Saturday afternoon, while driving home from the store, a rock song blared through the car speakers and a particular lyric caught my attention, “I can’t see the thief that lives inside of your head…” I recognized the band immediately, but the song was unfamiliar to me. What was clear, though, was how that one line pretty much summed up my feelings for what transpired earlier in my day. Instead of spending the first beautiful and warm sunny Saturday of Spring outside doing yard work, I attended the funeral for my second cousin PJ (44), who died prematurely due to long-term alcohol abuse.
I stood at the kitchen counter cutting chunks of chicken, peppers, onions, and mushrooms, to assemble later into chicken Kabobs. While I worked, the doll sat at the kitchen table and occasionally peppered me with questions about this and that but nothing too important. Seizing the opportunity at hand, I said to her, “You know, I like beer. I like to drink beer, I like the taste of beer and certain beers are my favorite…right?” She nodded and looked at me oddly, while I kept on with my train of thought. “But, I want you to know, I will never place you or your brother below my love for beer. I can go days, weeks and months without ever drinking–which I did while pregnant with the both of you. I wanted to give you both the greatest opportunity for a healthy birth. That being said, I want you to know, you both mean far more to me than alcohol ever will, I promise.” She nodded her head again but only offered a confused looking face back to me before I reiterated how much I loved her and the boy.
“PJ was a good guy. Smart, funny, a little shy. He loved everyone. The problem was, he loved alcohol more than anything else…” I heard his mother say. His parents are devastated that while they had exhausted every means possible to help him, his addiction finally took him from them.”On Thursday, I finally gave him over to God…I just never thought He’d come for him this quickly…” She lamented later.
When PJ and his brothers were younger, I used to ride my bike over to the ball fields to watch them play. His Grandmother lived around the corner from us and we would often times play catch among other things, when they visited. Unfortunately as time goes by, our lives moved in different circles, pushing us further and further apart.
My eldest sister Terri pointed out that in the last 10 years, we’ve lost four cousins due to some form of substance abuse. That insidious thief living in their head who’s tricked them into believing their drug/drink is more important than everyone else in their world. “It’s a long, long get away, It’s a long, long get away..” “What makes me the angriest…” PJ’s older brother David said, “Is that all of this was preventable. All he had to do was quit drinking, but he just wouldn’t… Just couldn’t”.
Our Lady Peace: Thief… Was written and dedicated to the thousands of children who pass away prematurely from illnesses. Though PJ wasn’t a “child” per se, he was someone’s son, brother, nephew, cousin and father and will be greatly missed.