Liamin lukiovuodet olivat Bethille raskasta aikaa. Hänellä esiintyi enenevässä määrin väsymystä, migreeniä ja nivelkipuja. Liamin lähdettyä opiskelemaan v. 2004 Bethin terveys heikkeni entisestään. Viimein hänellä diagnosoitiin borrelioosi. Sairaus oli kuitenkin edennyt vuosien aikana niin pahaksi että Bethillä oli kovia kipuja ja masennusta lähes koko ajan. Hän ei kyennyt enää tekemään töitä, juoksemaan eikä harrastamaan valokuvausta. Hän oli joutunut luopumaan kaikesta mitä hän rakasti.
Perjantaina, tammikuun 6. 2005, Beth soitti pojalleen ja keskusteli tämän kanssa puolentoista tunnin ajan. He eivät olleet aikoihin kyenneet keskustelemaan näin pitkään. Liam palasi kotiin yöllä ja lähti aamulla tapaamaan isäänsä, joka oli sydänkohtauksen vuoksi hoidettavana sairaalassa. Liam jätti äidilleen viestin kertoen olevansa sairaalassa ja tapaavansa äidin siellä sitten, kun tämä on herännyt. Isä ja poika odottelivat äidin saapumista sairaalaan. Koska häntä ei saatu useista yhteydenotoista huolimatta kiinni puhelimitse, Liam pyysi naapuria menemään katsomaan äitiään. Naapuri löysi äidin kuolleena. Hänen vieressään oli Vicodin-purkki. Beth oli kuollessaan 46-vuotias.
Coenin perheen tarina julkaistiin The Boston Globe -lehdessä 14.10.2006.
(Suom.huom. Vicodin on morfiinijohdos. Se kuuluu narkoottisiin kipulääkkeisiin.)
Coen plays on without No. 1 fan
The Boston Globe By Marty Dobrow, Globe Correspondent | October 14, 2006
AMHERST -- Liam Coen stood on the sideline, a portrait of serenity. His blond hair matted with sweat, his helmet to his hip, Coen soaked in the scene last Saturday: a sparkling autumn afternoon, a hint of crispness in the air, maples firing, almost 16,000 people in the stands, his father and grandfather among them.
His University of Massachusetts team was already up on William & Mary, 45-7, and Coen's work was done. It had been another day at the office, efficient and lethal. He had thrown the ball 17 times, completing 12, for 275 yards and a touchdown.
Then, of course, there was the phone call from his best friend, Tim Day. "Twelve of 17?" Day said, incredulously. "That's not so good. What happened with those other five?"
Coen laughed long and loud. Life was good.
But not perfect. Day was right. He, more than anyone, understood: Things could never be complete. That had been made abundantly clear nine months ago to the day when the darkness had become too much for Coen's mother, Beth. For so long, they had been inseparable, doting mother and only child. If all was well, she would be there, of course. She had always been there, until that Saturday in January -- the day the star quarterback could not forget in a thousand lifetimes.
In his blood
In Rhode Island, the Coens are an institution. They stand for the things they believe in: family, education, football. In the smallest state, they have the biggest dreams.
The football didn't fall very far from the tree with Philip's son, Tim, Liam's father. At Barrington High School, Tim was an all-state fullback and linebacker, a cannonball in pads. He turned down football scholarship offers to play baseball at Eckerd College -- a move he says he regretted right away. After graduation, he returned to Rhode Island to the game he loved. For 31 years now he has been teaching special education and coaching football, currently at Portsmouth High.
In summers for years, he worked as the head lifeguard at Second Beach. That's what he was doing half a lifetime ago when he met the vibrant Beth Bowley, a college student with light brown hair and a smile he couldn't resist. Her playful spirit was palpable, the musical laughter, the love of art and photography. Beneath the vivaciousness was a sensitivity he admired, an ability to feel the pain of others. In years to come, she would become a much-loved history teacher at South Kingstown High, a confidante to generations of students, a leader of the school's gay-straight alliance, an Irish Catholic board member for the Rhode Island Holocaust Museum.
They were married in 1982. Three years later, they had their only child. Blond-haired, blue-eyed Liam burst on the scene in November, making his dad happy by not arriving on a Saturday.
On the home front, it was clear that Liam's mom was calling the signals. Both father and son say she did the lion's share of the parenting, pouring herself into Liam's life. She left work for years, not wanting to miss a thing, day care out of the question. She soothed every wound, taught him to ride a bike, went for many a walk. In time, she got him out running 5-kilometer races with her. She pushed him hard in school, insisting on the extra mile. When there were problems with friends, or later with girls, Beth was the ear and the shoulder he would turn to again and again.
"She was awesome," Liam said, a smile blooming beneath his tightly drawn eyes. "Me and my mom had a great bond."
"He was her world," said Tim. "He was everything to her. She never missed anything he ever did."
When Liam went to school, Beth took the teaching job at South Kingstown High. In 1993, she took a day trip with colleagues for a workshop on Nantucket. In a bog, she was bitten by a tick, and almost immediately got the bull's-eye swelling in her neck.
She was ill for much of the summer, but the Lyme disease was undiagnosed, and when she returned to school, her energy returned. Tim recalls she often stayed up until 1 a.m. working on lesson plans, and sometimes awakened at 4 to run before school. Before long she was competing in marathons, pouring herself into her students and her son. She seemed to be the vision of vitality.
Those high school years were tough on Beth. She was exhausted and experiencing an alarming amount of joint pain, and migraines that just wouldn't go away. She now had to drive 45 minutes each way to school, and her once buoyant spirit began to lag. She didn't seem to be thinking that clearly at times. Doctors thought perhaps it was chronic fatigue syndrome, and began to prescribe pain medications.
But off the field, the Coens were facing a devastating battle. Beth, finally diagnosed, was told the Lyme disease had progressed so far that she was not apt to get any real relief for 3-5 years. She was on OxyContin and Vicodin, which sometimes dimmed the pain but left her listless and disoriented. She was unable to work, to run, to do any art or photography.
"Everything she loved," said Tim Coen, "she couldn't do."
After the season, Beth's depression deepened. When the semester ended, Liam went home to a world that was spiraling away. There was tension between his parents, and Liam found himself avoiding his mom.
"She was severely, severely depressed," he recalled, his voice quieting. "I couldn't talk to her sometimes. I felt so bad. I couldn't even deal with it."
Liam's dad, who had gained some weight, was struggling with diabetes. Shortly after the new year, his heart began to race, and he was admitted to Miriam Hospital with suspected congestive heart failure. Liam tried to hold things together the best he could.
On Friday night, Jan. 6, he was at a buddy's house when his mother called. For an hour and a half he sat in his car in the driveway talking to her, and he felt much better about things.
"It was the first time [in so long] we had had a calm conversation," Liam said. He told her that they could get through this, and suggested they go to family counseling. "She said she felt terrible, and I kept trying to build her up. She kept asking me if I loved her. I said, `Of course, I do. What are you talking about?' "
Liam returned home that night around 1 a.m., and went to sleep. In the morning, he left a note for his mother saying he was going to the hospital to see his dad, and that she could meet him there when she got up. Liam had bought his father a tiny television to watch the US Army All-American Game that day, a high school all-star contest. They waited for Beth, and waited some more. Liam called several times, then asked a neighbor to go check. The neighbor found her next to a bottle of Vicodin. She was 46 .