TUESDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2017
The day is unseasonably warm. The sun is shining and I have my 1 year-old grandson, Cameron. He is playing with his toys and watching Blues Clues. My youngest son, Joey (16 years old), has just gotten home from school a little early, and we are all in the living room together. I received a new vegan cookbook earlier in the day and am excited to sit down and flip through the pages to find new recipes. There is a knock at the front door. It’s 2:00 p.m.
Joey and I go back and forth about who should answer the door. I reluctantly (and maybe with a little attitude) place my book on the table and scoop up my Yorkie, Sasha, and Cameron follows me to the door. I open the door with Cameron wrapped around my left leg and my dog under my left arm.
There is a thin man standing on my sidewalk. I don’t recognize him. He identifies himself, but I don’t hear him over Sasha’s barking. He asks, “Do you know Amanda Klonowski?” I reply, “Yes, she’s my daughter.” He looks away, and I sense something is wrong. I ask him for a moment to put the dog down and take Cameron back to Joey in the living room. While I am doing this I am thinking to myself, “Amanda may have been in an accident or maybe she is in some kind of trouble.” When I go back to the porch the last thing I expect to hear is, “Ma’am, Amanda was found with Zack at approximately 12, noon, today.” I stop him and say, “What do you mean found, are you telling me my daughter is DEAD?!” He replies, “Yes, Ma’am.” He looks down at his clipboard, and is flipping pages back and forth, and continues talking. I can’t hear anything he is saying. My world is crumbling; I feel like I am in a vacuum. My heart starts racing, I can’t breathe, and my legs are barely holding me up. I can’t stand still and keep pacing on the porch. I have so many questions but the words won’t come out. I ask for a business card and send the man away. I simply can’t take in any more information. I want my husband, Scott.
OH MY GOD, I have to go back in the house and tell Joey.
I go into the house. (I don’t remember doing this, Joey told me at a later date.) I look at him and say, “It’s Amanda, she’s dead.” He starts to cry and yells, “NO, NO, NO!” I have known this for less than 10 minutes, Joey for about 2. My phone starts to ring, I start receiving text messages.” It was on Facebook.” UNBELIEVABLE! My poor niece, Carmen, finds out on social media while she is at work. Carmen and Amanda are close; this is terrible. Before anyone else in my family finds out, I have to call my husband.
I go into the sunroom, close the doors, and try to dial his number. It takes 3 attempts before I push the right buttons. (I may have even handed the phone to Joey to help me, I can’t remember.) I fall to the floor and scream to Scott, “It’s Amanda, its Amanda! She’s dead!” I am incoherent and he can’t understand me. I have to keep repeating myself until he gets it. He calls my parents to get them to me faster than he can get home. He is home soon after.
In the meantime, Joey and I hold each other and alternate between screaming and crying and poor Cameron gets confused and joins us. That makes me stop. I think to myself, “You are scaring the baby, stop it!”
Things for the rest of that night are a blur. I remember people. I remember feeling like I was in a hazy cloud. I remember not knowing what to do.
I didn’t sleep that night. I stayed in bed with my face buried in a pillow and screamed and cried all night long. I did this for several nights.
For those of us who have lost a child, you will understand that horrible, gut wrenching emptiness and pain you feel.
For those of you who haven’t, I hope you never do.
WHO AMANDA WAS
Amanda was a sweet, adorable little girl with a great laugh and a beautiful smile. She called me, “Mama.” We did everything together. She was in the Brownies and earned so many badges that she had two sashes. Amanda’s favorite shows were: Lion King, Batman, Air Bud, Free Willy and Sponge Bob. She loved all animals, but dogs were her passion. Her favorite treats were Oreos and ice cream. Amanda wrote and drew many “books” when she was young and was an avid reader. She sang songs and didn’t realize that a lot of the words were wrong. We always thought that was funny.
Amanda followed her dad around and liked helping him with projects. She often asked him to make things out of wood for her or to draw her pictures of sharks and dinosaurs. She spent a lot of time being carried around by him and he was happy to oblige.
Amanda worshipped her big brother, Jimmy, and had to be involved in whatever he was doing. She thought the world of him and constantly sought his approval.
When Joey was born Amanda was helpful with diapers, bottles and baths. She would read to him as he watched her adoringly.
We all ate dinner together every night; that was important to me. I was always home when she got home from school and we were happy to see each other when she came through the door.
She and I built a dollhouse together that I had given her for her 10th birthday. It took us all summer. It was her pride and joy and I still have it.
Amanda loved spending time with Jumpy, her grandma. For years, Jumpy took Amanda to church and to Dairy Queen every Sunday.
