By Anna Grace Moore
Photos by Lauren Ustad
A legacy is not what one accomplishes in life; rather, it is best measured through how one blesses the lives of those around him in the time he’s given on Earth. Mason Lawry lost his battle with addiction at just 23 years old, but amazingly, in such a short two decades he impacted so many others who were privileged to get to know him.
“We bought this house because of the big, open space, so we could gather people who are in similar situations. Parents of addicted children or who have lost a child,” Mason’s mother Melinda Lawry says. “That was our whole purpose: to help people who’re in our situation to teach them or to walk with them through what we’ve been through because everybody needs somebody.”
Together, Mason’s parents, Melinda and Bob Lawry, have created a sanctuary nestled deep in the Dolly Ridge community of Vestavia Hills. Their home, which was originally built in 1969, first attracted the couple after their son’s passing, because of the quietness of the community and the peacefulness of the home.
“It’s like a ‘70s party house,” Melinda jokes. She recalls how she poured her creativity into creating an asylum, which is decorated from top-to-bottom in outlandish colors, funky fabrics and eye-boggling wall paper, all because of her desire to utilize her grief as way to comfort other people, who like her had recently walked through a living tragedy. If Mason could help people, so could they, she says.
When one is sitting at a church or in some type of “get help” group, surrounded by people who typically frown upon drug use and only use the phrase, “don’t do drugs,” it’s intimidating and often aggravating for addicts or loved ones of addicts who are actively seeking help to feel a part of the community, to feel loved, to feel worthy of saving.
“If we can do it here, with [parents of addicts], starting with people we know, it’s a little less risk taking for the parents,” Bob explains.
“It’s been such a precious house to me,” Melinda says. While having an empty bedroom will always remind her of Mason, what also reminds her of him is the 60-some animal statues in their house and every color of the rainbow garnishing her walls and ceilings. Everything in the Lawry sanctuary is cheerful, making it hard not to smile when one walks in. Even “the fountains bring [us] peace. That’s really the reason [we] bought this house,” she says with a laugh.
Bob says Mason’s memory lives on in their house because just as the house feels joyful, so was he. Mason had this innate ability to make others laugh, to make them feel loved, worthy and welcome. That’s exactly what his parents strive to make others feel now every day.
“He didn’t know he was an addict,” Melinda explains. “He had nose surgery in high school because he was an avid soccer player. After surgery, they prescribed him opioids. They didn’t know he was what we call, ‘allergic.’ When you’re an addict, you’re allergic to a drug, so they (the opioids) caused a reaction, and they opened up a pathway in his [brain]. He became an addict.”
“You can’t say, ‘you need to stop doing this,’ because for years that’s what I thought,” Bob says. People don’t understand how addicts respond. “It’s a dirty disease. You have to do what you need to do to get your fix to calm you. They’re using those drugs to feel normal. When we (non-addicts) drink, we do that for entertainment. We do that for extra. They need that to function. Well, you take that away, and they start going through withdrawals. You can’t be surprised [at the bad choices that good people make; it is not them, it is the addiction].”
Mason spent 11 months at The Men’s Reprieve, learning to overcome his addiction. He then carried out his own ministry by counseling other addicts at a sober living community. Mason was sober for three years before he was called home to Heaven.
“We want to continue his work,” Bob says.
The entire family has bonded in fellowship over the loss of someone so loved in life. Yet, the Lawry’s aren’t allowing grief to hold them prisoner. They’re opening their doors to people like them who know love and loss, grief and despair and above all, who want to carry on the legacy of those gone too soon.
“There has to be a reason that Mason died,” Melinda says. “If we can teach others that they’re human, too, they don’t want to live like that…we’re serving [Mason’s memory]. Just by us telling Mason’s story for the last 21 months, it has opened up many conversations with people that think their son or daughter might be an [addict].”
“People don’t want to talk about it because it’s ugly, [but] that’s why we’re so vocal about it,” Bob says. “If we let it hide in the corners and hide in the darkness and we feel ashamed about it, [addicts] don’t get help.”
With open doors and acting as open books, Melinda and Bob Lawry are living out Mason’s legacy through teaching others- addicts and not- that everyone is worthy and deserving of love.
Anyone who is struggling with addiction or knows someone who is battling addiction can call both 4th Dimension in Hoover, which can be reached at (205) 492-5467, and Bradford Health Services, whose contact number is (205) 547-2727, for help, guidance and loving support to overcome his addiction.
Melinda has a record 63 animal statues, paintings, pillows and knickknacks in their house that remind her of her favorite animals. She especially loves leopard print.
Living Room Details
Pictured above are several portraits that Melinda’s father took while on an African safari, Mason’s hat, Melinda’s first t-shirt she made, which is ironic since she owned a Christian clothing company, Mustard Seeds, and anything else she saw that just “fit.”
Living Room Details
True to the ‘70s vibe, Melinda has an iron-rust colored sofa, which is adorned with cheetah pillows.
Melinda’s background in both retail and real estate helped her have an eye for that ‘70s look she wanted for her house’s interior décor. Melinda says she didn’t know why she chose a vintage aesthetic, only that it was “fun!”
Following the “fun” nature of the house, Melinda chose different wallpaper for nearly every wall and ceiling of the house. Some of the floors may be next, she says!
“Life in living color” is one of Melinda’s mottos, prompting her to choose this electric blue for their bar.
Melinda loves both the color green and anything from the MacKenzie-Childs collection, which she has used to decorate most all of her kitchen. She even wallpapered her ceiling based off of her inspiration from both her backsplash and a MacKenzie-Childs collectible.
The standing tub paired with the gorgeous vanity, which isn’t pictured, provides the perfect solace for Melinda when she is getting ready in the morning.
When Melinda and Bob’s daughter, McKenzie, comes over, she sleeps in this guest bedroom. McKenzie loves hot pink, so naturally, Melinda found four different wallpapers to match, along with the most beautiful retro chandelier.
Guest Bedroom Details
Pictured is the inside of McKenzie’s closet. The stuffed frog pays tribute to Mason’s hilariously hating frogs after he found one unexpectedly in his toilet.
The brick flooring is from the original house’s design. While it’s since been changed, the original house also had a flat roof, which is a design technique of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Melinda’s best friend, Janice Dance, so graciously painted a portrait of Mason after his passing.
To complement her kitchen, Melinda chose black and white-colored pool furniture to match the “MacKenzie-Childs” aesthetic.
Among the many staple-like qualities this home has, the pool and backyard top the list.
These fountains provide true “solace in solidarity.”