Madelyn Ellen Linsenmeir
1988 - 2018
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Madelyn Ellen Linsenmeir

- - Our beloved Madelyn Ellen Linsenmeir died on Sunday, October 7. While her death was unexpected, Madelyn suffered from drug addiction, and for years we feared her addiction would claim her life. We are grateful that when she died she was safe and she was with her family.

Maddie was born on March 31, 1988, in Burlington, Vermont, where she grew up and lived on and off throughout her adult life; she also spent time in Sarasota, Florida; Keene, New Hampshire; and Boulder, Colorado.

Madelyn was a born performer, and had a singing voice so beautiful it would stop people on the street. Whether she was on stage in a musical or around the kitchen table with her family, when she shared her voice, she shared her light. She was a member of FolKids of Vermont, a dance and musical troupe that toured the world. Maddie visited Russia and Thailand with the group, and as part of their exchange program hosted kids from other countries at home in Vermont. She loved to ski and snowboard, and she swam on the YMCA swim team, winning medals at the New England regionals.

When she was 16 she moved with her parents from Vermont to Florida to attend a performing arts high school. Soon after, she tried OxyContin for the first time at a high school party, and so began a relationship with opiates that would dominate the rest of her life.

It is impossible to capture a person in an obituary, and especially someone whose adult life was largely defined by drug addiction. To some, Maddie was just a junkie—when they saw her addiction they stopped seeing her. And what a loss for them. Because Maddie was hilarious, and warm, and fearless, and resilient. She could and would talk to anyone, and when you were in her company you wanted to stay. In a system that seems to have hardened itself against addicts and is failing them every day, she befriended and delighted cops, social workers, public defenders, and doctors, who advocated for and believed in her till the end. She was adored as a daughter, sister, niece, cousin, friend, and mother, and being loved by Madelyn was a constantly astonishing gift.

Maddie loved her family and the world. But more than anyone else, she loved her son, Ayden, who was born in 2014. She transformed her life to mother him. Every afternoon in all kinds of weather, she would put him in a backpack and take him for a walk. She sang rather than spoke to him, filling his life with song. Like his mom, Ayden loves to swim; together they would spend hours in the lake or pool. And she so loved to snuggle him up, surrounding him with her love.

After having Ayden Maddie tried harder and more relentlessly to stay sober than we have ever seen anyone try at anything. But she relapsed and ultimately lost custody of her son, a loss that was unbearable.

During the past two years especially, her disease brought her to places of incredible darkness, and this darkness compounded on itself, as each unspeakable thing that happened to her and each horrible thing she did in the name of her disease exponentially increased her pain and shame. For 12 days this summer she was home, and for most of that time she was sober. For those 12 wonderful days, full of swimming and Disney movies and family dinners, we believed as we always did that she would overcome her disease and make the life for herself we knew she deserved. We believed this until the moment she took her last breath. But her addiction stalked her and stole her once again. Though we would have paid any ransom to have her back, any price in the world, this disease would not let her go until she was gone.

Maddie is survived by her son, Ayden; her parents Maureen Linsenmeir and Mark Linsenmeir; her sister Kate O'Neill and Kate's partner, Marshall Fong; her sister Maura O'Neill and Maura's partner, Tim Painting; her aunts Beth Dow and Susan Dow and Beth's partner, Charlie Allison; her beloved cousin Sloan Collins; and many other aunts, uncles, and cousins, including the Conants, Cahills, and Camisas. She is predeceased by her grandparents, Madelyn and Roland Keenan, Mary Ellen and Herman Dow, and Reginald Linsenmeir.

Please join us for a memorial service honoring Maddie's life on Sunday, October 21, at 2 p.m., at the First Unitarian Universalist Society sanctuary at 152 Pearl Street in Burlington. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the Turning Point Center, a place where Maddie spent time and felt supported. Donations can be made via their website,

If you yourself are struggling from addiction, know that every breath is a fresh start. Know that hundreds of thousands of families who have lost someone to this disease are praying and rooting for you. Know that we believe with all our hearts that you can and will make it. It is never too late.

