He had been dead for over a day when the police found him alone in his apartment. The drug paraphernalia nearby gave an indication of what coroner's tests would later confirm, that he had died of a heroin overdose. A few forms completed, a few boxes checked, the disposal of he body and he became nothing more than a statistic, the only unique feature of his passing that he was a little old to die in this way. Heroin addicts don't often make it to 65.
The manner of his passing should not have been a surprise to those who knew him, and once the initial shock passed, for most of us it wasn't. Drugs and alcohol had been his undoing so many times before.
He was bright and intelligent and life should have been easy. It might have been if he had been raised in a healthy home. Instead the lessons he learned from a self-centered and abusive father did not serve him well. He was hooked on drugs by adulthood, ultimately becoming a bank robber to support his habit. He robbed several banks, enough for the FBI to give him a nickname, "The red-haired bandit."
He was eventually caught, tried and convicted of his crimes and sentenced to federal prison. Fifteen years of his life had been lost to drugs. When released he lived for a while with his older sister as he tried to reenter society. To the surprise and delight of family members he seemed to pull it off. He got a job as a bartender, had a girlfriend who cared about him and was staying away from drugs and passed all of the screens administered by his parole officer. He was never going to be rich but he looked like he was going to make it. He made it to the family gatherings at Christmas and Easter and was a happy participant in the discussions. He was almost normal..
It was many years before cracks started to appear in his foundation but once they did they became increasingly obvious. He lost his license for driving under the influence and did a short stint in jail. He struggled to keep a job and was absent on the holidays. The last time family saw him was at the wedding of his great nephew in August 2012. He was grateful to have been invited and seemed genuinely happy to see everyone. Too happy, as he made too many trips to the bar and was so drunk at the end of the day there was a need to tell the valet he was not to be allowed behind the wheel.
We heard very little about him for almost two years, until my wife received a call from her mom telling her that John was dead. My mother-in-law was his older sister, he was my wife's uncle.
In the subsequent weeks we have talked often about the tragedy that was John's life. So bright and so gifted in so many ways, yet taken down and ultimately destroyed by the pursuit of a feeling, a desire to escape the pain of normal life. What a waste.