As Susan sat in the waiting room, she thought of Jamie when he was born. He was her only child and the moment he was born her world was changed forever. He was a difficult baby, they said he was lactose intolerant so she had to give him special formula. Jamie cried morning, noon and night. Susan remembers there were times when she thought she would go out of her mind. As Jamie grew into a toddler he was never quite satisfied. If you gave him the blue toy he wanted the green toy and when you complied and gave him the green toy, he would then scream for the red toy. At that point Susan would stop giving into his insane demands. It didn’t change as he grew into a young boy, teenager and a young man. He never seemed to be happy or satisfied. Susan and John tried hard but nothing ever seemed to make Jamie feel whole. By the time he was fourteen both Susan and John noticed a big change in Jamie. He was extremely moody, depressed and withdrawn. At first they thought they were dealing with a difficult teenager going through a change in hormones and then they got the call. The Principal of Jamie’s high school called to say that Jamie was being sent home on a suspension because he was caught smoking marijuana on school grounds. When Jamie got home John was so mad he could barely stop himself from hitting Jamie. To make matters worse, Jamie figured it was his God-given right to smoke marijuana and there was nothing she or John could do about it.
Susan went to bed feeling sick to her stomach that night because she knew this was only the beginning. Even though Jamie had a lot of negative qualities, he also possessed many positive attributes as well. He was a talented artist and his work was beautiful. Susan often wondered while she watched him painting beautiful, lush, green forests how Jamie was able to get past some of the darkest depths of his soul to find the beautiful talent that was somewhere hidden so deep within and it was in this talent that Susan was reassured that God was with Jamie. Susan sincerely believed that beautiful art was the work of God through the artist’s eyes and this sentiment was definitely true with Jamie’s work. He brought a vibrance to his landscapes like no other. He would fully immerse himself into his work and Susan remembers thinking that maybe art was Jamie’s pathway to paradise that would eventually lead him astray from the life of drugs. Of course now sitting in the waiting room, she knew she was wrong. We all have destinies and Jamie was destined to face life in the most harsh and cruel way. No amount of love was enough to sustain Jamie, it was like he was sheltered from love. Susan often told Jamie how much God loved him even in the midst of his addiction, but he didn’t believe her. He said “God was wasting his time loving someone like him, God should work his way over to third world countries and take care of his real children.” Jamie’s addictions were incredibly self-centered, yet he didn’t want God to waste his love on him, he wanted God to take care of people and help them out of poverty and starvation. She remembers the moment she realized her son was taking heroin; Jamie was just seventeen years old. Jamie had taken to the streets, he preferred the cold hard pavement to his warm bed in a loving household. He walked in the door that night and told Susan and John that he wanted to get better and was ready to accept their help. Both Susan and John went to bed that night over-joyed, only to wake up in the morning and realize that Jamie had stolen all the cash they had and anything that was small and valuable, that he could hawk, was gone. Vanished like a vanishing ghost in the depth of the night, into the streets of harsh coldness and empty spirits. The people who replaced Jamie’s family were living vampires who suck the life out of their victims and throw them away like a piece of meat that sustains their immediate existence only to be satisfied when their victims become the shell of what they once were. Susan guessed Jamie preferred these people over her and John because they didn’t ask the hard questions or make Jamie deal with the harsh realities of his addictions.
Jamie had one friend and that was Reggie. Jamie met Reggie in grade school and they became fast friends. Reggie was a bright and sensitive young boy and Jamie loved playing with him because Reggie didn’t have a mean thing to say to anyone. Reggie remained Jamie’s friend right up until Jamie left for the streets. It broke Reggie’s heart that he was never able to get through to his best friend and like Susan and John he had to accept that he failed. At John’s funeral Reggie cried for the loss of not only Jamie’s father but the loss of Jamie. Susan tried to reach Jamie to let him know that his father had died and put an ad in every major and local newspaper. She prayed that Jamie would come to the funeral but as the day of the funeral approached she knew in her heart that she would not see Jamie. At that point she had to accept that she had not only lost her husband to death, she had lost her son as well. Jamie’s death had started many years ago and had been a slow and agonizing spiritual death not a physical death as his father’s. She missed both the men in her life now and Reggie had tried to stay connected but as his life moved on he moved away from Jamie’s family and Susan understood. She never held anything against Reggie as he had been the one true friend that she, John and Jamie had ever had. Susan counselled Reggie to move on and not look back as she felt it was wrong for him to be tied down to an addiction that none of them understood, including Jamie.
Now sitting in that waiting room as she was deep in thought, she heard the woman at the desk say to another employee “number 12 is ready to be identified, his next of kin is the blonde woman in the beige suit sitting right over there.” Susan immediately jumped out of her seat and within seconds found herself at the front of the woman’s desk with her wallet in her hands. She opened up her wallet in a frenzied state and dumped all the pictures of Jamie she had on the woman’s desk. The picture of Jamie as a baby, the picture of Jamie holding his first teddy bear, the picture of Jamie kissing his first dog and the picture of Jamie posing with his first piece of art. Susan could hear a woman’s high hysterical voice from somewhere far away and then realized with a start that she was hearing her own. “My son has a name” she said, “his name was Jamie.” “Why are you turning away” she screamed, “look at those goddamn pictures and tell me again that my boy is number 12, I said look at them, look at these pictures and tell me my boy is a number.” It was then she felt the familiar hand on her shoulder and she realized without even looking that she was connected to this person. As she slowly looked up she was staring into the kindest and most saddest eyes she had ever seen. The tears were streaming down Reggie’s face when he engulfed her into one big bear hug and sobbed with her. Susan thought her heart would break into pieces and she was sure her world would never be one again, she had lost everyone she had ever loved and here in that cold waiting room with a woman who had no heart, God had sent her the one man, the only man, who could show such love and compassion toward her and Jamie. Reggie held Susan’s face in his hands and said “when Jamie and I were six years old he told me that his favourite time with you was when you use to tuck him into bed at night and read to him before he fell asleep. Jamie told me that his favourite story was love you forever.” Reggie then did something so incredible that Susan all at once felt as if Jamie was standing there with them, Reggie softly sang in the most sweetest voice, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.” As she and Reggie walked hand in hand toward the cool, steel double doors, it was then she felt Jamie’s presence and she knew he was finally free.