If you are reading this with judgment, educate yourself about this disease, because that is what it is. It is not a choice or a weakness. And chances are very good that someone you know is struggling with it, and that person needs and deserves your empathy and support.

If you work in one of the many institutions through which addicts often pass—rehabs, hospitals, jails, courts—and treat them with the compassion and respect they deserve, thank you. If instead you see a junkie or thief or liar in front of you rather than a human being in need of help, consider a new profession.

We take comfort in knowing that Maddie is surrounded by light, free from the struggle that haunted her. We would have given anything for her to experience that freedom in this lifetime. Our grief over losing her is infinite. And now so is she.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The Burlington Free Press on Oct. 14, 2018.
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50 entries
March 9, 2020
Still think of Madelyn and that preciouslittle boy.
Laura LEsperance
March 8, 2020
I am so sorry you all had to experience this horrible pain. I too was caught up in opiate addiction for over 10 years. Somehow by the grace of God above I was able to overcome it and I thank God everyday. I could not have done it by myself. I didn't even know what addiction was untill I found myself trapped by it. For whatever reason God didn't need me to come home yet but be assured that God did want Madelyn and she is now with him... free of all this pain.
October 17, 2019
May the perpetual light forever light the way home.
Diane Boyle
October 17, 2019
May she rest eternal in the Kingdom of Heaven. May God bring peace and comfort to her family and friends. May her baby boy know that forever she loved him. I'm sorry for your loss
Diane Boyle
October 7, 2019
RIP Madelyn.My love and prayers are with you all may heaven be a place where no more pain/hurt can ever touch her again xxx I had never met Madelyn and I have come across this obituary by reading an article in an English newspaper called Daily Express. It had a piece on painkiller addition, the main headline for it was "Grim Toll Of Painkiller Addiction" and in the article itself it mentioned your Maddie.
I am a woman who for nearly 20yrs now has suffered from addition.I also have lost custody of my beautiful boy. You're words that you wrote in Maddies obituary moved me to tears, she was(and still is) loved by everyone who came into contact with her. Addition is the most darkest, loneliest,frightening place to be!! Even more so when you are there on your own (like I am) like a lot of families mine has turned their backs on me! I am wanting more than anything else in the world to be clean, happy, loved, wanted and needed. Please please pray for me and please pray that somewhere soon a door will open to me and show me some light and guidance that will help me to be on the path to where I need/want and deserve to be before its a door that opens to heaven. I will pray for you to find strength in each other. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your words with the world about your feelings regarding your such sad loss of Madelyn. Prayers hugs and kisses to you all. Siobhan Heigold xxxxxx
Siobhan heigold
June 29, 2019
So beautifully written, we too pray our daughter Casey can find defeat against this disease. It has taken too many too young. I pray for you and know that your Madelyn soars with the angels. Free at last from the devils despair.
June 11, 2019
I read this obit several months ago and saved the link. While I know friends who have battled and continued to battle addiction, I have never personally struggled. However, as an English teacher, I find your words to be poetic and beautiful and full of love.

While I never knew your daughter, her spirit remains alive because I think of her when I think of others fighting this battle.

I wish you peace and love.
June 4, 2019
Dear family, I realize I don't know you, but I assure you that your love and compassion for your daughter is palpable in this obituary. As a funeral director who writes many obituaries in my 20 year career. I can tell you that I have never been so moved by one as I am with this one. How eloquent and profound. Your description of your daughter, her struggles and strength ,and ultimately her defeat by this evil disease. Hugs to you and your family. I can't imagine your pain, but I can easily imagine your devotion and love. What else matters after all?
Kathryn Cosper
April 18, 2019
My 36 year old daughter is 8 years sober from alcohol, but addiction is addiction no matter what the substance. Her undergraduate degree was in Operatic Voice from a Conservatory and she now has her Master's in Clinical Psychology and works as an addiction therapist. She has walked the walk and now talks the talk to help others trying to overcome a battle that is fought on a daily basis. As she says "every day without substance abuse is a gift to oneself". I will share Madelyn's story with her and thank you for voicing your memories of this beautiful child, mother and sister.
February 15, 2019
Colleen Lisk
February 7, 2019
Our beautiful daughter
I just read your story of your daughter, Madelyn.
We also lost a daughter to opioid addiction. Her name was Ashley Ann she was 27 years old.

