In February 1990, I met Ned Gadsby when I took a job as a computer operator working shifts for a major government contractor. His shift ended as mine began, and we would often spend a long time talking - if we were switching shifts at night - about everything from religion to philosophy to politics. Soon our families got together. He and his wife Grissy already had Neddy (Edward Northup Gadsby, IV), Emilia (Emmy), Lee, and were about to have Caroline. Later, they had Julia and Katherine (Kate). Neddy was 6 months older than Stephanie, and our families often got together. I remember Neddy as a boisterous child with blonde curls and wide, curious eyes. He seemed to always be into something.
All of the children were (and are) beautiful and intelligent. They are confident, self-assured, and absolutely delightful. I used to refer to them as the young Kennedys, because they just seemed like the perfect family (little did I know that Ned's family actually rubbed elbows with the Kennedys). Like any family, though, they had their struggles. As the children grew up, they became even more delightful. In 1992, Ned left that job and went on to start his own business, which he runs to this day. I moved my family away from the area in 1997 and went to Maryland. We kept in touch infrequently, but everytime he called me or I called him, the conversation always started the same way, "I was just thinking about you..." and always end the same way, "Our friendship never changes. When we talk it is as though no time has passed."
Well, we lost touch a bit after I left my husband. I don't think Ned really understood what happened, because he and his wife have weathered many storms. Though he wasn't judgmental or anything, he continued his friendship with my ex and encouraged me to do the same (which I eventually did). His wife and I had a long conversation one afternoon while I picnicked at the river with my partner and friends. She shared with me the struggles that Neddy was having with drugs and mental illness. It was like a mirror of what happened with Stephanie. I told her that I would pray for him and for her to have strength. At that point, she'd had to ban him from the house because of his actions. I know it was killing her, but she was being a wise mother to protect her other children and her home. That long talk was the last substantial communication we had.
On Tuesday, I got a call from Ned just as I was going into the pharmacy to drop off prescriptions. I sat my phone down and said, "He'll leave a message and I'll call him right back." Then something in my spirit started nagging at me. I turned to my partner and said, "I hope nothing's happened to Neddy!" It was all over me. I knew it in my soul.
When I got back to the car, I listened to the voice mail as I rode back toward home. My worst fears had come true - as had his and Grissy's. Neddy died at the home of a friend sometime last Saturday night in Philadelphia. He fell asleep with one hand behind his head, one hand over his heart, and an open Bible next to him. He'd had a good conversation with his mother on Friday about Christmas and was looking forward to seeing his family. He was not (nor was he ever) suicidal. He was happy, though his mind and his addiction often took him down a bad path. Like Stephanie, he never saw the danger in this world. He trusted easily and often, and he left himself open to hurt.
It's very likely he died exactly the way Stephanie died - of an accidental overdose. He simply went to sleep and never woke up. The family is broken with grief. I've spoken with them a few times, but they are busy with the work of taking care of their son's final arrangements. In the days that come, however, I plan to be "on call" for them. It is when all the noise dies down that the need for support is the greatest. Christmas will never be the same for them. Never.
Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers. Losing a child is, as one book put it, the worst loss. It is out of the natural order of things. It is incredibly painful and hard to accept. The grief is intense.
Grissy asked me, "Does it ever get better?"
I said, "No, but you do learn to live with it."
My heart is with them today and every day. My heart breaks for them.
Peace - D