Janine was so much more than the disease that led to her untimely death. She was a beautiful person with a beautiful soul. She was a loving daughter, sister, friend, wife, and mother to her twin babies: Jack Jr. and Allison.
Janine had an old soul; I felt that from the moment we reconnected in sixth grade after a two-year break in our friendship (we originally met and became best friends in pre-school). She was wise beyond her years, and though she was only one year older than me, she was often more of a second mother or older sister to me than a best friend. She was the person I always went to for advice. She was someone who would never judge me or think any worse of me no matter what I said or did. She was always there for me. But enough about me. I want to talk about Janine.
I want to tell you about her infectious laugh and her cheerful spirit which had always shown through, even during her darkest moments. I want to tell you how she was the person who could always make friends with the loneliest person in the crowd, the person no one else would waste their time or energy talking to. She could always make them talk. And laugh. And feel loved and welcomed. I want to tell you how she would give you the coat off her back, even if it left her freezing. That is the kind of person she was. That was the kind of love she had.
If you ever needed her, she would be there in a moment's notice; no hesitation, no questions asked. Janine brought me soup and bread when I was sick. She drove me around in her car late at night when I was sad and needed a friend to listen. She went out of her way to be there for every special occasion; she made sure that every achievement no matter how big or small would not go unnoticed. She loved in a way few are capable of even understanding.
Janine's journey down the dark path of substance abuse started when she was legally prescribed opioids for pain. Like so many others, she soon grew tolerant and her prescribed medications no longer provided the relief they once had. Eventually, after a long struggle, she turned to heroin. It was cheaper. It was more accessible. It stopped the pain. And it was addictive as hell. She found recovery; she made it nine months substance-free. She started working again. She started taking care of herself again. She started realizing the many factors that led her down that road; a road she never wanted to be dragged down again. But one moment, one temptation to use again was all that it took to take her away from us. The world is a darker place without her light in it. There is not one moment of one day that I am not thinking of her.
We love you Janine, now and always. Your babies are safe in our care. We will make sure they know just how much you loved them. Please watch over us. And please: if you have a loved one struggling with substance use disorder, tell them you love them. And be there when they are ready to accept your help. Everyone deserves another chance at life.
"See you in the car."