When Chad Was 24, Grief Came Home

My son, Chad Jameson, was a fearless and loving man. He would have done anything for anyone. But he was not able to do what his own soul needed to end an addiction that he battled for a decade.

On Sunday, October 1, he died in a “recovery home” in Annapolis. He was 24. He would have turned 25 on October 7.

If all the people who loved Chad had been able to bottle that love as a cure, he would have been healed and come home again. In fact, any person facing any addiction would have been healed, and no one would have been left to suffer.

And Chad would have been able to come home at last, steady and smart. He’d have banged open our front door and smiled, then grazed through every cupboard in the house and the fridge, eating all food he could find (so long as he need not cook it).

He’d find his little brother, Ian, to wrestle him or arm wrestle or talk so fast I couldn’t understand their words. They would always smile and laugh.

If Gigi, my 3-year old granddaughter were around, he would play with her–or any other child–and make them laugh and feel special and beloved, because Chad himself was still an 11-year old boy, so desperate for the love that vanished when he was three and his mother died in a car crash. How I wish I’d loved him more.

He was so smart and sweet. When he was about four, he heard something about Israel on the radio and said, “Israel? Is Israel real?” He loved the play of words.

I always thought or hoped that when he “hit bottom,” he would come into his own, and touch the lives of children with joy. Instead, may the lives touched by his short life, by his love and, sadly, by his dying, be strengthened. May then know that there is no shame in asking for help. That medication saves lives. That addiction is a disease.

Every life is more than its actions. Every life is the Light it brings to us all.

Please God, let Chad fly at last as the brilliant star dust from which he came, and when we look into the dark and are afraid, let that fearless kid who tried swimming across the ocean to get to Europe that time he was 4 turn his face to home, so that his laughter might lift these heavy hearts. I was not ready for goodbye, nor were any of the broken spirits here, with the holes in our lives. Let his bright Light shine in us and on us. For the ones we love are never far from us. Call their names, pray to them, sing their favorite songs, whisper–they will always come.


for Grandmom


Grandmom in Alaska

Because she believed, I did,
all those Sundays she filled me
with forbidden fruits,
a grandmother’s reward
for having persevered. Everything
tastes better with sugar,
even oranges and secrets
kept from home.

In old St. Jerome’s church,
we’d kneel for communion,
long after my parish priest
had dispensed with being
an intermediary for God,
and handed me a wafer
All that was holy
flourished in my palm.

The years sped by so fast,
time invisible as angels.
Now, though belief is less rote,
I mouth her prayers
to lift her journey
to its end. If there were candles
I would blaze a trail.

I smell her Noxzema kisses
and count pennies won
at gin rummy, and remember
how I danced on her toes
and she laughed.
“Step lively,” she’d say.
“Here’s your hat,
what’s your hurry?”

Surely, now, some light-
footed prince has freed
a card for her and swept
her away in a drift
of stars, a cascade of ‘wow’
a mystery that sets
her free.

Key words: poetry, end-of-life, vigil, grandmothers, family, grief

January Drifts


We will not gather here again.
You slip through time, I stand
On a vacant shore. Your small boat
Catches waves, drifts, swells,
Whitecaps and breakers. We might once
Have toyed with these, or, toppled, righted.
Anymore, we are stranded. I haven’t arms
To keep you afloat. All our terrors,
Our worried minds, our loves–
We kick them off, like heavy shoes.
We tread, we huddle, we drift
So long we feel like creatures
Of the sea, hardly able to breathe.
The currents move so quick,
The horizon always shifts.

That Would Be Singing

We had gone as far as the road
Could take us. We’d come to other forks
And made up our minds, or made do.
Here, though, we gave up our fancy machines
And stumbled on, by foot.

 Sometimes, we had stopped to laugh
Or catch our breath at wonders
That came our way. When we had to,
We raised angry voices to the wind,
As if it might change direction.

We had the latest gadgets,
Which told us where we were,
Thirty-feet, more or less.

Since we had each other, we claimed
We were never lost. Sometimes night
Took us by surprise,
And when we faltered,
We held each other tight.

Here at this stopping point
The path is only wide enough
For one to go, and one to follow.
You take the light, I say,
Since you insist on clearing a way
And leading me with that one good hand.

For a bit, I hear you sing
A little tune, and I hum along.
Then you see something ahead,
And you hurry. I don’t.

Wait here, you say. I’ll check this out.
And though the unknown
Has long worried me,
You are fearless.

I wait.

I kiss your dry cheek
And watch you fade
Through an opening.

Cry though I might,
I cannot get you back.
Nor can I turn around.

I’ll stand a while,
Before I move along.


Oil painting by Ryutaro Ikeda.

key words: dying, loss, grief


Saying our goodbyes
From the moment we first met
How our lives go fast

While I didn’t count
You grew beyond my hand’s reach
Just living does that

We hold hands to sleep
A howling wind topples trees
We are dreaming still

We live forever
In memories and friendship
You are always mine

Every day my heart
Carves a path to memory
You come in again