She also started her addiction at high school parties here in Florida. She was a wonderful person, she was admitted to the Coast Guard, but before she could leave fir he basic training, her addiction started to take front seat. She went to nanyntreatment centers and tried with all her might to fight off the compulsion, but the opioids took her from us on June 2, 2017.

She is now in the cosmos and at peace at last.

Thank you for sharing your daughters struggle...we all haveto,understand this is a sickness not a moral failing.
Helen Yettaw
February 5, 2019
Sending love for all those who struggle with addiction or are in recovery. Get the help you deserve. If you are not an addict but notice the signs in a loved one, talk to them and help them get help. <3 <3
January 20, 2019
My sincerest condolences. As a mother in recovery, this loss break my heart. I will forever keep you all in my prayers.
Briana Nelson
December 31, 2018
We Just lost Someone 12/22 to an opioid overdose, he had just turned 31. His struggle was never ending, until it ended. Your words moved me in a way I cannot explain. Thank you.
December 16, 2018
lost my sister the same way. sounds like you were there for her though. I'm sorry.
December 13, 2018
I am just reading about Maddie and thinking about how her story touches my heart. I am a recovering opiate addict of 15 years. This obituary for Maddie is beautifully raw & I am glad she had so much love in her short life.
C Stewart
December 12, 2018
Heartbroken,another beautiful and talented soul taken from us. Thousands of people worldwide, grieve with your family and friends whom loved Maddie. Our hearts ache for loved ones passed and others trying daily to "slay the dragons" of addiction,mental health diagnoses,despair,poverty,
hopelessness and thoughts of suicide to end the cycle.
Clearly we are failing the war on drugs; children,youth,adults in their homes schools,universities, recreational places,in workplace wellness programs in the vast social services system, at rehab, the revolving criminal justice system,often at medical services,overwhemed mental health and suicide prevention services. Agreed,addiction is an illness and requires treatment,compassion and respectful care from supports.
Make a difference every day,with a simple act of kindness toward others. Every life matters. May the grace of God, give us some peace and save our world from self destruction.
Laurie J.
December 7, 2018
Courtney Ritchie
December 6, 2018
I am so very sorry for the loss of your sweet Madelyn. May she RIP and your hearts find healing in time. Love and light for your journey. As the mom of a son affected by addiction I have learned to be grateful for every day he is with us and well. ❤
Becky Youssef
December 4, 2018
December 4, 2018
❤❤❤ loved & missed always.
C. L.
December 4, 2018
Deepest condolences to the family.
R. Dennis
December 4, 2018
God bless. This is one of the most besutiful tributes I have ever read.
Alpha Shashinka
December 4, 2018
I first read about Madelyn as the State of Vermont caught my eye having been born and raised in Johnson, Vermont. The photo of her and Ayden really tells a wonderful story about life in general and how no matter what the incentive is for living, how easily it can be taken away. I have just started recognizing the rights of all humans to receive treatment but is in articles and memories like you have shared that I take a deep breath and get up again daily, go to work at the drug clinic, and do what I can.

God bless the family and may the memory of Madelyn continue to help others. My extended and heartfelt sympathies for your loss.

Lynda McDonald
December 3, 2018
I just completed reading the article about Maddie on CNN and then came here to read her obituary.

Having family members who are/were struggling with addiction I understand how you all feel about people stereotyping all those struggling with addiction.

