Can you remember the last conversation you had with your mom, your sibling, or your best friend? Did you say goodbye? Did you say “I love you”?
When I was a senior in high school, one of my older brothers traveled home from New York City to Lansdale, Pennsylvania for my graduation. We would only see Pat for holidays and big events so we enjoyed our time with him. When it came time for Pat to go back to New York, I offered to drive him to the train station. It was about an hour drive, which gave us time to talk and laugh. We talked about music and traveling and even promised to volunteer together in Nepal someday. Nepal had always been #1 on Pat’s travel list. We talked about Pat’s big plans to go back to school, finish his degree and someday move to Los Angeles.
When I dropped Pat off at the train station, we said our goodbyes and hugged. As I got back into the car, I remember thinking how much fun we had in that short hour and how excited I was for Pat and his future.
Pat was an eclectic guy with tattoos covering his entire right arm, facial piercings, and a new hair color every time we saw him. He looked intimidating but was the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back. His heart was so big; sometimes I think it’s what made him so vulnerable to the world. Pat was a son, a brother, an incredible friend… and a heroin addict.
Pat been clean for almost two years, but week after I said goodbye to him at the train station we received a call from the New York City Police Department. They told us Pat had overdosed on the deadly combination of heroin and alcohol. It was a call we never wanted to get but knew deep down was a possibility.
We laid Pat to rest in June 2014. After years of worry, pain and fear, Pat was finally free from the prison of his heroin addiction. I thank God every day that we didn’t argue or sit in silence. We made the best of our last hour together. And we said our goodbyes the way all loved ones should. I will never forget that car ride with him and it continues to impact me every day.
In May, I will be traveling to Pokhara, Nepal to do what my brother and I had promised to do together. Pat will be with me every step of the way as I provide care for the people there as a volunteer nursing student.
The missing him will never go away, my whole family will tell you that, but I will continue to share Pat’s story with everyone I can. I want to bring attention to the seriousness of the heroin epidemic in the United States. And I want to remind people to always hug your loved ones goodbye and never leave on a bad note.
Pat is the reason I believe in happy goodbyes.
Kay Allan is a Penn State junior studying nursing.