The obituary of a young mother has been shared thousands of times for bringing humanity, insight, and honesty to the faceless statistics of North America’s opioid epidemic.
Madelyn Linsenmeir, aged 30, died of an opioid drug overdose earlier this month on October 7. She was a mother, a daughter, a sister, a niece, a cousin, and a friend. Her sister wrote a touching obituary for her in The Burlington Free Press over the past weekend, which has since gained an incredible amount of attention online.
"It is impossible to capture a person in an obituary, and especially someone whose adult life was largely defined by drug addiction," the obituary reads.
"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. She could and would talk to anyone, and when you were in her company you wanted to stay.”
“If you are reading this with judgment, educate yourself about this disease, because that is what it is. It is not a choice or a weakness. And chances are very good that someone you know is struggling with it, and that person needs and deserves your empathy and support.”
“Our grief over losing her is infinite. And now so is she.”
Madelyn was born in Burlington, Vermont, but spent large spells of her life in Florida and Colorado. She was a natural performer whose passion for singing was a strong part of her life throughout her childhood, teens, and adulthood. Her relationship with opioids and addiction began at a party in her high school years with the prescription drug oxycodone, aka OxyContin. Her addiction deepened through her late teens and opioid use became an increasingly heavy burden on her life. In the midst of this struggle, in 2014, she gave birth to her son, Ayden.
“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,” the obituary continues. “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.”
Opioids – such as methadone, oxycodone, and Vicodin – are a class of highly addictive painkillers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that one in four people who receive prescription opioids long-term for non-cancer pain go on to struggle with addiction. Around 72,000 people in the US died of an opioid overdose during 2017, and by all accounts, that figure is set to rise this year, just as it has most years for the past two decades.
As Madelyn’s story highlights, each one of these statistics is a person, complete with their own passions, struggles, and loved ones.