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There are no words. But there are looks, hugs, touches, tears and even smiles.

Elizabeth was the first person I truly loved more than life itself. Our theme song was Rod Stewart’s song “Have I told you lately that I love you”, the favorite phrase ‘there will never be another one above you’. We sang those words to each other a lot, albeit quite off key. She gave me the ability to stand up for what I thought was right, to try to fix what I thought was wrong and to go after what might have seemed unattainable. She was my rock. My St. Francis of Assisi prayer, which is why we choose that for her prayer card.

Elizabeth was the gift God gave me and all too soon called her back to himself. She was only here for a short time but she certainly did make an impact, a forever lasting impact. Elizabeth loved and played real hard. Sometimes, too hard. She wanted what she wanted when she wanted it, no if’s and’s or but’s about it. She absolutely refused to take no for an answer. That started at a very young age often involving screams, tears and the occasional thrashing on the floor.

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Our struggles don’t define us

It is no secret that our daughter struggled with depression and substance abuse. But we cannot let that define her. Like her late father, I am not sure which came first, the addiction to heal the pain or the pain brought on from the addiction. I have questioned myself over the last 25 years wondering what I did to cause the nightmare. And now, not once but twice, here I go again. I have been told numerous times by loving, caring family, friends and professionals and many of you here today the answer is I did nothing. Somehow those words seem empty to me.

Yet today, we may all feel we did or did not do something. If there was just one more thing we could have done to stop the events that lead to Elizabeth’s all to soon passing on July 5th. Did she say or do something that we just overlooked? Did she ask for help and we were too busy, did she reach for a hand that wasn’t there? Did she make a call that went unanswered? In my heart I must say that I DON’T THINK SO. I do not believe anyone of us had a role in her ending, but I believe we all had a place in her being. Elizabeth was given to us for a reason, on loan we might say, from a higher power, to give us a chance to know and love her and share in her journey. I just think her journey was entirely too short and now it is up to us to keep her alive, even though we grieve.

Be more like Elizabeth

The take away from this is that we need to be more like Elizabeth. Always strive to look our best! Always reach out to the person who is down. Offer a ride to someone in need. Be sure a friend, or even a stranger, has coffee or a smoke. Be sure you have a home group, and that you show up! Find a sponsor, be a sponsor. Love your family! And above all call (or at least text) your mother every day or two. We mom’s worry.

Try not to let the things that hurt Elizabeth the most, hurt you. Don’t let mean words cut you to the quick, even if it is your boss. Try to do your best at work even when people are mean. Try to get through it, maybe find a better job before you quit. Try to believe in yourself. Elizabeth told me a couple of weeks before she passed that I had told her she needed to keep her job until she got a new one. I was so proud of her for doing just that, but I didn’t realize how unhappy she really was. She kept it all inside.

Devastated

Len and I are completely devastated at losing our daughter. She was such an integral part of our world. We loved and laughed like most families. We had regular visits and phone calls and enjoyed being together. We supported each other in good times and bad. Len and I were always on the ready for what lay ahead. BUT NOT FOR THIS.

I won’t deny that we had many sleepless nights, several times we got the dreaded phone call that there was a new crisis unfolding for Elizabeth, and us. But we managed and together the three of us made it through. We had accepted that this was our normal.

But on the morning of July 6th our world came crashing down when we found out the unimaginable had happened. And here we are. Raw and shaken. Scared about life without our daughter. Learning how to go on without hearing her voice. “Hey momma; hey Len, do you guys want to get dinner” (that meant us going to Delray or Boynton, going out to eat and afterwards putting gas in her car). Then come the instructions, “Don’t leave just yet though. I need to go to the gym first, shower and get ready.” We know what that means! And oh yhea, we would probably be placing an order with Herbalife! And of course she always needed cigarettes. We never minded. Just wanted to be with our girl. If it was just me and her, we always end up shopping. Lunch at Bagles With then over to TJ Maxx, Marshalls and ULTA. Yes, Elizabeth truly was a slave to fashion. And she always looked so good!!! Always. And then there was the hair…. The longer and the blonder the better. I confess I did keep a little piece.

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Making sense of it all

Trying to make sense of the loss of such a wonderful life, this beautiful young woman who cared so deeply for so many and was so important to us all is a very daunting task. It’s really hard. I cry a lot. I wake up most days with a tear streaming down my cheek and go to bed so overwhelmed with sadness. At first I saw butterflies every day, not anymore. When I do see one it is such a comfort.

I thank you for your support, your love, your kind words and most of all for keeping her memory alive. But now I have a challenge for each and every one of you today. Show of hands, how many of you have a parent, grandparent, sibling, girlfriend, boyfriend, significant other or best friend? And if you were gone tomorrow would they miss you? I believe so. STOP empowering this disease to ruin lives. STOP allowing this disease to break hearts. STOP allowing this disease to make those of us left behind cry, mourn, ache. STOP for yourselves! That should be the BIGGEST single reason for living. But if you need motivation STOP for the ones you would ultimately leave behind, looking a lot like me and Len.

Thoughts from a close friend

A close friend of Elizabeth’s from Hingham posted the following upon learning of her death.
“Society tends to value the lives of people with substance abuse less than the average person but I want to make a statement so that her unfortunate passing does not go down just as another check mark on a statistic sheet. In addition to being gorgeous, Liz was an intelligent, fun, caring and motivated girl with an infections personality from a loving, successful and supportive family whose death cannot be ruled anything but the true definition of a tragedy… She hit highs and lows in life, she struggled with addiction issues but always a genuinely kind person who lived life to the fullest and looked damn good doing it when she was well. It goes to show you that one relapse into substance use can be the matter of life or death and nobody should underestimate the power of the disease of addiction. This was not the death of a low life junkie, this was the death of a real young woman who touched many people’s lives with her ‘liz-ness’ (I don’t know if I can call it anything else HAHA) who was eaten alive by the demons that haunted her…To those who have beat the struggle, bless you and keep on keeping on. For those who are thinking of seeking help, may this tragic event show you the horrible truth of how addiction ruins lives. “ Benjamin Smith

The Elizabeth Rose Olsen Memorial Fund

In closing I will share that Len and I are working to establish the Elizabeth Rose Olsen Memorial Fund. We hope to help those who are trying to get help by supplementing funds for the items that scholarships and insurance don’t cover. We will work with centers here in Florida, especially the facilities where Elizabeth found compassion for herself. It is my dream as a mother that no other parent has to get the devastating news that their child has died from an overdose. Although we are not sure how Elizabeth passed, as there were no visible signs of drugs in her room, we do know she struggled for years with this disease. Regardless of what the autopsy reveals, we are still committed to the fund.

I will post a notice on Facebook once her fund it is established. Donations will be tax deductible and we will match all donations. We also want to hear about the GOOD places that provide honest care to those seeking help. Unfortunately, we all know there are plenty of facilities and people who just abuse those who need help the most.

Thank you, God Bless you, and may our dear Elizabeth finally find peace.
Mariann O’Connor
July 31, 2016

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