reach Cullen for a number of days. While this was concerning, I thought perhaps there were outages due to no cell reception, etc. When I finally reached David, I asked if he knew where his brother was. His answer, “The last time I heard from him, he borrowed a wet suit and went surfing at Folly Beach!”
“WHAT? That is incredulous! Who in their right mind would do such a crazy thing?”
“My brother,” David replied. “Besides, during hurricanes is when you get the best waves!”
Yes, I am thankful for the 32 years Cullen was with us; the daredevil things he did stuck fear in this mother’s heart! There were angels working a lot of overtime protecting him from harm!
One year while we (the boys and I) were on the Gulf coast with out neighbor and her two girls, Cullen dressed up in one of Ali’s bathing suits, complete with tennis balls for “boobs.” It was a great picture; one I threatened to use as blackmail on several occasions!
One summer we went to a dude ranch, Bar Lazy J Guest Ranch in Parshall, Colorado. Philip was only six at the time and Harold and I decided to take him white water rafting on the Colorado River. On that particular trip, we knew we would not encounter any of the more difficult rapids, and Philip would enjoy the experience. However, because Cullen, David and Jesse had enjoyed other white water experiences in their lives, they donned wet suits, were driven a few miles up river from the ranch, and floated down the Colorado River. They were so cold by the time they made it back to the ranch, they fought over which two were going to be first to get into the two hot showers in our cabin. When we returned from our white water rafting trip about three o’clock that afternoon, all three of them were in the same bed with as much cover as they could find on top of them! They all said it was the coldest they have ever been in their entire lives!
Cullen loved to play the guitar! On “family night” at the ranch, he played and David and I sang a song I wrote about our dude ranch experience to a tune he knew on his guitar!
He had a serious side as well. When he sang in the Birmingham Boys Choir, there was a young man who had sustained a tragic sports accident which greatly affected his ability to do all the things the other boys could do. This young man’s mother often told me how kind Cullen was to her son; how he stayed behind the others to help him with tasks he could no longer do, or which took him longer than it did the other boys. Cullen had a compassionate, tender heart.
Perhaps one of my favorite Cullen stories happened when he was about six years old. In 1986, we kept our first foster baby. One day, as I was changing his diaper, Cullen said, “What is wrong with his penis?”
“Nothing!” I said. “Why?”
“It doesn’t look like mine!”
“Oh, he is not circumcized, and you are!”
“What is that?”
“When you were a tiny baby, a doctor cut a little piece of skin that caused your penis to look different.”
“You mean you had that done to me!!!”
“Well, yes. We wanted all of our boys to look alike!”
“That must have hurt really bad!”
“Probably so, but it happened a long time ago, and you are all over that now!”
Somehow I knew this conversation was going to come up again when I least expected it. So I called Harold at work to alert him to the fact that Cullen and I had had this discussion. Call it a mother’s intuition if you like, but sure enough, that very afternoon, Cullen met Harold at the door and his eyes were as big as saucers.
“Daddy! Did you know that me and you, and David are all ORGANIZED, but Michael and momma ate NOT ORGANIZED?”
And I will always remember my darling husband’s answer, “Cullen, honey, your momma is not organized in more ways than one!”
Circumcized and organized do have a similar sound!
So many memories, so many stories. On what would have been his 39th birthday, I chose to remember many of the times we shared. It has been six and a half years of doing life without him; in some ways it seems like an eternity, and in others, like yesterday. He is so missed and so loved today and always.
Last night before going to bed, I sat for a few minutes with Onyx, our black lab. She loves, loves, loves to sit next to me and most of the time she is as still as can be. However, it rained really hard off and on yesterday and she hates storms. All of a sudden she started licking her feet. When she does this, she makes the most annoying sound ever, and it absolutely puts me over the edge! I had to get up and go to bed!
It bothers me so much, that I thought about it first thing this morning. I remarked to Harold, “Why in the world do you think Onyx licks her paws sometimes?’
” I guess she is anxious, ” he replied.
“What in the WORLD does she have to be anxious about? She has a warm place to live, good food, companionship (including canine, feline, and human), and she is dearly loved! How could she possibly be anxious?”
Funny, it is so easy for me to see the ludicrousness of my dog’s anxiety. This morning I saw it in myself. I said to Harold, “Hmm, that must be how the Lord views my anxiety!”
He must think, “Why is she so anxious? I have promised ‘I will never leave her or forsake her'” (Hebrews 13:5). “I have loved her with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to her” (Jeremiah 31:3). I told her not to be anxious saying,”‘What shall I eat?’ or ‘What shall I drink?’ or “What shall I wear?’ Her heavenly Father knows that she needs them all. Don’t be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself” (Matthew 6:31-32, 34). Finally I told her, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4: 6-7).
Forgive me, Father, when I am doing the equivalent of Onyx’s paw licking. Thank you for letting me see this spiritual truth through the actions of my beloved pet. Just as I can see through my eyes and limited understanding the ridiculousness of Onyx’s anixety, how much more can the God of the universe view mine. In the precious, holy name of Jesus, Amen.
