When Rachel Harrington’s ex-husband died of a drug overdose this past Mother’s Day, it was but one more heartbreak to add to many others that had occurred over the years as he – and other family members – struggled with addiction in front of her very eyes.
“I lost my first cousin – who was like my brother – in 2006,” said Harrington. “I helped him fight the battle of addiction for six or seven years. My husband at the time went right down the same path. We ended up getting divorced because of it. We had a son and I knew my husband was lost. This past Mother’s Day, he died.”
Harrington will be one of several people who are participating in this Sunday’s (Sept. 20) 9th Annual Revere Beach Memorial at the Bandstand. The solemn candlelight vigil seeks to remember the lives of loved ones who were taken by substance abuse. Hundreds of names have been submitted, and each will be remembered by the sound of a bell on Sunday.
The vigil will take place at 7 p.m. and people can begin arriving around 6:30 p.m.
Organizer Jay Picariello, who is also a captain on the Revere Fire Department, said the Memorial in its nine years has accomplished what it set out to do.
“When we started this nine years ago, one of our goals was to end the stigma of addiction,” he said. “I think we’ve succeeded in some of our goals. We’ve had politicians show up and it impacted them because they saw faces of their constituents and the pain this causes them.”
Moving forward, organizer Viviana Catano-Merino – of RevereCARES – said they want to continue keeping the voices of those who die in the public square.
“We want to keep the voices of those affected alive,” she said. “The time to hide this behind closed doors is ending. The time to point the finger of blame about this is ending. The language has changed. The language is now substance abuse disease. When you change the language, you change the way people perceive it.”
Harrington said she is glad that her son can participate in the Memorial to remember his father. She doesn’t want him to grow up being embarrassed about it.
“One of the reasons I’m so excited to be a part of this is it helps my son to understand,” he said. “I don’t want my son to be ashamed of his father and what happened. There’s too much that’s not being said. This is a way of saying it. It doesn’t end with the death for those who are left behind…When they die, you don’t get to resolve things. You don’t get to explain to them why the last conversation you had with them was horrible. I don’t think it ever goes away for people or that they get past it.”
But remembering with the Memorial once a year has seemed to help the hundreds who attend each year.
To submit a name or get more information on the Memorial, call Catano-Merino at (781) 485-6440 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.