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Our loved ones are gone,
but never forgotten.
They are forever loved and missed.
We keep their memories alive by sharing them with others.

If you've lost a loved one to
overdose or suicide and would like to share their story -
please contact me and I will post it here!

Riley Ward
6/27/87 - 2/29/16
Son of Kim and Rodger Ward
Brother to Korey Ward Oskins
Uncle to Jacob and Jackson Oskins
Friend to Many

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Written by Riley's father, Rodger.

 

Riley passed away from a heroin overdose. He was dropped at the side of our house by the friends he used with, they left him, still alive but unconscious, next to the trash cans on the side of our house. My wife found him there. 

 

From the time Riley was born I could tell he was a gifted athlete. He could throw, ride a bike or anything that required physical skill. He learned to ski at 4 yrs old and was fearless. We put him in martial arts at 4 and he was amazing, winning tournaments and eventually becoming an instructor at our Dojo for adults, teaching and coaching them all the way to black belt. The same time we started baseball together as we did everything as a family. Riley was a natural, he was a pitcher and played in every all-star game pitching some amazing games. He played into high school and won rookie of the year. He also played football on the line of course because of his big body and strength.He mastered anything to do with physical skills.

 

He was big and immensely strong, but inside he was sensitive and shy and had a great sense of humor and infectious laugh.He was also fiercely loyal to his friends. Whenever one was in trouble Riley would be there. He protected anyone who was being bullied. And even in his disease when he was on the street he still was respectful to others.

 

He has a great family who loved him immensely and a large group of friends, our house was always filled with his sports friends, and school friends. It seems like so many of them grew up in our backyard.

 

As I went through all our pictures, I realized that we did everything as a family and it gave me comfort that we didn't waste his precious time on earth. He was and always will be loved.

 

When he was a toddler , he was like a magnet to everyone. His blonde curly hair and big warm smile attracted people everywhere we went. We met people on ski slopes in Taos that introduced themselves to us because they had met Riley and wanted to meet us.

 

As he got older he became my little sidekick. He would wait for me to get home from work with his little towel in his hand, it was his job to clean the wheels on our convertible so we could go out riding. I was just starting to realize what a little boy's relationship with his father meant.

 

He and his sister were so close, when he was gone I remember my Daughter said “all my memories from my childhood were with him” and I realized how much of an impact his passing had on her as well.

 

He went out to the desert with his girlfriend's family and took out their quad . He was bombing down a trail and hit a bump or hole and flipped the quad, landing on his back. The people he was with told him he was fine and he didn’t go to the hospital. I will never forget him pulling up in front of our house crying in pain after driving all the way back from the desert and asking me what to do. Immediately sent him to the hospital and they found he had broken his back. This was the beginning of the end.

 

From here he was taken over by our health insurance doctors, surgery on his back and they began him on a series of painkillers. One led to another , the OxyContin was supposed to last all day, but of course as we found out later it was a lie. They just upped the dosages and more and more until he was hopelessly addicted. It caught us off guard because it was all being handled by Doctors and the hospitals and the hospital pharmacy.

 

I started to see a big change, he was getting “sick “ all the time and things were always turning up missing from our house and business. He couldn’t work a full day (he worked for me in a construction business) and the supervisors on the job didn’t want him on the job anymore. His lifelong friends didn’t come around anymore and the ones he associated with were a bad crowd. No more hanging in the backyard and talking with us.

 

He was staying in his room a lot because he was complaining about being sick, then one day I got a call from my wife that he was making a gurgling sound in his room, he wouldn’t answer when she called out and his door was locked. I came home and kicked down the door and found him unresponsive. We called an ambulance and they pumped him full of narcan, but he didn’t come around so they took him to the hospital where they worked on him for hours. The Doctor told us that his lungs were 3/4 full of fluid and they weren’t sure if he had gotten any oxygen to his brain so if he survived, he would most likely have brain damage and liver damage. The most devastating thing we could have ever heard.

He spent 6 days in the ICU , survived and due to his youth and strength, had no obvious effects.

 

From here we went through a series of relapses , recovery and jail time.

It was heartbreaking watching this beautiful, sensitive young man who was so loved lose everything and everyone in his life to drugs no matter how hard he tried, and he did, it was too strong. He wrote me letters from jail that his heart was worn out, he hated what he had done to his family and he said he just wasn’t strong enough to fight it.

 

His third recovery after getting out of jail he was doing great. He was helping other addicts stay in recovery and had a year sober. We were sure this time was it. He was planning with his girlfriend to get a place and for the first time in a long time was positive about life again. His Mom talked to him on Friday, but couldn’t reach him on Saturday. We went on a motorcycle ride with our friends on Sunday and went to bed. The next morning my wife went out to put the trash In the bin and I was in my office on the second floor of our house. The next thing I heard was a blood curdling scream that I have never heard before and hope I never hear again. I ran down to the side of the house where the trash cans were and saw my Son face down on the pavement next to the trash cans dead. His life spilled out onto the concrete by his face.

 

The next few months I don’t really remember much.

 

Much later I found out he had been picked up at the recovery house and went to a friend’s who we have known since they were 5. They had taken him to a guys house he had met in jail and bought drugs and used. He overdosed. I also learned that they had taken him out of the house and dumped his body, still alive, by the trash between our house and the neighbors As with most addicts they were more concerned about getting caught than his life. All that will go through my mind for the rest of my life. His mother also will never be the same again.

 

Since losing Riley, we have lost almost all our friends. Some don’t know how to deal with us, some probably because we have changed.

 

Now it has been 5 years since he has gone, it’s like yesterday. We suffer from guilt and anger and all those emotions still and always will. My wife’s health has deteriorated severely and I know this is a large part of it as well as my own mental problems.

 

He loved his family more than anything. He always had his big arms around someone and I know how much it hurt him that his disease caused us so much pain and separation from who he really was.

 

The grief comes and goes just as before, but maybe a little more time in between. Sometimes it hits you from a song or a sunset, sometimes it just attaches to you without warning , sometimes you know it’s coming like Birthdays and holidays.