In Memory of Graeme

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My last picture of Graeme – 3 days before he died.

We created Disadvantaged Cats in memory of my son Graeme Grothe who died on November 18, 2006 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Graeme’s death was as complicated and messy as his life. Graeme died of a combination of a methadone overdose and a beating by his friend. Graeme would be alive today if his friend had called 911. Instead of calling 911 he beat Graeme to death trying to wake him up. Graeme’s death was ruled a homicide. Graeme was dearly loved and is missed by many, many people.

Graeme lived in the Loring Park neighborhood and he considered it the best place in the world to live. He made online postings about how much he loved his neighborhood. Other people living in the neighborhood considered him an especially eccentric person in a neighborhood filled with eccentric people. He touched many lives in the few short months he lived there. He wanted to talk about the meaning of life with whoever crossed his path – the pizza delivery man, the corner grocery store worker, the lawyer in a business suit on his way to work, the drunk in the park. It didn’t matter who they were.

Graeme was very gentle and loving. This is an excerpt of an email I received from him on October 10, 2006: “Today I did the second bird-burial I’ve done in two days. Whenever I find dead animals I pick them up, bury them, and take a few minutes to show that someone cared about their existence. I think I’m all about love, however many problems I may have myself.”

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Graeme at 16 – one of my favorite pictures

Graeme was crazy about cats. He considered his calling in life to help disadvantaged cats. That irritated me because I didn’t think it was an important enough calling. He volunteered at several area cat shelters cleaning litter boxes and trying to socialize dysfunctional cats. He went to Mississippi and New Orleans with the Humane Society to rescue animals stranded from Hurricane Katrina. He enjoyed the experience so much he wanted to pursue a career with the Humane Society until he realized his felonies prevented him from doing so. He thought cats had the perfect life because they could spend their day lounging in sunbeams.

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Graeme went on a mission trip with Solomon’s Porch in March of 2006 to build houses in Guatemala. The leader of the group told how Graeme did everything he asked him to do without complaint. He worked hard and came home scratched and bruised, but proud that he had built a house for a poor family. He also told how Graeme would pet and care for the stray dogs of the city that no one else would even touch. Two other people told me how compassionate Graeme was when they were struggling with emotional problems on the trip. Graeme so impressed them with his kindness and wisdom that to this day they both have a special relationship with me because of him.

Graeme spent five years in prison. His nickname was Thumper. I thought it was because he liked thumping bass music, but it was really because he was as intimidating as Bambi’s little bunny friend Thumper. A friend recently released from Lino Lakes prison told me how sad the other guys in prison were when they read his obituary. They told him that Graeme was a good handball player, very funny, and read constantly.

Graeme was funny. He was also very intelligent. He would call me at unexpected times and ask me deep, complex questions, usually regarding theology or the meaning of life. I miss that so much. A child psychologist told me years ago that Graeme had the highest IQ he had ever tested. Graeme read many college textbooks and all the literary classics while he was in prison. He went to Brown College for computer networking from June to September last year, got straight As, and then dropped out. He didn’t care about computers; he wanted to work with animals.

Graeme had the desire to stop using drugs. He had made an appointment with his friend Jeremy on Friday, the day before he died, for Jeremy to bring him to drug treatment on Monday morning. Graeme had tried every drug but heroin and he wanted to try heroin before he quit using drugs. After his quest to find heroin failed, on that Saturday, he found someone selling methadone at a needle exchange store. And that is where Graeme’s life ends.

Graeme’s friend did not call 911 because he didn’t want to get in legal trouble as they were doing the drugs in his apartment and he didn’t want to lose his job in a hospital (in patient care). Please call 911 if you ever have a friend who is overdosing. As soon as the police determine that the problem is a medical emergency, their involvement ends. Had Graeme’s friend called 911 he would be alive today.

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