On the day our 18 year old son, Kevin, moved out on his own, he died of alcohol poisoning alone in a hospital while we slept peacefully in our bed.
For me, going to the funeral home to pick up my son’s ashes was a turning point. I realized that I didn’t want to be thought of as a victim and have people feel sorry for me. The world doesn’t need any more victims, the world does need people who make something very good come from the tragedies in their lives. I thought about what I hoped someone else would do if it happened to their kid and for me, the answer was clear-to get out and tell as many people as I can about what happened to my son.
I grew up in Montana and Kevin had been to Montana a number of times. He always talked about moving to Montana and buying a ranch. So I decided to take his ashes to Montana from Arizona. I decided to walk from Arizona to Montana with my son, Kevin’s, ashes in my backpack, not to raise money, because money will never fix the hurt, but to educate others about the dangers of alcohol abuse and to make something very good come from the death of my son. I honestly believe that the most you can hope for when you lose a child is to make something very good come from it.
I have shared Kevin’s story hundreds of times over the years and have learned to boil things down to three very simple things I want people to take away from our story.
1. The two most important decisions you or your children will ever make are about drugs and alcohol. Educate yourselves and your children about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse as if your lives depend upon it…because it does.
2. The way you respond to adversity will define your life. As much as we hope our children will never have to face adversity, they will and the way they respond to it will define their lives. Adversity can take on many different shapes. It could be divorce, loss of a job, girlfriend/boyfriend breaking up with them, not getting the scholarship they want, etc.
3. Forgiveness. It was easy for me to forgive the guys at the party, because let’s face it, none of them forced Kevin to do this. It was also easy to forgive my son, because as parents, that’s what we do, but as a parent forgiving myself was by far the hardest. The number one job of a parent is to keep your kid alive and I didn’t get that done. It took 1400 miles and 5 pairs of shoes but I have forgiven myself. We must learn to forgive others and most importantly forgive yourself! Anger and vengeance lead to destruction, forgiveness leads to healing.