Ready, Set, Go ! That's how fast we go on the road in life sometimes. Its not an easy course, but we get through it. There are obstacles, changes in the path, different roads to choose and different paces to go at. I like to take it a bit slower than others. I love to take each day as it comes, I do make plans but I also like to live in the moment. At this age, I really can. I spend extra time with my friends with visits and with my family at outings. When you work so hard for what you have, you learn to take the time to enjoy it and you shouldn't rush it. Maybe even think sometimes about pushing or changing that finish line we are all moving towards to. And it has never occurred to me to get off the track of life any sooner than the good Lord thinks I should. I take care of myself, eat well, exercise and Oil of Olay it everyday fighting Mother Nature and her will to age me and my body. Now, there were plenty of times a long vacation would have been great when the kids were younger and driving me ...........well, you understand my drift. I would never leave and not return. I have seen the pain and anger of those who "choose" to leave before their time. The un-answered questions, the doubts from the family and friends if they had seen or missed any signs that they could have intervened or even have stopped it from happening. And of course, the guilt of surviving your loved one - especially if its your child. When my daughters good friend from high school went off to college, we all knew he had such a bright future in front of him and he seemed so excited. I had met him once; he was young, energetic, nice looking and friendly, a good son and brother. Some of these things I learned from Audra also. He was the one you could rely on for stability and he would give advice to you. No one ever imagined how sad and troubled he really was. He hid it quite well. His second year into college he took his life, he left the race of life. It was, to say the least, unexplainable and unbelievable. It hurt me because it so troubled my daughter; the funeral came and the loud cries from the family and friends echoed throughout the church and she was quite upset. I could only imagine her pain. I wish I could have helped her, but nothing I did or said consoled her enough. It took alot of time for her to come to grips with his death and her strong faith helped her. It was an ugly thing to experience but it was a stepping stone in life. It was a temporary road block but she climbed over and reached the other side. When late last year our friends son took his life, I again went into the despair of pain and grief and loss. This one hit closer to home because they were our good friends and had lost a son. I made the decision not to go to the funeral, it was too much for me and there are not many things I cant handle, but this was just too much. Mark and I sent flowers with our heartfelt sympathy and sadly moved on with our lives and our own troubles. We found out Alex had been abusing alcohol and was using drugs. This year was getting harder and the problems bigger. When we started fall and all its holidays approaching, I thought it would be very sad for them so even through our struggles I was going to send a contribution to the Humane Society then; so they would get the letter of confirmation and know we were thinking of him. One day during this time I found myself crying and Alex walked in from work at the same time. He asked me what was wrong and I told him what I was feeling and how sad I felt for her and the family because Thanksgiving was around the corner. I told him straight out, even knowing the troubles we were having with him, "Alex, nothing in this world, what ever obstacles or problems you have, nothing is worth taking your life. PROMISE me you will never do it, PROMISE me!" He was very upset and put his hand on my shoulder,"Mom, I would never do that to you or dad, I love the family way too much." I looked straight in his eyes and thanked him, and I truly believed him; still do to this day. I felt hope for him and I held on to that. I put him at the READY part of his road in life. We took him to a therapist, a doctor for prescriptions for anxiety and depression, and we monitored these meds. We also watched who he hung with and the times and places he went. His brother came home during the holidays and he said he thought he was doing better but just still felt there was something he was hiding. In January, Adam called just to talk to him and see how he was doing with school, work and life. Alex told him he was feeling alot less anxious and had he known the antidepressants would have helped him this much he would have gone on them long ago. He was doing well in school and told me that he wanted to take more classes for archeology. The family all had their own reactions, but I backed him all the way. I could so see him traveling and searching for treasures and discoveries. This was quite a big step and I was feeling his race for life was back on. He was on the track and taking it slowly, but back on the track to READY and SET. The ups and downs, the mountains and valleys, the boulders rolling down the hills weren't blocking the roads anymore, they were rolling all the way down the hill. The next weekend, we loosened the reigns and gave him more freedom, some decisions he had to learn to make on his own after living by our rigid rules for a while. Adam came home for Valentines weekend and some quality time was spent with the family. He didn't want to go to dinner on Sunday with us, but he did spend time with Adam at the bowling alley and had some fun. Even later he was going to talk to Adam, but he was sleeping by then. But he did want to talk. Only later could we realize what a mistake it was to let him waver from the rules. Although I have been told it wouldn't have mattered, his old ways were back and he had hid them well from us. A week later, he went out with some friends, some "old" friends. I was up when he got home. "Hi Mom, I'm home, wake me up for school at nine OK, I love you." I got up and walked over to him, looked right at him, "I love you too, Alex, get some sleep, it's late" and off to bed we both went. He was home and safe, planning for school the next day and had his work clothes prepared for later that night. Needless to say, he never woke up. The drugs he took, the mixture of them, well, his brain stopped telling him to breath and he died in his sleep. His race in life was over that quickly. He never got to the part of GO! We were devastated. All our hopes, his hopes and new dreams and adventures had vanished. I was angry, so angry. I couldn't change the fact that his own hand had put the drugs in his body, but his "old" friends and aided him. They knew we were trying to help him, and they didn't care. Some of them I had helped in life along the way and they just turned their backs on us and helped our son get drugs. I was crushed. What kind of people would do this? That's when it hit me, addicts. The idea that he was getting better was just not true, he was an addict. I wanted to blame someone for helping hurt him, and then I realized I wasn't giving him any of the blame. I was still angry, but the hate I thought I had I could not let into me; I knew if I did I would never be able to return to the good person, friend, mother that I was. I only knew I would forgive but NEVER forget. They know who they are and they have to live with what they contributed to; my sons death. But Alex himself, he knew the dangers but never could he have imagined it would cost him his life; his own READY, SET AND GO was changed forever. We grieved, but I found it easier to celebrate his life rather than to mourn his death. Twenty six years seems like a short time for some but not for me. Mark and I had helped a boy grow to a man; one who was generous, kind, a true friend to all he knew, he had a great sense of humor and was such a free spirit and believer that many envied him. He was loved and he knew it, and he said it to others. Yes, I will always miss my son Alex, his race for life has ended, but his finish line just moved from earth to heaven. I think it is a great and fantastic finish line to finally reach.