She got excited to take trips to see her grandparents in Georgia and used to draw pictures and write stories to them that we would mail in large envelopes.
She had many friends like, Morgan, and had so much fun camping and spending time with her and her family.
Amanda also loved seeing her cousins, Carmen, Andrea and Sergio. They had a lot of fun together pretending to be animals, coming up with future band names and planning out their adult lives together. They were close in age and got along really well.
Amanda loved her family and friends and we loved her.
WHO AMANDA BECAME
In Amanda’s early teens she started having some very serious mental problems. She would see and hear things, suffered from severe depression and anxiety issues. Amanda was medicated, involved in weekly counseling and had a few hospital stays.
As a high school student I found out she would smoke pot, take pills and drink alcohol. At one point, I was made aware she was drinking before she went into school.
Amanda went to Kent State as a Psychology major because she wanted to understand her mental illnesses and how to deal with them. During her third year there, her boyfriend introduced her to heroin. The year was 2013. I don’t know how, but she managed to graduate and get her degree. I was not aware of her addiction at this time. They broke up and she started dating someone else. This person turned out to be the one she would die with.
From 2013 to 2017 her life was hell and so was mine. Amanda spent 4 months in rehab at IBH to be released and use a week later. She was arrested twice and ended up being in jail for 3 months. I never knew what condition she would be in when showing up at the house or to family gatherings and she became an outcast and I became the buffer between her and the rest of the family. Amanda completely fell apart. We had several ER visits that resulted in her coming out and doing it all over again. She alienated everyone in her life.
It’s not like she didn’t try. She went to AA meetings, continued counseling and never abused her RX medications. Amanda hated her addiction. She wanted to get away from it; and for 7 months she did. Her boyfriend was in jail and she got away from the heavy drugs. We had 7 wonderful months together. Amanda would text or call me and we’d spend the day together walking, hiking, having lunch, talking, shopping, getting mani/pedis, etc. She was happy and so was I. I started inviting her to family outings again. She was earning my trust back and I let my guard down. She attended my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary on August 26th, 2017. (At this time she had just gotten back together with her boyfriend.) She was still doing ok at this point. Mid-September she attended my sister’s housewarming party. When I saw her I thought, “Oh, No! She doesn’t look well.” Over the next several weeks, things were starting to look bad. She was acting erratic and saying inappropriate things on Facebook. We argued and she “unfriended” me. I was so hurt, angry, disappointed and flat out scared.
A few days after the “unfriending”, she sent me a text and asked me to come shoot pool. I told her, “No, I am still mad at you.” Amanda said, “I understand.” Those were the last words I ever said to my daughter and her last to me. Less than one week later, she was found dead, with her boyfriend, of an accidental overdose. They had used cocaine and it was laced with carfentanil.
She was 25 years old.
I miss her laugh and her beautiful smile. Amanda was a good person she just had a bad problem.
WHAT I AM DOING NOW
As you can imagine, it has been a very rough year of firsts. I have been involved in grief counseling with Joey and Carmen. I have met some amazingly strong moms who have been through the same thing.
I ran a 5K in her honor the day before Mother’s day and had 40+ people there to help me through it. We had a beautiful memorial for her at the one-year mark with many more loving and supporting friends and family. I consider myself very lucky to live in such a wonderful community and to have such a wonderful family.
For a year life passed me by. I was stagnant. I was unsure if I’d ever be happy again without feeling guilty. I started looking for ways to volunteer but nothing sounded “right.” As the one-year mark was approaching I was becoming more desperate to find a way to be able to deal with it. I was sitting on my couch and it struck me. My husband had said something to me about selling the Angels I was making for Christmas gifts. I had already been calling them Amanda’s Angels. I wasn’t interested in selling them to make a profit BUT if I could sell them and use the money for something good I could get behind that! One thing led to another and I came up with the idea to create a scholarship fund for high school students who participate in raising drug awareness and prevention through programs offered at the school. I’d call it Amanda’s Angels Memorial Scholarship. That day I made my first sale and I haven’t looked back. I now have a 501(c)(3) and run the Honor Amanda Foundation. 100% of all proceeds go directly into funding the foundation. This school year I will provide $11,500 in scholarships at five different schools to 13 different students.
This makes me profoundly happy because it is raising awareness and educating our youth. The best part for me is I get to honor my beautiful daughter, Amanda.
Help me preserve her memory and continue to raise awareness and provide scholarships by visiting HonorAmanda.com. Honor Amanda Foundation also accepts donations. Have questions? Want me to come speak or bring Amanda’s Angels to an event? Please, contact Chris Klonowski at HonorAmandaFoundation@gmail.com.
Thank you so very much for your support.