If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this one could be a novel. It would be a novel about a life of love for everyone and everything, it would be about a life of truly believing that all people deserved to be treated with dignity and respect no mater what. Vanessa believed that everyone has a loving, caring side just waiting to get out. Not only did she love everyone and everything, mostly they loved her back, though she didn’t always see it. I sometimes think she could have picked up a rattle snake and it would have instantly been her friend. Then there was her smile. I don’t think anyone would deny that when Vanessa was among friends she was always smiling and making others happy. She was only 4’11” but she had the biggest heart of anyone I have ever known. That was where her struggles began.

She could not understand, or accept, the bad things the world sometimes throws at people. Not just her or her family but anybody. The things that we see as horribly tragic, the ones that make us stop and ask why? She felt the impact of those things as if a part of her very soul had been taken. She wanted so desperately for things to be different, for people to be different. She was always there to rescue and help others and would give everything she had to do so.

Vanessa started self-medicating in high school. At first, it was mostly to “have a good time.” Then it grew to be a way to deal with the frustrations and hurt she felt. It became her way of dealing with sadness and depression. It was the way she could be the full of life and loving person she was.

We never quite knew exactly how bad it was until we received a call in the middle of the night from an ER doctor asking us to come to the hospital, our daughter Vanessa was there. That is when the roller coaster ride truly began. For a while, knowing she had almost died from a heroin overdose made her realize how much she truly wanted to live. Not sure exactly where or when that ended. It just did. Vanessa then began to abuse the prescriptions she was taking for her depression and anxiety issues and even though she was clearly taking way more than prescribed, somehow, she kept getting refills. What she was using beyond that is still unclear, all we know is that our beautiful loving daughter was lost inside somewhere.

As a family, we were lost not knowing where to turn or how to help her. But there would be moments of hope and what appeared to be a positive direction. A short stay in an inpatient treatment program then an outpatient program and a glimmer of hope. Then back to the girl we didn’t really know, then it would repeat. Until mid-2014 when she said she needed to get her life straight. She asked if she could come home for a while and get herself together. We were here supporting and helping for months as she put herself through a self-detox. I honestly don’t think we realized how bad it was then. But looking back at the sickness, which we thought was the flu, and the ups and downs, well we know better now. We know now that what she was fighting was taking every ounce of strength and determination she had. Then hope again, she had been home for 5 months and was finally looking forward to life again. She had a plan, a direction, and she had left her old friends behind for a new group of friends. Friends she said made her feel positive about life. We never got to meet any of those friends, at least not until her memorial service. You see Vanessa was still that girl she had always been. The girl that loved everyone and everything but mostly just wanted to feel loved by others. Yet couldn’t see just how much she was loved. So, when someone came along and played on that desire, she fell really deep and really fast. When the suggestion was made that it would be cool to do heroin together, she just wasn’t strong enough in her new recovery to say no. She believed he would not let anything bad happen. But it did, when she overdosed, her new group of friends panicked and did not dial 911 right away. On January 31st, 2015, at 9:11 am, our wonderful, full-of-life daughter Vanessa died of a heroin overdose.

So now when I think of my daughter the things I remember are the smiles, the love she had for everything, for her love of nature and being outdoors. I think of her sitting or dancing beneath a full moon, something she did quite often. I think of her now as she sits and dances on that moon.

Submitted by Randy Abbott, Vanessa’s father