I read a Facebook post today authored by a mom whose son struggles with addiction. In a class she was taking, this mom was asked to dress as her “worst nightmare.” After returning home from her class, she told her son her assignment and asked him to “dress her.” Her words must have sounded really harsh on the surface, and her son asked, “Am I your worse nightmare?”
I loved her reply.
“No, the drugs are.”
What grace and love she communicated to her precious son in that moment. She separated the actions of her son under the influence of drugs from the person she knew and loved. I recalled a conversation I had with our son after someone very dear to me ended our friendship because, in her words, “my life was just too hard.” After having this conversation, I told our son, who at that time was struggling with addiction, “You caused me to lose my best friend.”
He replied, “If I caused you to lose your best friend, she was never your best friend at all.”
He spoke wise words to me; I only wish I had chosen my words with greater care. I should have said, “Your actions caused me to lose my best friend.”
The truth be told, this intelligent, compassionate, witty, handsome young man could not have “caused” the loss of my friend. While it is true that his actions while under the influence of drugs may have alienated her from me, I know she loved him as one of her own. Perhaps the pain of knowing about his addiction was more than she could bear….I don’t know; I suppose I never will.
Prior to his death, our son wrote me a letter apologizing for so many things he had said and done. He stated, “I am sorry I caused you to lose your best friend.” My words wounded him; he never forgot them. It was I who owed him an apology.
This mother who asked her son to dress her, conveyed in her article a genuine willingness on the part of her son to help her portray the reality of addiction. A compassionate heart and a willingness to help others seem to be a common trait shared among the addicted. He dressed her in his unwashed, smelly clothes, “with a bloodstain on them, ” and asked that she send him a picture when she did her presentation.
His mom described feeling physically sick when she went to her class; she did not want to be around her classmates…she felt shame, she was embarrassed; and yet she realized this was what her son felt every. single. day. What a courageous mom this young man has!
I remember a screaming match I had with Cullen one day when he said, “Do you think I want to live this way? Who would ever choose to live this way?”
“Then don’t! Stop using!” I shouted.
I’ll never forget his words, “I can’t, Mom. I can’t stop; I will die. At one time I could control it, but now it controls me.”
No truer words have ever been spoken. He fought valiantly; and experienced a period of sobriety before succumbing to agonizing symptoms of withdrawal and overdosing in an effort to relieve his pain. In the end, his addiction won. I pray that the actions and words of this courageous young woman whose article I read today, will help her son write a very different ending to his story.
This passage is perhaps the most difficult verse in all of Scripture for me. Many of us are familiar with the testing of Abraham by God Himself. God told Abraham to take his son, his only son, Isaac, whom he loved, and go to the land of Moriah; there he was to offer Isaac as a burnt offering.
I marvel at Abraham’s faith; he never questioned God or His motives. How could his decendants outnumber the stars if the child of the promise was slain? Why would God have given him a son when he and Sarah were advanced in age, only to have him killed? God gave the patriarch his instructions one day and we are told “he rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey…split wood for the burnt offering, and went to the place of which God had told him” (Genesis 22:3). On his journey to Moriah, he took Isaac and two other young men with him. I cannot fathom the heaviness of his heart, knowing what he had been asked by God to do.
Abraham fully trusted God in whatever He chose to do; he told the young men with him and Isaac, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you” (Genesis 22:5). Isaac carried the wood for the burnt offering much like Jesus hundreds of years later, bore His cross. As they walked along together, Abraham’s heart must have been in a thousand pieces when he heard Isaac ask, “My Father! Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7) Abraham responded, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering my son” (Genesis 22:8).
Isaac trusted his father. He watched Abraham build an altar; he allowed himself to be bound and placed on top of the wood, and saw his father stretch out his hand holding the knife to slay him.
And we know the rest of the story. The angel of the Lord called to Abraham and said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Genesis 22:12). It was then that Abraham looked, and saw a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. The Lord had indeed provided the sacrifice. Abraham came down from Mount Moriah with his son. But there are some of us whose Moriah story has a very different ending. We did not get to come down from the mountain with our child/children.
I am thankful that unlike Abraham, I was not asked to “go to the land of Moriah and offer” my sons, whom I loved, as a sacrifice. I don’t know that I could have responded in the way Abraham did. Both of our sons died; we did everything possible to save them, but to no avail .Was God in control when they died? Absolutely. Could He have written a very different ending to our Moriah story? Certainly. But He did not.
While our outcome and Abraham’s were very different, the “test” was the same. Abraham could have chosen to obey God, or not. We can choose to allow the deaths of our sons to define us, or not; we can become better or bitter…and I have spent some time being bitter. We can rail against God, refusing to trust Him in the “hard”, or we can give Him the “hard” and ask Him to use our life experiences to bless others. We can be grateful for the time we were given with our sons, or choose to dwell on all that we lost.
