OLD ORCHARD BEACH — I am writing in response to a profile that was written about my son Mark Shackelford and published as part of “Lost,” the Portland Press Herald’s 10-day series on the major heroin crisis in Maine.
My son died on Nov. 22, 2016, from a drug overdose. That was the worst phone call I have ever received. Sitting with two friends, I got a call from my ex-husband in Connecticut (not from the police or his girlfriend) to tell me they had found my son dead. I totally collapsed.
I went to his home to see him one last time. The police officer tried to prepare me for what I would see, but nothing can prepare you to see your child like that. All I could do was say, “Mark, what have you done?” Then I lay down on the floor beside my son’s body, next to him for the last time.
I want people to know that there was more to Mark than what was told to the Press Herald by his girlfriend. He was more than a drug addict and a statistic. He was a loving, caring man, with dreams and hope for a great life.
Mark loved his family, brother, sisters, aunts and uncles, niece and nephews and cousins.
Mark also just didn’t wake up one day and say “I’m going to be a heroin addict.” He had goals. He and his cousins wanted to start a moving company. He so loved his job.
His addiction started years ago, with weed and booze. Then he had several surgeries and was prescribed Vicodin, OxyContin and morphine pills, all at the same time. When Gov. LePage cut back MaineCare, Mark went to the streets for drugs. He served time in jail, but while he was there, he got his diploma and trained dogs for handicapped people. Mark was a pet lover.
As a child, he would always bring home stray animals. He loved going fishing and spending time outdoors. He loved watching football. How I miss our son when he would come and watch football with me, even though I love the Pats and he was a Giants fan.
My last phone call was a few days before he died. We talked about Thanksgiving. I asked what he wanted me to cook him. He said, “Ma, just the usual,” which were his favorites: pistachio pie, my pumpkin squares and no-bake cookies. He so loved all these. As a child, and an adult, he loved to cook and he also loved to eat (a lot)!
I know I might be rambling, but that is what my mind does now. There is so much to say about Mark – and so many memories, which are all that his family and friends are left with. So sad. I truly believe that we need to get more help for these people, more treatment programs instead of jail. I hope these stories can do some good. If they save one young life, that’s something. Just hug your children and hold them close!
You never know.