But what a BEAUTIFUL tribute to Maddie that you have written. NO ONE should ever judge Maddie for her ONE weakness, but remember her for her many talents and achievements. Had I given up on one precious member of my family when they relapsed she would not be 13 years clean and sober now, but as she will tell you it is a daly struggle not to let the old demons back in her life.

My heart breaks for all of you on the loss of your beautiful daughter, sister, niece, aunt, and friend.

Continue to cherish the memories you have of Maddie and keep them close to your hearts as she will always be with you all watching over you from Heaven.

With sympathy and love,
Terri B
Terri B
December 3, 2018
My heart breaks for you and I can truly say I have walked in your shoes. I feel your pain as I lost a beloved daughter when she was only 16. Our entire family was affected and to this day, so many years later, we still feel the loss so deeply. I will keep your family in my thoughts and prayers. Take solace that your loved one flies with angels.
Joy Phillips
December 3, 2018
I feel very touched and honored for the opportunity of reading about Madelyn's life and experiences. I am an addict. God bless you and all your family. You all will be in my prayers. Rafael
December 3, 2018
To the friends and family members of Madelyn, I am so sorry for your loss. This obituary was beautifully written. It has the power to change lives and maybe that is Madelyn's legacy? I hope people around the world find the hope and the help they need whether or not they have the disease or they love someone who is suffering from it.

To those of you around the world that been effected by another person's addiction and/or alcoholism I have found help in Al-Anon. Maybe you can too. Visit: to find a meeting near you. Al-Anon members are people, just like you, who are worried about someone with a drinking or drug problem. There is no cost for "membership." Just show up and get the love and support you need to feel better.
Angela Z.
December 3, 2018
Heartbreaking. Such a terrible lose to an addiction she couldn't overcome. Another beautiful person gone...we need to do so much more to help those with addictions. Our most sincere condolences.
Tim & Joan Connell
Carman, Manitoba Canada.
Tim Connell
December 3, 2018
Sending your family love and light at this incredibly sad time..Know that she's with the angels in heaven now.. free of all the bad and traumatic things that cause us to self-medicate to ease the pain. Blessings to you all for keeping her alive by bringing more compassionate awareness to this disease..Even though I never met her, I'm sure she would be proud of you all.
December 3, 2018
I am so grateful for parents like you who, although you are living through the worst experience of your lives, you are still trying to educate the world about the horrible disease of addiction. Thank you for telling the world that we who have this disease are not bad people but ones afflicted with a powerful, ruthless disease. I am recovering today from my opioid addiction and have been for 11 years now. I'm so sorry for your loss and wish Maddie could have been afforded the grace that I have received in order to live clean.
Peggy Stults
December 3, 2018
I've read this obituary several times now. While I've known several people who have battled this addiction, I've never been very personally affected by it.

I do, however, know it is real. I also know the love that you had for your daughter at the end was no different than the love you had for her at the beginning.

As a father of a 6 year-old daughter, my heart aches for you, and I hope to one day share this obituary with her as a learning experience to the horrors that can so easily occur when involvement with this drug begins.

