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In April 2006, I found a travel-sized  Tylenol bottle in the upstairs bathroom. Jason used to carry small bottles in his pocket, and often mixed in his prescribed medication (Adderall) just because it was convenient to carry this way.  But there was some other kind of pill mixed in, not just over-the-counter pain medication. I immediately notified family members, and we had the pills tested. It was Ativan, a drug that had been prescribed to someone close to him. He was supposed to grab a regular pain pill from the cabinet, but he unwittingly took the wrong one. After reading about the side effects, I was convinced that this drug was the reason for his suffering that day. I wrote the following:

April 28, 2006

Knowing what I now know about Jason’s death makes me feel relieved in one way: Now we have proof that he wanted to live; he did not leave the world because he thought he could not handle some responsibility or because he thought that his tumor was coming back and that he didn’t want for us to suffer with him. Jason did not give up on life. But even with this knowledge, his death was so final and so tragic BECAUSE he WANTED to live, and he loved us and he loved life. He wanted to play baseball with Caleb just like he said on Sunday, but his life was snatched away. He wanted to pay for the house, but his life was snatched away. And even with these signs of moodiness, we may never have suspected that he had picked up the wrong drug. He was causing himself to self-destruct every time he took one of those pills, yet he thought that they were helping him.

The anguish comes from wondering what horrible, hopeless thoughts were running through his mind. What kind of tormenting fog took control of him? And on my part, I constantly rehearse scenarios in my mind, all with different words and actions, yet the same theme: I was home when he arrived, and I was able to stop him some way and help him. It’s like he was doomed from birth, yet he had thwarted death until this horrible mistake. He lived through the removal of a tumor in his brain and then being hit by a car that left him in a body cast. Last month I believed that he left because of some mental anguish that he thought he could never resolve, but Jason would NEVER take himself from us willingly. He had unknowingly overdosed on a powerful and dangerous drug, and it took the mentality of survival from him.

Jason is a spotless angel in my memory now. I repeat my mantras to try to make myself feel better. The first is “Always remember that there is another world to sing in,” and the other is “You’re only a heartbeat away.” I want the latter to be inscribed on his tombstone. It makes me feel relieved to say that. He’s on the other side of this life, and when my heart stops, I’ll be with him again. When he has that on his stone, I can go there and read it and feel some peace. So much I think that I can’t live without him, but if he’s only a heartbeat away, I can last here.

It’s like when I had Caleb, I told myself, “Three more sets of pushes, and the doctors will help you.” Then, after those three, I said it again until Caleb was finally born. This way I can say, “Stay here, and stay strong for Caleb just one more day.” And tomorrow I can repeat it, until I come to my last heartbeat naturally, and the long wait will be full of happy memories of my family that lasted me through a long life without Jason. But when I am finally with him for all eternity, I’ll remember life here as only a short separation instead of the time without end that it seems to be right now.

 


 

 

I was told later that the toxicology report came back with only a small elevation of Adderall. There was no Ativan in his system. I had to accept more that I didn’t understand at that point. As for dying now, I must remember what mom said about suicide a long time ago that I never forgot. “They didn’t understand that tomorrow will be better.”

 

Jason’s room in the brown house was up the stairs, to the left. A dark brown, queen sized sleigh bed was pushed up against the wall between matching nightstands, and a rocking chair stood by where he used to drape his clothes if they were too clean to throw in the laundry.

There was a 357 magnum in one of the nightstands. Jason used to take it out with his friends and shoot the road signs.

When I was pregnant, we were the only ones living in the house, so we slept in the master bedroom downstairs. When he left for work, I would go upstairs because the mattress in his old bedroom was softer and more comfortable, so plush it felt like luxury to sleep in. A green quilt was laid over the bed- we got it for our wedding. I loved the varying fabrics on the patches and the animal skin accents.

On the day Jason died, I called my parents. My baby and I were alone. When my parents got there, I was still standing by my truck, keeping it between me and the house, like it could shield me. The front door was standing open, and I couldn’t focus on it.

Dad hugged me and I sobbed, “Something was wrong!” He can’t stand to see me in pain. My pain becomes his pain.

So many people were in our house. I went in our room with trepidation, because no one told me where he died, so I assumed it would be there, but it wasn’t. I mechanically pulled clothes out of the dresser for my baby boy and anything loose out of the closet for myself. I walked out of the room and someone said, “She’s in shock.” I can only imagine what I looked like from that memory.

Someone tried to stop me, but I went upstairs. Straight to his old bedroom. The green quilt was slung back and a deep stain of blood was on the far side of the mattress. I pushed past the dresser and dropped on the floor, staring at the bed.

I don’t remember how long I stayed there, but at some point I got up and struggled open the drawers, looked under the bed, even in the attic storage. He had to have left a note…but I knew Jason. He did not like to write, so he didn’t leave a note.

 


 

 

We had moved the rocking chair in that bedroom and replaced it with a treadmill. I remember working out up there one day with music blasting. Jason suddenly bounded into the room with a huge smile on his face, scaring me so much I almost wiped out. I did use that treadmill one more time shortly after he died, just so I could stare at the doorway, wishing he would come in. Exercise was something I needed to help me cope- the release of endorphins.

 

Click here for Part 4 of What Happened.