"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Losing Henry

Henry Louis Granju 1991-2010

Through blogging I have come to know people all over the world, some I keep in touch with daily and are some of my closest friends, others are my writing “teachers” that critique my work honestly and help keep me on track. Then there are other bloggers that are such a source of pure inspiration to me—I read their work with awe, coming back each time to help me find a starting place for my own writing.

This was definitely the case for me when I started reading Katie Granju’s blog. I forget how I found her, but I am so glad that I did. While she and I on the surface don’t seem to have much in common- there is something in her writing that strikes a familiar chord with me and inspires me all at once.

So many people describe her writing as brave and honest—and it always is. But recently, she was braver than ever. She wrote about her son Henry and his battle with addiction. What prompted this was an overdose and viscous assault that brought Henry to intensive care, clinging to life. She had written around his addiction in the past, keeping this secret, this private pain. I understand that completely. These things are hard to share with close friends and family, much less the world. Friends and family can be judgmental, the masses can be brutal. But in sharing it, she has no doubt opened the door for so many parents, so many people battling addiction, and so many people who haven’t seen the human side of this illness to learn, to help, to heal.

Katie kept a bedside vigil with Henry as his condition has progressed, slipped, improved, then worsened. I read her words—the unconditional love of a mother—not seeing her son as an addict, but as the person she knew and loved. The joy of her life no matter his mistakes or problems. Her will to bring him back was unfailing. She peppered her posts with pictures of Henry—some when he was so young- holding a Harry Potter book too big for his hands…he and his siblings dressed up and smiling for family celebrations…Henry as a teenager with dark black beautiful curly hair smiling at the camera with his wise eyes…I have wept for her more than once. I wrote to Katie one night. I had to. I told her that her love for Henry—the way she was not judging him—just loving him and being there for him was so incredibly important—so amazing. Most people reading that would think that any mother or parent would do the same. The sad truth is, that is not the case. Especially with cases of illnesses that aren’t as “accepted” such as mental illness or addiction, some parents can’t see the illness and only see someone making bad life choices. Maybe over and over. It is hard. I do understand how hard it can be. But the pure love in Katie’s words, all the beauty she saw in her son…it has me crying now. And I know that he knew that, knew that he was loved for the beautiful person he was.

Henry died on the last day of May. I do not know how Katie found the strength to write her son’s obituary. But she did. Bravely, honestly, beautifully. As always.

One part of one of her posts has stayed in my mind, I think of it so often.

He was sleeping far more than he had previously and speech was becoming more limited. For the first time, he started using nonsense words or in one case, a very distinct made-up word that he used as a toddler and hadn’t used since.

In Henry’s distress, in moments when he was, perhaps, far away in another place, fighting this damage to his brain, he went back to this moment as a toddler using this made up word that Katie recognized immediately. This speaks to so many things—the memories our mind holds onto—our subconscious…but what I like to think is that Henry went back to a safe place in time, when things weren’t so complicated, when all he knew was love and joy. I think he returned there—to that familiar feeling-- because he was again feeling so loved and safe in his last days here—with his mom Katie always at his side.

Katie’s original post about Henry's illness:


Katie’s blog:


If you have a moment, please send her a note of love and encouragement. She is also fighting for a thorough investigation into Henry's assault.


California Girl June 3, 2010 at 11:10 PM  

Her story touches my heart and breaks it at the same time. The photo you've posted (I assume) from her blog, which I'm not sure I can bring myself to read just now, is an amazing capture of a beautiful child. It's the photo that made me read the post.

I did read the obit, curious to know how a mother might go about writing of the loss of her child. It is well written and brave and rather upbeat. I see why you admire her. She must be a most amazing person.

Maggie May June 4, 2010 at 1:15 AM  

I've read her blog before, off and on, it's shocking, terrifying, to come across this unimaginable loss.
She may seem upbeat but grief is sneaky and often the first year is such a time of shock that the second year is even worse than the fresher time.

I will comment and link to your post tomorrow on my blog. This is such a HUGE, important issue- addiction, drugs- facing our teens. My son is, my oldest boy, is 16.

I can't imagine.

Chef E June 4, 2010 at 8:30 AM  

Oh this has weighed heavy on my heart as well- I lost a daughter ten years ago and you never get over it- just through it...

I also caught my son doing drugs, and now he is fine, but the alcohol also scares me to death, as I do not want to lose two children...

Alli June 4, 2010 at 12:31 PM  

Thank you for sharing this with me. I will be visiting her blog directly. That is so touching and sad. I will keep her in my thoughts.

Michelle June 5, 2010 at 8:55 AM  

how very sad... what pain... i cannot imagine.

~JarieLyn~ June 5, 2010 at 5:10 PM  

This is an incredibly sad story and one that brings tears to my eyes. I don't have children so I can only imagine the grief of a mother but reading about this fills my heart with compassion.

Sid June 9, 2010 at 4:19 AM  

Geez. He was only 19.


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