In the day of the prophet Habakkuk, the Chaldeans’ invasion made the land barren. Habakkuk was a believer, but like us, he did not understand the ways of God. Why had God allowed the Chaldeans, a group of people who were more wicked than the Jews, to punish the Jews? They raided the land; nothing prospered. Habakkuk had a choice. He could rail against God, failing to see or acknowlege God’s goodness in any area of his life, or he could trust God, knowing his sovereign Lord allowed whatever circumstances he faced. He penned these words:
Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exalt in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The LORD GOD is my strength” (Habakkuk 3:17-19a).
Dear Lord, help us to remember that You alone are our strength, that You are our help at all times, but especially in times of grief, discouragement, doubt, and uncertainty. Thank You for offering Jesus, Your only Son, whom You loved, as a sacrifice for our sin. You understand our Moriah experience. Like Abraham, Jesus obeyed Your will by going to the cross and offering Himself as a sacrifice for Your chosen people. Thank you for His life, His death, and His gloroius resurrection. This we pray in the precious name of Jesus, Amen.
I never imagined writing a blog post commemorating overdose awareness day; but here I am. In my naivette, I assumed our family would never be affected. After all, neither my husband nor I struggled with addictions; our sons were raised in a loving Christian home, in an upper middle class family where education was valued and encouraged. I was privileged to be a stay at home mom and we were both involved with our sons in sports and cultural activites. We ate meals together and took wonderful, memorable vacations! We played outside, went to Sunday school, vacation Bible school, the zoo, the park, the library; we did all the things Moms and Dads littles one do! We seemed to have to have a good grasp on this parenting thing, until we didn’t. While our son was the real victim, his use of drugs took its toll on our entire family.
Addiction does not discriminate. Lest you be too judgemental, it can happen to anyone at any time. It affects people from all socioeconomic groups, professions, races, intelligence quotients, personalities, and family histories; no one is immune.
Our son was a risk taker. He surfed at Folly Beach when one of the hurricanes hit Charleston! He donned a wet suit and his surf board, and off he went; after all, that is when one gets the “best” waves. I was made privy to this bit of information by his older brother after trying to reach Cullen unsuccessfully for hours. He was invincible; nothing would happen to him, until it did.
Cullen was very intelligent, creative and artistic. We kept many of his drawings and art projects he did while in school. He trained professionally as a chef at Johnson and Wales and was very talented and passionate about his work; presentation was everything to him! After all, we “eat” with our eyes before our food is ever tasted! He also learned woodworking from a friend and many examples of his work are in our home.
At present, approximately 72,000 people die of overdoses every year. Every one who dies leaves a heartbroken mother, father, sister, brother, child, extended family members, and friends. The life of each and every one matters; each person is created in the image of God with a purpose and a plan for his/her life, regardless of how sin has corrupted that design.
For several years before addiction took Cullen’s life, I feared “the call” everyday. Even though he lived away, we instinctively knew his lifestyle invoved the use of drugs….too much money went “missing”, his stories often did not add up, and countless times jewelry was stolen from our home. Too there were accidents, car repairs, tickets, incarcerations, and court costs that were a result of his addiction. Addiction is not only deadly, it is costly as well.
Amazingly enough, many overdoses occur when the person who is addicted has been “clean” for awhile. Cullen had been on MAT in an attempt to get his life back together for several years, and had done well in his efforts. He wanted to be free of the daily clinic visits and insisted that his dosages be reduced over a rather short period of time. In retrospect, this was probably a mistake. He struggled with all the symptoms of physical withdrawal: night sweats, cramping, stomach and digestive issues, depression, insomnia, and the like. While we knew of these struggles, he was still working everyday, maintaining his financial obligations with very litle help from us, and we mistakenly thought he was home free. It was not to be. On the morning of his death, he went back to the clinic and received 25 mg. of methadone and later that day secured heroin from his dealer. He even remarked to his dealer that he was afraid to use it because he had been clean for so long. But use it, he did; and that dose took his life.
When we arrived at his home, having been called by his girlfriend who had found him unresponsive, we had no idea his death was drug related. There was no drug paraphernalia present. It was not until we saw the autopsy report that we realized his addiction had won. It was a hard fought battle and we suffered the most casualties in the war.
Our family will never be the same. We miss him every single day of our lives. I am thankful for the thirty-two years we had with our beautiful boy, grateful for both the good times as well as the bad. I would do it all again in a heartbeat to be able to hug him, run my fingers through his hair, to hear his voice, to enjoy his sense of humor and his delicious food. We were blessed in that our prodigal did come to his senses; he sought the forgiveness of God and of us for his wrongdoing, he attempted to make amends to people he had wronged. He wanted nothing more than to regain the trust we had placed in him.
I wish I could tell others who are struggling on this path what to do, what works and what does not, but I can only share our story and hope that it might be beneficial to some. There are things we did right, and things we did wrong; but if love could have saved him, Cullen would not have died. His dad and I would have gladly given our lives in exchange for his. Cullen knew unconditional love; that was our best and most lasting gift to him.