Wednesday 22 January 2014

saying something is better than saying nothing

So this has very little to do with me or my books, but I felt I should post it.

It's not so much that I expect it to help - more that not saying something seemed wrong.

Around six months ago I got an email from a mother. Her son, Aidan, had died shortly before she wrote to me, aged 25. On the night he died he was reading King of Thorns and the last page he read bore the lines:

"She needs no deep carved runes to spell out her life. Here I buried my child. A message for which reading is not required"

The lady writing to me wanted to know if she could use the lines on Aidan's headstone, changing just the gender. I said yes, of course. To be asked was the both the biggest honour my writing has brought to me, and at the same time the least welcome, depending as it did upon the loss of a much loved son.

Aidan, a chemistry graduate, a young man with all manner of passions and ambitions, died accidentally from a heroin overdose. He's been described as kind, compassionate, brilliant.

(Aidan, 4 weeks before his death)

Shortly before Christmas one of my daughter's friends (23) also died of a heroin overdose, and last week my daughter flew back from America to attend the funeral of yet another friend (a boy of 21 who had recently graduated from Cambridge University with her) from a Valium overdose.

All of these people were highly intelligent. At some point they were unwise and drugs got their hooks into them. Later they were unlucky and drugs took their lives.

From where I stand all I can see is the waste and the loss and the hurt left behind. The quarter of a century since I was of an age with these three has brought me all manner of experience, good, bad, but most of all unexpected. It's hard to see past the next few years when you're 20-something ... and it's hard to see back past the last 25 years when you're at the wrong end of your 40s.

I suspect that those who escape such addictions don't do so because of any great epiphany. There's no slogan, or example, or reasoning, or 'talking to' that will 'set them straight'. It's probably something that comes from within if they're allowed the luxury of time. Something that grows piece by piece, the product of a thousand grains of sand pouring through the hour-glass, and the absolute best I can hope is that this post is a grain of sand for someone.

I know that like these three individuals many of my readers are in their 20s. I know that like these three my readers are intelligent. And I know that given their numbers there must be some of them out there who share these kind of problems.

So that's it really. I just needed to post - to remember my reader, Aidan, and to add my grain of sand - to say that it does happen, it can and will happen, even if you're careful, even with a degree in chemistry.

Be aware. Be safe. Be happy.

[posted with the blessing of Aidan's mother]


  1. For anyone who reads this, never be afraid to say that it has got out of your control. And for anyone who knows someone in this position make sure that you say, "who the hell am I to judge you? What can I do to help you?"
    Aidan's mum.

  2. Great Post and my heart goes out to Aidan's family. I too knew a young man who perished this way.

  3. Great post. Indeed most of the people of my age (I'm 23 now) tend to stray to the "wrong" path. I also had a friend who committed suicide (RIP friend) while in his drunkard state supposedly due to family problems. What I want to say is families should stick to their children and try to help them, by force if they must. I will always miss my friend. Even as I write this there must be thousands of youngsters out there who aren't doing what they shouldn't. I pray that you get help as soon as possible. Life is precious but short.

  4. Thanks, Mark. This is touching and wise

  5. It is hard to say no to the darker things of life when all your friends and peers tell you it's ok. Most are comforted by this, and push forward, others later try to step backwards and often failed. To us few who have found the strength to just say no, and stand by that lonely marker while our friends who said yes fall by the roadside, we know the loss that yes entails, and that no words of ours will stop that tide, though we try. We cherish the light of these friends in our hearts, judging not, but always remembering the friendship and the love we shared on life's journey. Our only hope is that we may be given the opportunity to share with others that which we felt for those we lost on life's road.

  6. As a soon-to-be-30-ier, I am by far not dumb. I am by far not intelligent either. Looking back at my last 13 yrs, I keep coming back at a few persistent questions. Did time fly by that quick? Was it just 25 yrs ago till 10 yrs ago that the bullying lasted? Why didn't I embraced the flirts of narcotics?
    The answer on the first is obvious, no need to explain.
    The answer on the second is....harder, for it also answers the third question.. As a child coming from kindergarten to primary school tot he young man dropping out of university college due to the bullying teacher, I was down as I could be. Losing a father during that last stint almost did it. Almost. I had lost two of the few friends I had as a young teenager (one when I was 12-ish and the other when I was 16), one died two weeks before a lifesaving operation and the one I lost when I was 16...he fell between a truck and it's lorry.
    I'd seen the pain and the overwhelming realization at youngsters around me of losing a guy they liked. I made myself a promise on the day I had the funeral of the 16 year old. I would never ever directly commit suicide, no matter how far I would fall, no matter how hard life would treat me. If I had to go, the cause was either a traffic accident or a natural cause. Of course, looking back...what did I meant with directly? It's not like a guy like Aiden took heroin to end his life that faithful day. How did I manage to put that directly word into my promise? And what did I mean with it?
    Here's the answer to that question, as it is the same answer on my third question I asked myself. I never had the urge to try out any harddrugs besides alcohol. Yes I smoked pot a few times, but it didn't work for me as it should have (I can not breathe in smoke from sigarettes and what do you need to do to get high from pot? Right...). But, never had the urge. I was a cyclist doing licensed races, I needed to stay clean from doping and thus also drugs. Not that I was any good, I was far below average. But I said, due to my sport, no to the two times I was offered doping and harder drugs. I was young (17) when I said no the first time, two years older when I said no a second time. I quit race cycling a year later. Looking back now, I thank my brilliant stupid brain for saying no. A friend of my said yes and he was lost in the fog for a few years before I could set him straight with the aid of a judge, his parents and his own will to get better. All because something went very bad, it made him quit it. Sometimes all you need is a stupid smart brain to listen to, but sometimes it says yes instead of no. For it said no to me, I wanted to know the directly part. It gave me it, two years after I said no to the last offering, when my father died. Me and my brother both were declared heart patients overnight due to a bad gen. Now I can say I will most probably die around my 50's, but it could happen tomorrow, maybe when I am 90. I enjoy life and that might cause my death sooner than when I would mind everything what could trigger bad stuff. But I don't want to. I want to have lived. Death I rather embrace with a sudden go, than lying in a bed all day waiting for it to come. (no offense to any one reading this).

    I have one more question I always ask myself: how can I help? I want to have a good life with the stuff and things I like. But I want to grant others the same thing, that is my purpose and my goal. I want my fellow humans happy. regardless of culture or ethnicity. I hope my story helps one or more persons. I really do. Be blessed all and stay strong and fierce.

  7. Thanks for sharing Mark, and my deepest condolences to Aidan's family.