On Mother’s Day, 27-year-old Taylor Maria Ipsen created pen-and-ink artwork for her mom and wrote a beautiful note.
“On this day I wish you the absolute best,” the young woman wrote. “You’re long overdue for some good luck, some happiness, stability and a stress free life.”
For years, luck had been neither woman’s friend.
On May 9, the day after Mother’s Day, Carolyn Ipsen couldn’t get her daughter to come out of the bathroom. Taylor had battled addiction for a decade. The drug use dated back to her teens at Inglemoor High School in Kenmore, where she graduated.
Taylor Ipsen lived with friends in Pierce County, survived on the streets, and in the end stayed with her mother in an Everett motel.
A 51-year-old widow, Carolyn Ipsen moved to the motel after losing her house in Everett’s Silver Lake area. She had lost jobs as a server and cook. Her husband Hans Ipsen, Taylor’s dad, was a musician who played with the longtime Northwest band Little Bill & the Blue Notes. He died in 2008.
Carolyn Ipsen thinks back to that Monday after Mother’s Day. Her luck turned terrible.
She remembers making something to eat. “Taylor was like, ‘Mom that smells really good.’ Then she was in the bathroom. She was in there about 15 minutes,” Ipsen recalled. Hearing the water run, the mother shouted that she needed to use the bathroom. “But nothing — the water was still running,” she said.
Worried, she had someone break down the door. “She was hunched over on the bathroom floor. We turned her over and she was blue. Police found a needle,” Ipsen said last week.
Taylor Ipsen had overdosed on heroin. She was taken to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, where doctors tried for several days to save her. She died May 12.
Heroin isn’t just one mother’s heartbreak. With other opiates, the drug is a destroyer of lives and a common killer.
In January 2015, the Snohomish Health District released a report, “Heroin in Snohomish County: Mortality and Treatment Trends.”
“Snohomish County is facing an epidemic of drug overdoses,” said the report’s executive summary.
Examining figures from 2011 through 2013, it found the heroin-related death rate to be 3.2 per 100,000 people statewide, while in Snohomish County it was 5.4 per 100,000 people, according to the state Department of Health.
In the years covered by the report, 143 probable heroin-related deaths were counted in Snohomish County. They occurred most frequently in Tulalip and north Everett ZIP Codes.
Carolyn Ipsen’s sorrow is shared by hundreds of local families. Like so many, she is left with memories of a long struggle, of efforts to find help, and of her own missteps and naivete about the seductive drug.
Ipsen said her daughter was a high school junior when it became clear her drug use was far beyond youthful experimentation. “I found out she had been a functioning junkie,” Ipsen recalled.
Although the family lived in Bothell, Ipsen turned to a clinic in Renton, where for a time she drove Taylor every day for a supervised methadone dose to manage her drug dependence.
Taylor had worked at a nursing home, serving meals, and as a house cleaner and care giver. She later shared housing with a woman she met through another methadone clinic in Bellevue, Ipsen said.
Her drug use continued, spinning out of control. It eventually led to a blood infection and Taylor’s homelessness. Ipsen acknowledged that she sometimes sent her daughter money. “I was enabling. Deep down inside, I knew,” said Ipsen, who has two other adult children.
A week or so before her overdose, Taylor accepted that she needed help, her mother said. Through Catholic Community Services in Everett, Ipsen said, her daughter underwent an assessment and met with a substance-abuse counselor.
“It was time. A lot of things had happened,” Ipsen said. Just after Taylor died, the mother said, she learned that an inpatient treatment bed had become available.
Today, Ipsen remembers an artistic daughter who drew and painted, wrote poetry and taught herself to play guitar. She loved animals, and had what her mom calls a “dark” sense of humor and “rad” tastes in music.
On June 11, there was a memorial service for Taylor at the Northshore Senior Center. Another celebration of her life is planned for August in Milwaukee, Oregon, where Ipsen’s family lives.
Ipsen had dreams for Taylor. “I wanted her to go back to school,” she said, adding that her daughter might have made a compassionate counselor. “She was so kind and so smart. She liked people.”
Among her mementos is a thank-you card from Locks of Love. The nonprofit accepts donations of human hair to be used for children suffering from medical hair loss. Taylor’s hair, donated after she died, was long enough to make three wigs, Ipsen said. Some of her daughter’s organs were also donated, she said.
Ipsen reads and rereads the Mother’s Day note.
“How you keep a smile on throughout all of the pain, despite never-ending hardships, proves just how strong and incredibly brave you are,” Taylor wrote.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.
How to help
An online fundraising account, “Taylor Ipsen Memorial Fund,” has been set up to help Carolyn Ipsen with funeral and medical expenses. Donations may be made at: www.gofundme.com/25k9k2k
For details about Taylor Ipsen’s memorial service next month in Oregon, email Carolyn Ipsen: firstname.lastname@example.org