Charlaine Raneri shares the story of her daughter, Lauren.
In Brunswick County, where households with children younger than 18 can acquire lock boxes from Health Services to keep medications secured, more than 60 percent of kids 12 and older say they get their addictive drugs from family and friends.
Statewide, there were 595 opioid overdose Emergency Department visits in March of 2019, 35 more than March of 2018. Of those, 120 were for opioids classified as commonly prescribed, while most — 303 — were for heroin.
In light of International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31, Brunswick County mother Charlaine Raneri is sharing the story of her daughter, Lauren. Charlaine has watched addiction grab her child too tightly and is sharing her journey in an effort to help others on the same path.
This is what happens when the world implodes. This is Charlaine Raneri’s story.
“The detective showed up at my house that night, and I knew it. I knew it. I was trying to text her because she was bringing the kids up to the other grandma’s, and she was like, ‘I’ll be right back,’ and I had a gut feeling something was wrong. And the detectives showed up at 10:31 and I fell to my knees and screamed.
“They said, ‘Are you Lauren’s mom? We need to speak with you.’ They came in, and I said ‘Has she been in an accident?’ and they said, ‘Your daughter’s deceased.’ And I lost my mind. I. Lost. My. Mind.”
Lauren Linguanti died at a convenience store in Wallkill, New York, about 70 miles northwest of Manhattan, on Friday, January 26, 2018 in her boyfriend’s arms. Six opioid deaths were recorded in Wallkill that weekend. Lauren, a mother of two, would have turned 30 on August 15.
Charlaine has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and worked as a substance abuse counselor for 17 years in the prison system and in Pender County. She commutes now from Winnabow to her hair salon job in Wilmington because she can talk freely there, unjudged, in an occupation that helps her heal. She knows opioid addiction is a powerful divider that destroys the closest of families. “I really tried to help her, but you can’t help your own family. They have to get help elsewhere,” she says.
When the officers left, Raneri cried all night.
“The next day I had to go to the morgue. No parent should have to go see their child in the morgue. To give you the visual, they had a plastic bag on her head so they could reserve all the body fluids for testing. She was wrapped in a white sheet. She looked in peace, like she was sleeping.”
Lauren had fentanyl and other drugs in her system. She became addicted to heroin at age 13. By age 14 she was drinking. She met a guy at 17, had a son at 18. The trio moved to Fayetteville, where Lauren’s boyfriend worked in a carpet business. After a daughter was born, she started using again. They returned to New York.
“My daughter suffered for 15 years,” Charlaine, 52, says. “Kids can start as young as 9, which I’ve seen. You’ll find it in schools.” Lock your medications, she reminds everyone. If it’s missing, ask your child. Oxycodone, Demerol, Percocet, morphine. It finds a book bag, one pill at a time. “Take classes. Reach out to groups like Compassionate Friends in Wilmington, a Facebook group for grieving mothers, Al-Anon. There are so many who want to talk about this.”
People want to keep their stories under wraps, she says, because of the stigma. “But sweeping it under a rug is not going to help.”
That morning in the morgue, Charlie asked that Lauren’s long blonde hair be cut, so she could have the ponytail. She later cut her own long, brown-blonde hair and braided the two segments.
“They’re intertwined like an umbilical cord that will never be separated. It’s next to her ashes,” she says. “She’s always with me.”
Photography by Laura Glantz