Honoring a Loved One: Message in a Bottle Finds Its Way to France in Memory of Fentanyl Victim

Honoring a Loved One Message in a Bottle Finds Its Way to France in Memory of Fentanyl Victim

Charlotte, North Carolina — Patricia Drewes hoped that her message in a bottle, which she left off the coast of North Carolina, would be discovered halfway around the globe.

“I wanted anyone who found that bottle to know the story of this beautiful girl who had such a beautiful life and a beautiful heart,” Drewes stated.

In 2019, her daughter Heaven Leigh Nelson passed away from fentanyl poisoning. She was 24 years old. “These kids are getting illicit synthetic Fentanyl and they don’t have any clue that’s what they’re getting,” Drewes stated. “(Her) life was poisoned and taken from her, me, her family, and her friends.”

Since then, while taking care of her grandson, Drewes has been spreading the word about the risks associated with the illegal substance.

“Forgotten Victims of North Carolina is an organization that I founded. We have eight chapters throughout the entire state,” stated Drewes. “We assist and care for these families, and ‘No one stands alone’ is our motto. The only memory I have is of being by myself and believing that I was the only one on the planet to whom this had happened. We help these families, grow close to them as friends, and eventually become family.”

Honoring a Loved One Message in a Bottle Finds Its Way to France in Memory of Fentanyl Victim (1)
On January 28, the day after Heaven’s death, Drewes and her grandson go on an annual beach vacation. Drewes remarked, “Heaven loved the beach.” Since her death, we have done this every year. We head to the beach, where we sit and watch the sun come up.”

Drewes chose to pen the note during the second memorial trip, which took place three years ago. She wrote the tale of Heaven in a letter, put it in a bottle, and wrapped it in her picture.

In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Drewes and Captain Shane Bashor met at a boat pier. There, he has operated a charter boat business for many years. He claimed that although he had received many unusual requests over the years—including one for the dispersal of loved ones’ ashes in the sea—this was the first.

She sort of gave me the tale of the bottle with a message in it. “I wanted to ensure that it had a genuine possibility of going somewhere other than ending up on the shore,” stated Bashor.

A message written by a mother detailing her daughter’s life journey made its way from the coast of South Carolina to France. 50 miles offshore, Bashor dropped the bottle close to the Gulfstream. It was tugged and pushed by the currents for years before arriving in Porto Novalo, France. Drewes received an email on January 4 from two women who had discovered it.

Weeks had passed since her fifth beach outing in honor of Heaven.

“I was in a dark place. I have a hard time in January. After three days of being sick with a virus and sobbing in bed, I dreamed about the bottle,” Drewes recalled. “I checked my Yahoo account and sure enough I had an email that the bottle had been found in France.”

A few days later, Charlotte Bouvard sent her another email. The bottle had been discovered by her 11-year-old son.

“This arrived to us in a very difficult and poignant way. “I believe it holds significance,” stated Bouvard. I realized I needed to have a conversation with (my son) about drugs. He’s quite young, so we had never discussed it before. The way Patricia wanted to tell her story again also deeply moved me.”

They emailed her pictures of the bottle taken along the coast of France. Drewes, who is descended from France, was astounded.

“I shed tears; I was moved by it. She loved to travel, and she was thrilled to have reached France, according to Drewes. “I couldn’t help but think that’s where Heaven would end up, somewhere beautiful like that,” Drewes said. She is assisting me in saving lives and spreading the word. And I’m not alone, she tells me. She remains by my side.”

During their anniversary trip this year, Drewes and her grandson went to Carolina Beach alongside a different family who had also suffered from fentanyl toxicity.

Missy Duff of Selma is raising her granddaughter and lost her daughter Michiko Duff to fentanyl poisoning years ago. She finds hope in Drewes’ bottle narrative.

Duff stated, “It let us know that our angels are out there, and they’re sending us signs and letting us know to keep fighting.” The bottle remains in the wild. Bouvard handed it over to a policeman to be thrown back into the ocean, along with her son. In the future, Drewes hopes someone else will discover it.

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