Stephen

Submitted by: Annie Paskovich
Date: Wednesday, September 2, 2020 @ 11:34:49 am

Losing my brother was the most devastating memory I hold to date.

It’s been just over six months since I lost you. I watched you struggle for years but I also watched you bounce back over and over again. Your addiction was a part of you that I never understood. Who you were when you were high clouded the person I knew you were deep down – loving, outgoing, caring, and humble. You never judged anyone. You were the most accepting person I ever knew. You taught me so much!

We share a birthday, too. And this year was the first one without you. Do you remember the time there was a Blue Moon (2nd full moon in a month) on our birthday? Mom, Dad, Mark, you, and I had dinner at a nice Italian restaurant in Metuchen, NJ. We drank wine, ate big meals, and blew out our candles together. This year was painful without you to celebrate with. And I know I always joked that it was my birthday, not yours. Well.. now I wish I never joked about that.

I miss you everyday, Stephen.

Our family is welcoming a new member at the end of the year, but I’m sure you already knew that. His name is Lucas Stephen, in honor of you and your love for Star Wars. Bryan gets to say “Luke, I am your father.” I wish you could be there with us to meet him. I know your spirit will be with us, I feel you everyday.

Until we meet again <3

Marco Mazzucco

Submitted by: Lisa Bonanno
Date: Monday, August 10, 2020 @ 09:27:49 pm

I knew Marco for the last two years of his life. In the beginning of our friendship, we talked about philosophy and culture. He’d traveled overseas and read serious books. He thought deeply about things. At that particular time, there were only a few such people in my orbit. Marco was rare and refreshing, a glimpse beyond a gritty reality.

Over time he withdrew from our group of friends. He stopped laughing and began to criticize people, when he showed up. Phone calls and messages went unanswered for months.

Then he showed up at my back door on a hot summer day. He was wearing long sleeves and pants. He offered to clean my house. Though he denied it, I knew he’d relapsed.

My friends and I continued to reach out to him. His refusals were always gentle and polite.

But one day we heard of his death by heroin overdose. We stood silently in line at his viewing. One friend led me away as the tears welled up, sat with me in another room as the grief poured out. I had a Narcan kit and lived only 5 minutes away. If only I had known! That cruel fact still haunts me.

Marco himself still haunts me. I see him playing tennis whenever I pass the courts where he played with his father. I see him when I walk past his home, and sometimes in my dreams at night.

I’m fortunate to have known Marco. He inspired me at a dark time. I wonder what he would say about the world right now. No doubt we’d be discussing it. I mourn for his future as much as for his past.

Naoki Daniel Kurimoto

Submitted by: Brenda R Schuck
Date: Wednesday, August 19, 2020 @ 03:48:19 pm

As a child, my son, Naoki was vibrantly alive, full of energy, talent, enthusiasm, intelligence and pure spirit. In his own words, he was a rocket, and he was an amazing leader on every athletic field on which he played. Even as an adult struggling with addiction, he touched the lives and the hearts of so many. As one of his friends so aptly put it, his heart was his biggest muscle. His loss has been devastating for the communities in which he grew up and lived. And saddest of all, is the fact that this story, his story, can be told in many thousands of ways, by many of thousands of people, many of you among them.

My son taught me many things, not only during his lifetime, but through his death as well. Strange as it may sound, it has been in “the process of letting him go” and allowing him to move on unencumbered by my would of’s, could of’s, should of’s and if only’s; instead, bound by a love that continues to grow, that each of us is experiencing a new pathway to freedom.

Our loved ones who have crossed over are no longer bound by their bodies. They are no longer bound by the pain of the substance to which they were enslaved that consumed them. And the very last thing that they want for us now, is for us to be bound by our loss of them; by anger, regret, recrimination or remorse; or bound by a longing that can only remain unfulfilled.

