The last thing I said to him before he died was, "I love you." 

He has always been and will always be the biggest part of my heart. God, he was beautiful when he was born with his down like hair covering his face and his little bald head. I cuddled and cradled him; fed him and played with him as he grew. He sprouted up fast, in the blink of an eye he was 5, then 8, then 10. It was just him and me the two musketeers. We had adventures together; camping, canoeing, laughing and singing in the car. But, I couldn’t have known that those days wouldn’t always be so.

He turned fourteen and overnight a wicked witch came to our house in the dead of night and traded him for someone I didn’t know. He rarely smiled, never sang and wouldn’t hang out with me. Where had my boy gone?

He had slipped quietly without fan-fare into the nether world of drugs. It was only a little at first, just enough so I hadn’t noticed, but then full-force to where it couldn’t be denied. His language changed, his appearance changed and his treatment of me changed. He dropped out of school, disappeared for days on end and became a stranger. I was frantic trying to keep him from sliding further into this world. I searched sometimes through the night when he didn’t come home.

There was an emptiness. A heartbreak so deep I felt as if I had been swallowed by a black hole with no sunlight or warmth from above. I tormented myself with questions; what did I do wrong; what can I do to save him? I went to experts to ask questions. I talked to other parents to see if they have had any successes. The years trudged by. I started to mark every memory with a crisis. He was consumed with drugs, his drug friends and self-destruction. My every waking moment was spent trying to find an answer. Then one day I realized I had given all I had to give. I had given up my own life to his addiction. There was nothing I could do to make it better. It was his challenge only he could make the change.

That was when I started to back away. I needed to let him fall. I was not there to see it or to pick him up. I started to remember who I was in the before time, before the police, before the rehabs, before the downward spiral. I didn’t want to leave him, but I had to save myself. It was a time I worked hard at not letting guilt consume me.
It had been a couple of months since I had heard from him. The phone rang and his deep husky voice said, “Hello, Mom.”  I thought he must want something. Well he did, not money or things. He just wanted to say, I miss you and I love you. With a catch in my throat, I said, “I love you too, Baby.” We hung up the phone and he was gone. Maybe, he knew that death was standing by to take him.

Cathy Chase is a retired English Teacher living in Northern California. She writes historical fiction and narrative non-fiction. She has published two books Tangled up with the Dead and Jump, both science fiction tied to an historical event.