By SARA ARTHURS
After Focus put out a call for memorials to those lost to overdose, and messages of hope for those seeking recovery, about 50 responses had poured in within just a few weeks.
The nonprofit recovery center supporting people with mental health, substance abuse or trauma issues created a memorial ribbon which was unveiled on Aug. 31, International Overdose Awareness Day.
“I was not expecting as many memorials as we got,” said executive director Ellyn Schmiesing.
Receiving them in her inbox was emotional. One mentioned a person’s name and said, “‘Your son’s growing to be a great man’… It just hits you,” Schmiesing said.
Some, you could tell “were tinged with regret” — or frustration that the person had died, leaving loved ones others behind. There were “lots of expressions of love,” she said.
Some were written by children to their parents. And “some just had a name.”
The memorial is a giant ribbon, adorned with pieces of paper each with a message, some silver and some purple.
Some notes just have a name and a statement like “Love and miss you.”
Others are more intimate, such as this one: “Mom, there are so many things I wish I could say to you now. I wish I could say how your addiction, and recent death has just torn us all apart. But I would also say that I love you and that I’m going to try my best to help other people overcome this.”
Some refer to recent deaths — one begins by stating that five months later, the writer is “still in disbelief” — but one refers to a brother who died of a heroin overdose in 1993.
And one was written not to a specific person, but as a general memorial for those in the community who have died from overdose.
“All those who’ve lost their battle … Fly high … You’ll all be missed. You all are daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, you ALL were someone to somebody. Always missed, never forgotten …”
There are indeed also messages of hope.
“I know sometimes it feels like recovery isn’t possible,” one states. “But please remember that it is. That there is a better tomorrow. There is a community that believes in you and loves you. I know that you doubt that, but I promise it’s true.”
The memorial ribbon will be displayed at Century Health for the next two weeks, then will move to the Hancock County Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services.
Schmiesing said the process reinforced “the need to have a safe spot to talk about anything.” She said Focus has realized there’s a need, and intends to repeat the project next year.
The unveiling marked the beginning of Recovery Month, and Focus has other events planned, including a march and ride on Saturday. A full schedule is at http://focusrwc.org/sept18.