Cause of Death

Cause of Death: Immediate, Hypertensive Cardiovascular Disease

Other Contributing Conditions: Hepatomegaly, Hepatic Steatosis

Monday morning, the death certificates arrived at the funeral home, the signal I’d been waiting for to say the toxicology report was finished and the autopsy officially complete. I talked to the medical examiner Monday afternoon. He seemed as shocked as I was that the toxicology came back completely clear.

You see, after Marrett died, my sister found a bottle of vodka hidden in the closet of his daughter’s room downstairs. I knew immediately it was his, for reasons I don’t need to detail here. As disappointing as it was to find that he had recently relapsed in his recovery from alcoholism, it was also a relief and made sense of so many of the fights we’d had and my conviction that he’d been keeping secrets from me.

And oh, the secrets I’ve found. They hurt worse than his actual death, and there have been days when I’ve wondered if anything from our marriage was actually true. Thankfully, I have a loving chorus of friends and family who remind me that the truth of his life is more than the struggle he’d been in before his death.

The medical examiner couldn’t tell me exactly how he’d died, but only his best guesses given the facts he could scientifically prove. He indulged all of my questions and theories with a kindness and compassion I didn’t expect. Could the alcohol have contributed to his death? Could he have been trying to stop drinking on his own and complications from withdrawal have killed him? Could he have been depressed and unable to seek the help he knew he needed? Could the two conditions between his heart and liver have caused his death all by themselves, regardless of his addiction?

The questions are endless, and some days drive me to a place that feels insane. But after Monday, I have some relief from the internal barrage. I know now what is possible to know, and the medical examiner gently reminded me that there are many things we can never know with certainty.  That was the permission I needed not to ride those questions all the way to crazy town anymore.

It will always break my heart to know how alone and scared he must’ve felt in his last days, not able to trust even me and his best friend with the truth of what he was facing. I will always wonder if his life could have been saved if I’d known more, if I’d done more, if I’d nagged and pleaded and manipulated more, to get him to care for his own needs.

But I will not make myself responsible for his death. That would be a disservice not only to myself but to the lessons he taught me in my own recovery from lifelong habits of co-dependency. What happened to him is not my fault. It’s not truly even his fault. Addiction is a disease and a demon, one that lies to both the addicted one and their family about who they are. It overtakes people in exactly the way the bible describes demon possession, causing harm beyond the control of either the addicted or their community.

But the lies have not won. The demon of addiction will not have the last word on Marrett’s life. Because his story is now mine to tell. I get to choose how the narrative lives on. In so doing, I have the power to quash the lies that led to his death.

Yes, Marrett was an addict, but that’s part of what made him beautiful. His disease gave him compassion for those others had long given up on. His understanding of his own fallibility heightened his innate kindness and made him an expert at acceptance. His truth-telling about the disease of addiction literally saved lives, my own included. It was his love and accountability that gave me courage to face my self-sabotaging habits in marriage. It was he who gave me the clearest picture I’ve yet had of God’s unconditional love.

When we were both our best selves, it felt like nothing in the world come come against us and prevail. We were a squad (his words, which I always hated!).

I will never know with certainty the cause of his death, but the story I will tell myself and my children is this: Marrett was a beautiful human who’d overcome so many struggles and helped me to do the same. And though it may look for now like his demons defeated him, even in death we continue to learn from him. His legacy will be love and kindness.  His story is now in my hands, and I will not allow his death to be the ending.

2 responses to “Cause of Death”

  1. To put anyone on a pedestal is damaging to the person and yourself. The one comforting thing about Christianity is that we all fall short of the glory of God. That is why Jesus had to die. None of us would make it. That human part of us trying to be perfect in God’s eyes by following the “rules”, by being the perfect husband (wife), by being the perfect “whatever” is unattainable. We love our spouses, children, and friends warts and all. Hopefully that is enough. That is how I see God- compassionately loving me.when I least deserve it. Sometimes as you said, it is the faults and trials that you love the most. Marrett maybe was not perfect but he loved with all his heart.

    • Collette,
      Marette was the first person to treat me with genuine dignity after my relapse in Oct. last fall this relapse started where I left off 8 months before when I quit drinking that time (near death), it led me “of course ” it took off in overdrive deeperinto self distruction, it brought me my 3rd DWI, a hit and run in my daughters car without a license. I could have killed someone or myself. My poor daughter lost not only her car but any little bit of hope & trust she may have had fir me. For much too long she’s been wondering if she’ll ever get her real mom back from the “drinking mom”. I was living with her ar the time as Ihad no where else to live “burned all night bridges”, she wanted me to leave and never come back. I couldn’t blame her one bit. I was blessed to have found info for the connections shelter. With no for a successful future and deep deep guilt and shame for what I had done to my own daughter, I immediately felt a connection with Jen and some of the volunteers. I was filled with gratitude, I went to holy grounds with the other shelter guests the next morning and that is when i met marrett. He acknowledged me and made genuine conversation with me over the next week I started 2 look forward to conversations with him . i started volunteering every morning with him. My heart was filling with so much gratitude. I trusted him with my deepest struggles about my alcoholism and how much it has taken from me, how i could emotionally hurt my children over and over. Despair, feeling love maybe im never get it and not drink again. He related to me with His own experience and struggles with alcoholism. He graciously handed me resources for my needs to become a better me. Our talks were honest and sad and funny and genuine. I was able to Express feelings and thoughts and the endless fear and anxieties about my addiction. he helped me to keep searching for peace, he helped strengthen my faith and build trust in God and continue seeking peace and so very much more he did for me. He’s forever in my heart. I’ve struggled with alcoholism for the past 8 years with 13 treatments. Marette has made the greatest impact on my recovery, I’m in a place in life now that i never could imagine achieving prior to my Stay at connections shelter. Marettes’ heart and passion to help others as well as his own addictions and struggles is a gift from God and has brought me freedom from my past and even more joy and peace and gratitude and blessings than i ever thought was possible. All my children are back in my life too btw..
      Marrett absolutely LOVED with all his HEART.

      GOD’S PEACE,

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