Kate O’Neill penned the testament to her sister, Madelyn Linsenmeir, after Linsenmeir’s 12-year opioid addiction came to an end on Oct. 7. The 30-year-old died in hospital in police custody.
hTe obituary speaks honestly about Linsenmeir — a mother, sister, friend, daughter and niece — and her struggle with addiction since high school
“It is impossible to capture a person in an obituary, and especially someone whose adult life was largely defined by drug addiction. To some, Maddie was just a junkie – when they saw her addiction, they stopped seeing her. And what a loss for them. Because Maddie was hilarious, and warm, and fearless, and resilient,” wrote O’Neill.
Of all the roles Linsenmeir held, O’Neill says her title of mom was most important to her.
“Maddie loved her family and the world. But more than anyone else, she loved her son, Ayden, who was born in 2014. She transformed her life to mother him. Every afternoon in all kinds of weather, she would put him in a backpack and take him for a walk. She sang rather than spoke to him, filling his life with song” she wrote.
“After having Ayden, Maddie tried harder and more relentlessly to stay sober than we have ever seen anyone try at anything. But she relapsed and ultimately lost custody of her son, a loss that was unbearable.”
O’Neill said her family had infinite hope that her sister would some day overcome the addiction.
“We believed as we always did that she would overcome her disease and make the life for herself we knew she deserved. We believed this until the moment she took her last breath. But her addiction stalked her and stole her once again. Though we would have paid any ransom to have her back, any price in the world, this disease would not let her go until she was gone,” she wrote.
O’Neill also wanted the obituary to capture her sister’s spirit despite the reality of addiction, in an attempt to teach others compassion.
“I want us to have empathy for people in their darkness whether that’s Maddie panhandling in the grocery store parking lot, whether it’s a junkie passed out on the street,” she told ABC News.
“Those people are also Maddie.”
The moving obituary also caught the attention of Burlington, Vt. police chief Brandon Del Pozo, who said he had a problem with it.
“Why did it take a grieving relative with a good literary sense to get people to pay attention for a moment and shed a tear when nearly a quarter of a million people have already died in the same way as Maddie as this epidemic grew?” he wrote on Facebook.
“So Maddie, in death, has given us a final gift, thanks to her family’s moving tribute to her: the gift of focusing our attention for a moment. Thank you, Maddie and family.”
While her family has been inundated with support, O’Neill says the reality of those connecting is bittersweet.
“We knew we weren’t alone and I think the part that’s bittersweet about this is that it really is concrete evidence of the number of people that are affected by this disease. Our grief is so intense and so personal but it is not unique,” she said.
According to a report by the Health Officers’ Council of British Columbia, 47,000 people die a year as a result of drug abuse – with prescription opioid medications being one of the most-used substances.
O’Neill concludes the obituary with a wish for her sister that will hopefully inspire many to confront the problem of drug addiction.
“We take comfort in knowing that Maddie is surrounded by light, free from the struggle that haunted her. We would have given anything for her to experience that freedom in this lifetime. Our grief over losing her is infinite. And now so is she.”