Many Stephens

by C.J. Couvillion
(Baton Rouge, LA)

A recent conversation after receipt of Stephen’s full autopsy report went something like this with my Mom Lucy. “Hey, Mom, we got the cause of death from Stephen’s autopsy report. He died from drug intoxication,” I said to her as we drove from her home to mine, a 2-hr journey through Louisiana’s finest back roads. She looked at me with a question on her mind and said, “What kind of drug”? “Heroin,” I said, swallowing hard and looking straight into her eyes. She looked away, paused for a while, shrugged her shoulders and said, “Oh, well, maybe he had a prescription,” as if to say hopingly that his death was not as an illicit drug abuser, but as the sweet little boy whom she and Frosty my Dad taught to kill birds from the back porch of their Cottonport, Louisiana, home with a BB gun at the age of 6. After all, Stephen was her only grandson as well as my only son. She prefers to believe that he died from his heart ailment, pure and simple, not as a drug addict. A heart ailment is much easier to explain, and doesn’t draw criticism from behind your back, or give you cause to be ashamed. And in a way, my Mom Lucy’s preference is ours as well.

Stephen will always be that little boy in our minds and hearts, not the drug addict. And, quite frankly, I believe that is part of the problem. We want to look away from the bad and see only the good, but unfortunately when we do that, we see only half a picture of reality, the good half, but the bad half has not gone away, it is stuffed into our unconscious and comes out in our dreams, perhaps as nightmares. It is only after we look reality fully in the face, that we can deal with the little boy of 6 who learned to shoot a BB gun with his grandparents in Cottonport, who grows up to die in Philadelphia at 29 from cardiac arrest associated with heroin intoxication. That is the reality; it sucks but that is what actually happened to Stephen.

That is the way his whole story must be told.
Several times Kathy has reinforced with me this “whole story” concept regarding Stephen. It usually has gone something like this, “He wasn’t just a drug addict. He was a loving son, and a devoted uncle, and he loved Christmas, and worked with orphaned and abused children at Volunteers of America.” And she is right. He was all of those things to us at one time or another. And again, I think that is the problem. We live life linearly, bound by time, progressing forward from child to adolescent to adult to old age. I like to think that God does not see us that way at all, since He is not bound by time and space, but is timeless. I like to believe when he “sees” us He sees the whole, from beginning to end, not in a straight line but all at once. Philosophers and theologians define this attribute of God as omniscience or all-knowing, meaning that God is fully aware and possesses inherently within Himself all there is to be known about this universe, all knowledge whether past, present or future.

I like to think that God did not just see Stephen “the drug addict” die from cardiac arrest associated with heroin intoxication, He saw the little toddler who loved his big sister Sarah, He saw the 6-yr boy old who loved to shoot a BB gun, He saw the Tiger Cup Scout in his little blue uniform, He saw the 7-yr old boy who dug deeply into a jar of pennies and came up with 99 of them on his birthday at a KOA campground in San Antonio, Texas, He saw the Magnolia Woods Elementary School 5th grader with his science fair project on bees, He saw the bushy haired middle-school kid who jumped fearlessly from the rocky cliffs of Lake Tenkiller, Oklahoma, into the cool crystal clear water below, He saw the angry, confused 13-yr old boy who was diagnosed as having an “identity disorder,” He saw a high school senior who began to use marijuana and drink heavily, He saw a brilliant high school artist, He saw the high school graduate diagnosed with a leaking heart valve, He saw the college freshman who adjusted poorly to moving away from home, He saw a college drop-out, He saw a 23-yr old man invite abused children to his birthday party, He saw a college graduate, He saw a brilliant high school social studies teacher, He saw a loving uncle, He saw a scared-out-of-his-mind 26-yr old man undergo an 11-hr open-heart surgery, He saw a patient become addicted to pain medication, He saw a Houston social studies teacher crack under the strain of drug abuse, He saw a grandson witness his grandfather’s dying day-by-day in his parent’s living room, He saw a grandson drink his grandfather’s pain medication, He saw a drug abuse patient who got kicked out of a drug abuse program, He saw a 28-yr old man finally admitted to a good graduate school, He saw a 29-yr old man planning to get married, He saw a 29-yr old man in congestive heart failure, He saw a brilliant African-American Studies graduate student at Temple University who died too soon. God saw all of these “Stephens” die from cardiac arrest associated with heroin intoxication on April 25th, 2010, in both time and in eternity.

