I was heartbroken to hear that Mac Miller died on September 7, 2018. Whether or not you listen to his music or are a connoisseur of rap/hip-hop music (as I am), the news of another young, bright (so ALIVE) young man gone from a deadly overdose (not officially confirmed, but probably very likely) is devastating. Ever since since I heard the news I can’t stop watching videos and interviews of him.
I wonder if he had died a month ago if I’d be so obsessed. Don’t get me wrong, I would still have been sad, but then as most of us do, I would have moved onto the next round of news. But this feels different.
On August 13, 2018 Will Mitchell died. Will was not a famous rapper, but he was 28, he was actively building a real estate empire, he was jet-setting with his 5-year-old daughter to Disney, and a week before he died he signed up for the Baltimore Half Marathon. Will, like Mac Miller, was another young, bright (so ALIVE) young man gone from a deadly overdose. Will was my nephew.
I am not new to grief; I’ve had plenty of it in a relatively short time. But this death, it’s different. All of them are, but Will was so alive and TWENTY-EIGHT! He definitely struggled with demons, drugs, and discomfort, but he had been clean for nearly 2 years, and had changed dramatically – he seemed unstoppable. At his funeral, his uncle stated that the last 2 years were so good that it was actually easy to forget about the past torturous years of his addiction.
In addition to the unbelievable, soul-crushing grief I felt when we found Will, I also felt embarrassed and ashamed. My beautiful nephew whom I watched change and grow had OD’d just like the other tens of thousands (over 70,000) of addicts. (click here for more stats) I remember crying in pain and anger that I didn’t want to tell people he had overdosed, that I wished he had gotten hit by a bus. I even wrote his eulogy to protect his reputation so people would know he wasn’t using until he was using, until that last high, until that high that killed him. Like any of that really matters now, because he is still dead.
But then Mac Miller died too. I assume it was in that same dark way that all human beings get seduced by our feelings without cultivating a pause between the stimulus (this fucking sucks; i don’t want to feel this way) and our response to it ( drink, drug, sex, shop, screen time, rage, work, etc.) Unfortunately, the drug response is deadly these days.
I had convinced myself that if Will was in the middle of a relapse, this wouldn’t have been so painful, because I would be expecting it. But I doubt folks who loved Mac Miller felt much relief when he was found. Like Will, he was planning for his future, Will was planning to climb mountains, and Mac was set to tour this fall. This is insidious.
The night Will died – well the night we found his body – I lay in bed all night sobbing and my whole body hurt from this tragedy. The intense sobbing has stopped – more or less – but the intense heaviness is with me. The dark weight of grief complicated by the unanswered questions of a young man planning for his future dead from an overdose. After so many years of watching him struggle, I didn’t continue protecting myself from him when he got clean. I didn’t brace myself for the next relapse. What was I thinking? I just loved him and cherished and celebrated his sobriety. No protection; no safety net. So now it’s difficult to breathe.
I can’t stop listening to Mac Miller. There is something in it that makes me feel connected to Will. Maybe it’s the deep eyes or the tortured lyrics or the youthful arrogance. I wish Will had left me something similar – he was silly when he rapped, but too young and arrogant (in the way most youth are) to know this. So I just smiled at him, rolled my eyes, and enjoyed him being so very much alive.