Karen Lynn Berry
In July of 1998 my daughter Karen died of a heroin overdose while on a home pass from the rehab where she wrote the poem below. She was 17 years old. She took my heart with her when she left.
To the Mother of a Drug Addict
I've scraped many elbows and skinned many knees. You taught me to say 'thank you' and always say 'please'. You were always there at night when I didn't want to be alone. You gave me a place to always call 'home'.
You never loved me any more; you never loved me any less. Of all the mamas in this world, I still say you're the best. Even though I messed up many times, you've welcomed me with open arms. You held my hand along the way and kept me safe from all life's harms.
But you looked way past one, Mama, the worst that there can be... I guess you didn't want to believe that this could happen to me. You were always there to fix things. We both stared death in the face. It tried so hard to take me, but once again you've won the race.
I'm glad I am your baby, no one else could care as much as you. You're so much more than a mama. You are my best friend too. Sometimes I wish that you were here to tuck me into bed, Tell me one last story and kiss me on my head. I know that God is up there and watches me from above. He gave the world a lot, but he showered me with love.
I love you always,
When Karen Lynn was born, she was the third daughter for us. We thought for sure that this one was the boy we were waiting for. Her two older sisters called her Jeffrey for two weeks before we could finally convince them that her name was Karen. From the beginning things were different with her. She stayed my girlfriend long past the age when the other two wanted to be off and running. She always wanted to be with me. When puberty hit I was pregnant with our fourth child and although she wanted a baby in the family, she was the baby. What was her role now?
Adolescence was very hard on Karen, I was constantly at school speaking to teachers who all said the same thing, she wasn't trying her best, the other kids would follow her, that she was a leader when she wanted to be. Karen wanted to be a model or an actress or a singer -- someone famous, so she'd always be remembered. However, she had no confidence in her beauty or personality. I could never understand why...she was such a beautiful, sparkling person.
She wrote poetry all the time. She captured a lot of hearts in her seventeen years with us. All of them are broken now.
Karen was using heroin. I suspected she was doing “something” – I even had her drug tested which showed marijuana in her system. But heroin? I was stunned. I never dreamed she'd ever use something like that.
We forced her into a dual-diagnosis center for three months. She ran from there and overdosed again. Twice more she overdosed and again we forced her into treatment. I finally had to petition the court to have her adjudicated dependent and forced into rehab again. The Renewal Center in Quakertown, PA did wonders for her (we thought). She was finally beginning to look and sound like our wonderful Karen again. Her attitudes changed and she was looking forward to graduating from the program and going back to work with her dad (she had quit school, feeling she didn't belong there anymore, that she was different from the other kids because of her addiction).
But on her first 24-hour home visit, July 11, 1998, Karen overdosed again for the last time. She went to see a "friend" and never came home. She was found dumped on the ground of the hospital parking lot.
I have never imagined such physical and emotional pain! My beautiful baby girl, my found-again friend would never again laugh out loud. And the strange thing was; it was exactly one year to the day from the first overdose. Many other strange happenings have led me to believe that the first time she was given a year to find herself and like that person again. Had she died that first time, she would not have believed in herself and our love for her. But over the course of that year she regained her confidence and self-esteem. You could look in her eyes and know that she was back! She lit up the room with her smile and personality once again.
Now, she's an angel. And not just mine. Because of her death, and the deaths of at least six other teenagers in that two month time span, we now have drug awareness programs and support meetings in the surrounding parish churches, which were not available before her death. Several recovering addicts, some who knew her and many who didn't, tell me that it's remembering Karen that's helping them stay straight. She left behind a family who misses her unbearably and now nieces and a nephew who will never get to know her.
As for me, I now speak and tell Karen's story with a drug education program called Heads-Up Drug Education Project which is presented by the Philadelphia Police Narcotics Unit. My message to the kids is simple: It's all about choices. You're worth so much more than ending up in a box. Karen is out of pain now but mine will be in my heart until the day I'm with her again.
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