Comments for Many Stephens

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Nov 11, 2016
Struggling with My Son's Death by Overdose
by: Jennifer Maurer

My son, Michael Silva, died of an overdose on a street corner in Miami on September 11, 2016. He had gone to Fort Lauderdale for rehab---one of multiple attempts in the past 4 years---and didn't stay for even 1 week. He left rehab on the 9th and died 2 days later. We did not receive a call until September 23rd, so my son lay in a cooler for 12 days before I was notified. I live in Indiana. I am utterly devastated. My whole world shifted that day and I know I will never be the same again. He was my only son and had battled addiction since the age of 15. He was 28 when he died. I, too, struggle with how I want Michael to be remembered, because although his pain and disease were debilitating and terrifying, he was so much more. He was so intelligent, compassionate, and funny. I miss him with every breath. When he died, a part of me died with him. I am struggling with my grief.

Oct 02, 2016
Another Mike's mom
by: Anonymous

My 45 year old son died last Saturday, Sept. 24th, 2016. He was homeless and dual diagnosis. Sadly, he died in a field where a lot of homeless people live. Don't have the cause of death yet but since there was nothing on physical exam when autopsied we all have to assume it was drugs; he was known to use meth and did drink a lot.

We are still in the throws of major grief, shock, frustration, etc. He had so many opportunities to change his life. Sometimes he would manage to be clean/sober for several months only to regress. I know this is a common pattern and that the success rate with people who are dual diagnosis is very, very low.

We are consoling ourselves by saying he's in a better place. His life here on earth was a difficult one. He had few friends and the majority of them were not good influences. I'm sure his migrating to the homeless community was partially based on their acceptance of people with multiple problems.

I need to put a positive to this ever so negative situation; haven't figured out what but hope whatever I do do I will impact the life of at least one person in a positive way so hopefully that person won't can live a happy and productive life.

Jan 29, 2014
Sharing your pain
by: Mike's mom

I'm am so sorry for the loss of your son. I lost my son on nov. 22,13. He came home to get staight. He had been on different kind of drugs for many years. He had a lovely wife and two beautiful childern, Max 3 and a half and Bria 8months. He had went to the doctor to get med. for depression. He mixed it with methadone and my husband found him the next morning in the bed dead. It has been very painful. I do get so much relief from the Lord. As you said he knew out little boys when the were so young and innocent. Michael like your Stephen was a good boy. I know that God knew their stuggles. I truely believe that is why they went home. We just have to remember all the good times we had with them . They will live in our hearts forever.

Apr 29, 2013
my son died
by: Anonymous

I am so sorry to hear about you son Stephen , I know you loved him deeply your memories are so heart warming , I lost my son Patrick Januar3 , 2 of his so called frieto thouse0 worth of heroin and s. and ind shot him up, they watched him dying , the waited almost 45 minutes before the called 911,.he had cardiac arrest from heroin toxicity, he was 19 yearsold my heart is breaking for you.. i miss him so much

Mar 16, 2013
Many Stephens
by: Connie Luke

CJ, this story touched me. My 16 year old son, Jason, died in a car accident on April 28, 2011. Since that time I have made friends whose children have died as a result of drugs and suicide. You are correct--For whatever reason, the world is judgmental when a child dies like that. We all want to believe we have some control over whether someone dies or how they die. I thought I could worry enough to keep my beloved Jason safe. Seriously, I'm an intelligent person and I believed it with all my heart. For me, there was guilt for possibly letting him drive too soon. How he died had nothing to do with me as a parent or how much I loved him. The same applies to you and your wife. I think we all have a tendency to sum a person using a label or two. It simplifies things for us. I do it a whole lot less now. In my experience, we all tend to get screwed up when we fail to see things and people as they really are. You knew who your son was. It's clear you loved him and I'm sorry from the bottom of my heart he died. How he died changes nothing about who Stephen was.

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