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Finneran: Somebody Loves Her

Friday, August 18, 2017


Tom Finneran

The following column was first published on August 1st, 2014.

In the four years which have passed since its publication, some critical work has been done.

Governor Baker has provided active skillful leadership, as has Mayor Walsh.

Legislative leaders Rosenberg and DeLeo have marshaled resources and shaped public opinion.

There’s a very long list of legislators, past and present, who have stepped up to the plate. Their contributions will be the focus of a future column.

In the meantime, despite the progress, the scourge of addiction still rages and the tears still flow.

No community, no family is immune. We pay a savage toll, in prisons, in emergency rooms, and at funerals. The sadness is overwhelming

And yes, somebody still loves her…………..

Written August 14, 2014. 

She was a junkie. In her late teens or early twenties, she swayed on a street corner. I could name the town, but that’s irrelevant. The friends and families of junkies know that it could be Weston or Wellesley as much as it could be Worcester or Waltham. The geography is irrelevant. The heartbreak is universal.

My wife saw her first. I was driving and we were stopped at a red light. Mentally on auto-pilot, I did not really notice her right away. My wife did. Perhaps it was the girl’s unsteadiness on her feet, the utterly vacant look, or the rumpled clothes and ratty hair which demanded attention. That’s what I saw, instantaneously, once my attention clicked in. My wife saw something else. She saw a little girl, frightened and alone, in need of everything, including love. My wife reminded me of that with her words- “Somebody loves her.”

We chatted quietly, as couples do, about the raging epidemic of drugs and the toll it has taken on too many families. We cringe, as grandparents do, about the hazards our grandchildren will face as they grow. And we pray, with great urgency, that those grandchildren might be spared the agony of what we saw on that street corner.

Once upon a time the world was a lot simpler. At least our world was… Russia was bad, the United States was good, and mindless terrorism did not exist, at least not here in the States. Racial progress was occurring, too slowly for many, but undeniable and unstoppable in its moral force, and accelerating each year. Beer was the choice of social diversion. For young people, any beer was good for the goal of getting a friendly buzz on. Not imported (and expensive) beer. And certainly not today’s “craft beers.” Some friends tried and liked marijuana. Others did not. Cocaine and heroin were rarely if ever even mentioned, let alone used… As I said, life was simpler once upon a time.

Forty years later that simple world has been turned upside down. Heroin, now cheaper than Budweiser, hits the street and takes its deadly toll. Oxy and meth seem to be everywhere, even in classrooms. There are no sanctuaries anymore. Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for us.

“Somebody loves her.” How simple the words. And how sad… Perhaps it’s her mother and father, feeling helpless in the face of an addiction so frightfully strong. They’ve probably been lied to and stolen from by the little girl whom they love so much and for whom they pray each night. Rivers of tears have been shed. Angry shouts of bewilderment and broken promises and betrayal have given way to the shattering, pathetic reality of the loss of a child to a cold cruel world. Those parents are exhausted financially, physically, and emotionally. They now cry a lot.

“Somebody loves her.” How true the words. And how grim… Perhaps it’s a brother or a sister, heartbroken at the loss of their BFF. She might be the older sister who was the wise guardian and protector of her little siblings. She might be the baby sister whose first words and first steps brought great laughter to the others. Whatever the case they now see a stranger whose behavior scares them. They now cry a lot.

“Somebody loves her.” How true the words. And how painful… Perhaps it’s a first real sweetheart from high school or college, someone who worshipped the ground she walked on, hung on her every word, and dreamed of a happy life together. That dream too is shattered. That sweetheart sees a person he recognizes but does not know. He too has paid and paid, begged and prayed. His scar tissue rips open every time he hears her name. He now cries a lot.

Her new “friends” aren’t friends at all. They use her. They abuse her. They might party together but they’re not very happy “parties.” Somebody from another world, a world of long ago, might love her but there’s no love where she now hangs out. It’s all transactional and it’s quite ugly.

Somebody indeed loves her. And tonight they cry.

Tom Finneran is the former Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, served as the head the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, and was a longstanding radio voice in Boston radio.


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