I am not a religious person, but I hope you find peace and know that you've affected many people with this most poignant and heartfelt tribute to your beautiful Maddie.
December 3, 2018
I pray Jesus wraps his arms around her family and precious son. Rest in knowing you will see her again. God bless you and God bless all addicts and their families ❤
Sondra Fisk
December 2, 2018
I read this obituary and cried from the bottom of my heart. I have a drug addict son also born December of 1988 and another drug addict son who is 26. My heart breaks for you loss that a parent should never have to endure. I worry every day!!! Prayers to your family
December 2, 2018
Nursing is sad but fulfilling. So sorry Maddie. Your soul may it be free to fly with angels. I once had this nice 30ish lady that thanked me and I said why do you thank me for? She said you treated me like I am a real person. Like I used to be treated before I became a addict. . I told her , your are a person and I treated you like a mother would want her family to be treated with compassion and respect. She thanked me again. I told her , I pray that God will restore your faith and love for
Jennifer Blankenship
December 2, 2018
I am so very sorry. Your words truly spoke to me. I could relate to it all. I send love to your family.
December 1, 2018
A beautiful story about a lovely soul. May we one day find a cure for this disease that has claimed so many young and gifted lives. May the love of our be with you her family all the days of your life.
Ametta Reaves
November 22, 2018
I did not have the privilege of knowing Maddie. She sounds like a wonderful human being, trying to do her best with what life presented her . She no longer has to fight the horrible battle against adfiction. May God give you the strength to go on without her and the peace to know that is no longer suffering .
Veronica Gomez
November 21, 2018
My sincere condolences go out to this beautiful family grieving a tremendous loss. Two years ago, I lost a brother to a drug overdose as well. We too had beautiful moments of clarity with him before he passed. It was a true gift... Writing his obituary was one of the toughest things I've had to do. My heart goes out to whomever wrote this. It is a true masterpiece full of love and education.
Katie G
November 12, 2018
I had the pleasure of knowing Maddie and some of her family when I lived in Vermont, and have fond memories of all. It's been nearly 10 years, but the posted photo of the smiling Maddie is exactly how I remember her. I also have some experience with addiction. This is such a tragedy. My thoughts are with Ayden, the family, and with all those who struggle with this indiscriminate disease. Thanks to Kate for the uncomfortable and eye-opening obituary. That's some serious sisterly love.
Eric B.
November 10, 2018
I am sorry I never had the privilege of meeting her. Sending your family love from Maryland. She was beautiful.
November 5, 2018
I personally know the struggle of being an addict. Being a user for the past 30 years and only now being sober through the suboxone program. I fear the day I will no longer be able to get it legally. My love and prayers go out to all those who loved Madelyn, especially her little boy.
Shelia K.
October 30, 2018
THANK YOU for writing this! I work as a criminal defense investigator, and have huge compassion for this struggle and all who are afflicted, addicts and beyond. Never give up, ever. Sending you all so much love and strength. Thank you for being brave enough to speak your truth.
Susan Randall
October 27, 2018
October 27, 2018
Offering my deepest sympathies for yourloss.
1Cor. 15:26 you have my deepest sympathy for your loss.
October 27, 2018
What a beautiful tribute to someone who sounds like a wonderful person. Addiction is a terribly cruel disease and it takes people in the prime of their lives. I hope that you will continue to remember Maddie as the person she really was. Sending much love and strength to you, you sound like an amazing family x
Jules Hutton
October 26, 2018
Dear Kate; I am sending all my caring thoughts to you. And,also, to all of your family and Maddie's friends. Lovingly, Gale Dorion (I am now living in Los Angeles)
Gale Dorion
October 26, 2018
Thank you for sharing your story. I am especially moved by the point that we need to see addicts as people who are hurting and need our love and support. My prayer for you is that you will know the love of Jesus and that He will comfort you.
October 25, 2018
I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this. I did not know your daughter, but my sister has a story so close to hers that this reading this brought me to tears. I hope, somewhere out there, she reads your words and hears that it is never too late to change.
October 24, 2018
I lost my niece in 2007. Her story and Maddie's were almost identical. This obituary has helped me understand the struggle more than any other article or book I have read in the past 11 years of grieving and trying to find closure. Thank you. My prayers to your family and Maddie's friends...
October 24, 2018
Dear Linsenmeir family,
I have had the privilege to read your very heartfelt, compassionate memory of your daughter and even though I do not know her or you, my heart aches for you all!
I am one of those professionals working in this field in Pennsylvania and I too work to lessen stigma and shame associated with this disease! I guess I am writing to you so you know others are here lending our compassion and care to folks who continue the struggle!
Thank you for writing this beautiful testament to your daughter, sister, friend and by doing this helping others to further their understanding of the hold this disease takes on a person! Your words are those necessary to be shared to lessen the stigma and shame! My thoughts and prayers are with you!
Sally Kraus, Carlisle PA
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