The legacy that my son left behind, was in the impact that he made while he was here and how he showed up in life as reflected by the way that he made others feel. He followed the compass of his heart and accomplished his mission. He fought as best he could in the face of adversity. And his having ultimately lost that fight does not diminish anything. Death is not a failure.

My hope today is that as we honor the grief and the pain of loss, that we may be able to hold both peace and pain at the same time, so that we too may choose to live life “full out” as my son did (and as I suspect as your love ones did also) in whatever way that translates into a life of continuing meaning and purpose for each of us.

Ryan Palazza

Submitted by: Eileen Palazza
Date: Wednesday, July 29, 2020 @ 09:14:42 am

A WONDERFUL BLESSING

I originally wanted six children. Yes, six! But in my life I was destined to have only one child, and that child was my son Ryan. I consider him to be the best work that I have ever done. He was kind and compassionate and brilliant. Because he was very handsome he was never at a loss in any given year of his life to have a girlfriend, and this saga went on from the time that he was 15. When I think about the qualities that he had in addition to what I have already told you he was definitely carefree. He enjoyed life, he relished our small, tight knit Italian family and he was driven to always do better, do something more, get the next promotion, climb the ladder in any company that he worked for.

After college he had many job offers and was always able to get to the next stepping stone in his career. His occupation was that of a Regional Manager for nation-wide construction companies, and he managed suburban developments that were being built, sometimes in excess of 1,000 homes. He managed supplies, deadlines, customers and all the men that worked under him in the process of building one of these developments. And, when done, he would go on to the next one. He was admired by his co-workers and the companies that he worked for. He was the epitome of a ¨good Italian boy¨.

Ryan loved being Italian. I think that stemmed from the fact of how much he loved to eat Italian food and his passion for cooking. His dad also loves to cook, so on any given day when we were all together the two of them could be found in the kitchen cooking whatever it was that they had decided would be the meal for the occasion.

Christmas was a very, very special holiday for us and the only thing that was greater than the number of presents under the tree was the laughter in the house. We were always laughing – always. That laughter and the love that we had for each other as a family sustained us even when we did not get to see each other as often as we would like. But always we had Ryan, and his dad and I considered him to be the biggest blessing in our lives.

Ryanś struggle with addiction started when he came out of college, and lasted until we lost him in November of 2018. Because he did not always live near us, and he always had his own place, he was very adept at hiding what he was going through and what it was doing to his life. He was prescribed opioids for a back injury that he had sustained in high school football that was exacerbated when he went to college, and the opioid use led to his addiction to heroin. Heroin laced with fentanyl killed my son. My husband and I – when we were made aware of Ryanś addiction – tried to help him in any way that we could. He moved in with us and lived with us for 5 years. What we found was that there was a total lack of services available for someone to take advantage of, as well as a total lack of rehab spaces for someone who did not have insurance or the personal funds to pay. He was treated as if he were expendable. My son was not and is not expendable.

And so our lives have gone on without him. The depth of the loss that my husband and I carry is immeasurable- and indescribable. What you come to accept as a grieving mother and father is that you have to find a way to do life, or the grief that has been placed on your shoulders because of the loss of your only child can stop you cold.

This is my tribute to my son. Ryan made my life so complete and whole. He was the perfect son, and I was so blessed to have him. I was lucky that he stayed with us until he was 41. He was a true gift.

Dan F.

Submitted by: Priscilla Robinson
Date: Tuesday, July 28, 2020 @ 03:03:00 pm

I lost my friend Dan back in 2011 to a preventable overdose. He was an EMT and an amazing person all around. The thing I remember most about him was his sense of humor. He always had me laughing when we worked together. When he passed away suddenly, I couldn’t process it. It made me sad, angry and unsure what to do. Nobody knew he was using heroin or prescription pills until it was too late. I wish I could go back in time and change what happened, but that’s not possible. Instead, I’m dedicated to taking action in his memory with Not One More NJ until we end the overdose crisis. Miss ya buddy.