My nephew Charlie Griswold was born just a few weeks before our youngest child, Emma. Both were beloved youngest siblings in large, strongly connected families. They were two of seventeen beloved grandchildren, who gathered frequently and playfully. Charlie’s brilliant blue eyes and mischievous grin endeared him to all.
Charlie was also whip smart, clever, musical and funny. With that much going for him, and that much family loving him, it’s beyond devastating that Charlie died last year from fentanyl-laced drugs, at age 27, leaving behind two young daughters. But, he fought emotional demons and addiction, too. As his mother — my sister Betsy Blankenbaker Murphy — eloquently shares on Instagram, there was an alter with a Buddha statue, crystals, books on recovery and spirituality all in one corner of the trashed room where he died.
“And that’s the area where his body was found, so close to hope,” she mourns.
The trauma of Charlie’s death still ricochets throughout our family.
Linus Blom was family, too. His step-grandmother, Ulla Hamalainen Blom, and I declared ourselves sisters for life after her year with us as a foreign exchange student from Finland, during our senior year of high school. We pledged to stay connected as family for life, and we have!
Transatlantic travel, holidays together, weddings and other celebrations followed for decades and our family connections extended to Ulla’s daughter Annina (Linus’ aunt) and step-son Jan (Linus’ father). The bonds between our two families strengthened further when Jan, his wife Irena and their three children, including Linus, landed in Silicon Valley for Jan’s job at Google at the same time that our son James and his wife did through their tech jobs as well.
Like Charlie, Linus had soulful eyes and was handsome, smart, clever and beloved by extended family. His tragic death from fentanyl-laced drugs in July 2020, just as he was starting his senior year at Los Gatos High School, was similarly stunning and heartbreaking. Like so many during the pandemic, Linus struggled with substance abuse. Nevertheless, he was a high-functioning, charismatic teen and a great athlete. One fake pill killed him.
“Linus purchased a pill that he thought was Percocet, but it contained a lethal dose of fentanyl,” Jan explains. “When we discovered Linus [dead in his bedroom], it was too late to revive him.” He laments further, “A first-born son, big brother to two younger siblings, a grandchild, a cousin, a wide-hearted, accepting friend, brave and humorous human being, is now gone forever.”
Fentanyl is a national crisis demanding greater attention and faster resolutions. It touches exponentially more families — like mine and yours — than is widely understood or discussed in mainstream media. Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and is the leading cause of death for Americans 18 to 49.
In the Bay Area, the wealthiest communities are on track to suffer the worst fentanyl consequences. “There is more than one fatal overdose or drug poisoning each week in Marin,” reports Marin Magazine.
“Fentanyl is very potent — it’s 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine,” Dr. Kristine Cieslak, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Lurie Children’s at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, told Yahoo Life. “As little as 2 milligrams can be lethal in adults and even smaller amounts can cause death in children.”
It will take much greater awareness and community collaboration to solve this insidious problem. That’s why Make It Better Media Group is collaborating with leading nonprofits in the fentanyl awareness space — such as Song For Charlie and Shatterproof — as well as the Linus Blom Memorial Fund to raise awareness and funds.
On National Fentanyl Awareness Day, May 9, Make It Better Media Group will host a virtual event bringing together a panel of healthcare experts, grieving parents and nonprofits to share expert advice on what parents need to know and how to help by supporting organizations committed to preventing tragedy at the hands of fentanyl. Subscribe to the Better Letter for a link to tune in and reminders as the event approaches.
You can help too! Please share your own story, advice, recommended resources, add a comment, share through your network, join the live event, donate, say a prayer or simply pause and care. It will take a Sibelius-style symphony of voices and loving collaborations in memory of all of the Charlies, Linuses and other children who should never have been lost to the fentanyl scourge.
My plaintive song for Charlie, Linus and too many others is this: Please help! You can make a significant difference by sharing, liking, donating and voicing support in the fight against this ongoing crisis.
How to Help:
Donate to the Make It Better Foundation and your funds will be matched and distributed to our National Fentanyl Awareness Day partners.
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