BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — A Louisiana mother who had to write an obituary for her son is now finding herself answering email after email. Her words have inspired countless people — and they’re writing the grieving mother to thank her.
“All of these — and they just go on, and they go on, and they go on,” Gwen Knox said of the emails she’s received.
For Knox, the first two weeks of 2016 have been a blur.
“‘You don’t know me, and I don’t know Brian, but I read the obit several times and I just want to praise you,'” Knox said as she read one of the emails she’s received.
Knox spent days answering hundreds of emails coming in from across the country, with subject lines like “deeply moving.”
“‘Dear sweet woman, I am an addict of 14 years,'” Knox said as she read another of the emails she’s received.
Knox’s son Brian fell into the cycle of addiction as a teenager. His story is not unique, and that includes the way it ended.
“He was just a good guy who made some mistakes in childhood that he couldn’t recover from,” Knox said.
On December 30th, at the age of 40, just five months after he was evicted from his mother’s home, Brian died from an overdose.
As his mother sat down to write his obituary, a lifetime of emotions spilled from her fingers.
After four days of editing, she submitted it to the newspaper.
“I got an email back that said $519. I was like, ‘OK — this is not going to happen,'” Knox said.
At just over 1,000 words, newspaper officials graciously agreed to publish her tribute online.
It didn’t take long for folks to notice.
Knox takes the reader on a journey from a bright childhood to the depths of her son’s despair — and she offers advice she wishes she had gotten sooner: “Love your addict. Know that they are sick — but don’t let their sickness make you ill.”
Knox includes a poem called “Let me fall all by myself.”
She says she hopes others will learn from her mistakes.
“If we can catch our kids early enough and let them fall — Brian didn’t fall, because I protected him. I’m here. Fall on me,” Knox said.
Knox included her email address at the end of the obituary for friends and family.
She says she never expected she’d receive hundreds of stories like her own.
“For two days, I sat at that laptop and cried like I never cried for the death of my son, because there was so much pain,” Knox said.
She has received letters from Brian’s childhood friends, from addiction counselors, and even from a man who’s struggling in his marriage.
“When I get home, I will let her read about Brian, and hopefully repair some of the damage I have done. Thank you for sharing and helping me with my closure,” Knox said as she read one of the emails.
Knox has responded to each note with Brian directly overhead.
Her own closure is now within reach, thanks in part to stories from strangers.