By Dorlinda Steele
You were a gift to us that December morning, perfect and peaceful and beautiful.
Room 18 ICU.
You were a joy to us those childhood days, busy and curious and beautiful.
22 years. 2 months. 2 days.
You were a blessing to us as you became a man, smiling and loving and beautiful.
I held him tightly. This is my first born. He is my baby boy. There is a connection between us like no other. Valley is the hugger of the family. He is the I Love You of the family. Now everything is shutting down. I wrap my arms around him as he sits propped in that hospital bed, and I put my ear to his chest. I listen to every heart beat until they quiet. He is gone. After 22 years, two months, and two days at 2:00 on the 25th, the light went out of those dark brown eyes as the light went out in mine.
You are a treasure to us as we remember you, laughing and hugging and beautiful.
I can’t think about it. If I stop to think, my chest is gripped in a vice. I have to shake it off and continue. Coming alive? I work at it every second of every minute of every day. Yet, I am alive. I am living. I am moving forward. There is a reason for that. There were 21 little faces that are the reasons.
Stay Untangled from Heroin’s Poison.
His little brother still had a basketball tournament to play. His younger sister was still graduating from high school. He is still their big brother, and he is proud. And… I am a teacher.
These students of mine keep me alive. They have no fear. They talk, and they question. They try my patience. They allow the days to be normal. They are not afraid to say his name. They see me. They know when it is needed to say his name. Kids aren’t afraid. They won’t avoid. They know when to look at me and point to the hearts of my new tattoo and ask, “Which one is for Valley?” They find the books in the library that belonged to him and yell, “It’s Valley’s book!” Yes, they allow me to be normal.
On Coming Alive.
I have to be more alive than ever. Students are coming to me with anxiety and depression. At ten years of age, they know and they see. Addiction is a reality. It is not going away. It is becoming easier for young adults to become addicted. It is becoming an epidemic.
Valley’s Vine, Stay Untangled from Heroin’s Poison.
I have to be alive more than ever. I have to teach. I have to provide tools for our youth to be proactive, to stop and think, to stand strong and to take no chances. I have to be a voice. I have to teach.
Dorlinda Steele is Mom to 19-year-old Hannah and 15-year-old William. She lost her oldest son Valley to Heroin on February 25, 2015. As a fourth grade teacher, Dorlinda has set a goal to raise awareness of the danger and destruction of addiction. Her small elementary school has joined in her fight by using the message of “Be your BEST! Be in Charge, Every Day, Stand Strong, Take NO Chances.”