Thursday, November 19, 2015

Happy Birthday

   Today you would have been 29. Last year on your birthday I got you some disc golf stuff. I almost got you a "starter kit"... I'm so glad I called you before I ordered it because apparently you were way past the starter kit stage of your disc golf hobby. You had some very specific discs that I had to order from a website that had a matrix more confusing than trying to register for online classes. And you were so worried to ask for something so specific. I am SO glad I didn't brush off your birthday last year. In the past, you were lucky to get a phone call. I have a lot of kids and a busy life, but I really wanted you to know last year how much we love you. And I didn't know how else to do that. If I knew it was going to be your last birthday, I would have flown out to be there with you. I think you went the movies with Nan and Mom? Mom made chicken parm, I'm sure. I wish there was a way we could have known.
         I miss you so much. My birthday was hard. I wanted to hear from you. I didn't think it would be hard at all, honestly. I was in Disneyland with all of my kids and my husband and I thought I'd be too distracted to think much about a missed phone call from you. But I woke up crying. Birthdays were the one day I knew for sure we'd talk.
         It probably sounds ridiculous to say that I miss you, when I know we didn't spend all that much time together to begin with. But I really had these visions of you moving out here, starting a new life. And us being best friends again. I grieve so much for what never got to be. The relationship I so wanted to have with my brother, but drugs stole, and never gave us the chance to get it back.
          We're going to have another baby. #5. I can't imagine what your reaction would be. I hate that this baby will live in a world without you. He or she will only ever know you in stories, and to her I'll have never had a brother. It's bizarre to think about, it really is.
           I am not entirely sure how the whole after life thing works exactly. But I know you're still around. And I hope you're having a happy birthday, wherever you are. I can't help but think it's probably hard for you to watch all of us here crying and missing you. I'm sure you had no clue how sad everyone would be if you were gone. It's got to be so hard to watch. But I hope there's some kind of magical happy heaven that you're hanging out in with Luke and Poppy (how do those two get alone anyway?) and you're having a good day, if they have days in heaven. Happy birthday little brother. Love you.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Look For The Miracle

I'm doing Sharing Time tomorrow in Primary (our combined Sunday School class for kids 3-11) and the subject is miracles.

It's 12:17AM and I should be sleeping. But my mind is racing about what to teach these sweet little children about miracles. I know God is a God of miracles. I know He gives them daily. But sometimes it's easy to see where He's being a little stingy with them. I am of course thinking about my brother, and wishing there could have been a miracle for him. It wouldn't have even had to be that BIG of a miracle. There is a drug that when administered to someone who has overdosed, literally starts their heart back up. It has saved thousands of lives. I have read crazy stories of people who have had this medication used on them twice in the span of a few days. Why couldn't someone have found my brother in time and used this medicine to save his life?

And here's what I'm learning. There's no good in looking for a miracle where you feel there should have been. Look for the miracle that God gave you. Through every single trial we go through in this life, God gives us a miracle. Sometimes we just have to look harder. If my brother's life had been saved, that miracle would have been obvious. Now that he's gone we have to look a lot harder for the miracle. Or miracles, as I believe we're experiencing.

The first miracle I was able to see through all this was that it was a police officer who found my brother. Not my mom, not my dad, and thank GOD not Nanny. Easily could have been anyone of those people, honestly, considering the circumstances at the time. And my dad was actually really, really close to where they found my brother.

The next miracle was a letter I received from my mom a few months after Jesse's passing. It said that she didn't care what religion I was, just happy I believed in God and that she was happy I was married to such a good man. If you know me, and know my life you can fully appreciate the magnitude of this miracle. If not, just take my word for it and trust me when I say this is huge.

And then just tonight I was at my husband's grandfather's 85th birthday party. Grandpa's health is not the best. As we all sang "Happy Birthday" to him tonight his eyes looked so sad, and it broke my heart. And for a moment I realized those who are "lucky" enough to grow old may not be the lucky ones after all. Not that I'm wishing early death for myself or anyone else, but my brother would have made a terrible old person. I remember him once telling me how scared he was of being old. How you go out of this world the same way you come into it, helpless. And he hated that. And I was thinking about we used to say "Jesse was never a baby". He really was like a toddler from birth. Obviously not literally, but he was just always on the go. Never very babyish. He was never a baby, and he'll never be an old baby... that sounds absolutely terrible. It's now 12:30 and I should really just stop. But I really want to make this point that I'm failing at miserably. But the fact that he's now in a better place, is really a happy thing for him. It's only sad for us that are left here to miss him.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Dear Jesse,

Carly posted this picture on my Facebook wall the other day.
This was seven years ago. 
Jesse, what have you done?
What have you fucking done?
My kids worshiped you.
They love you so much, and we talk about you all the time.
Every single they night they ask for "Uncle Jesse stories" before bed.
Jess, I'm running out of stories.
 I'm running out of memories to share.
I've told them everything I can remember about you.
And that kills me.
I think I'm in a bit of the anger stage of my grief.
Because I hate you for not being here.
I hate that my kids will never make a new memory with you.
I hate that if I have another baby I'll never have another picture like this.
I hate that, when I first saw this picture my first thought is of what a great dad you'd be, and now you'll never have that chance. 
You would have been an incredible dad.
Your kids would have been freaking hilarious, and amazing, and the world needs your kids! 
I secretly hope that some day, some kid will show up on Mom's door step and claim to be her grandson.
Because honestly, I can only imagine what your kid would be like. 
And it's hilarious, and charming, and amazing, and all the wonderful things you were, that you couldn't see anymore.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Almost 7 months...

The past few weeks I've found myself overcome with grief, almost as much as I was in the beginning. In a flash I'll see my brother laying in that casket and I'm almost brought to my knees, the pain in my chest is so tangible and just so painful. Something, almost everything will remind me of him. And it all feels so unfair that he's gone. The world will never hear his laugh or see his smile again, and that thought crushes me.

But it's been 7 months... why is this grief resurfacing so strongly now?

As I pondered this, I came to a few conclusions. One, is that I've probably gone about 6 months without seeing my brother. We've lived the last 10 years on opposite sides of the country, but I still think the longest I've ever gone without seeing him at all is about 6 months. I think that, without really comprehending it fully, on some level my brain processed this. That this is the longest I've ever gone without seeing my brother. And that makes things sink in more, seem more permanent, more real... I don't know. But I think it's something.

I also think that when Jesse first died, I was so shocked, and it was so much to process that I couldn't wrap my mind around the drugs. I didn't realize my brother's problem was "that bad". And for the past six months my thoughts have been more about how he died. I've spent so much time on opiate websites, and researching drug overdose advocacy groups, that I haven't given myself time to think past that. It's taken my mental energy to just wrap my mind around the fact that my brother was using heroin. Now, seven months later I've finally processed that, I think my brain is allowing me to process the fact that he's really gone.

Another thing is that I keep myself pretty well distracted. Well four of those are unintentional... living with 4 young children is a great distraction. Any time I'm sad they're immediately there trying to cheer me up. Especially my 3 year old little boy. He hates to me sad, and I can see the concern in his eyes. He'll ask me, "Does that make you happy, Mama?" after he does something sweet. Which I can totally picture my brother doing to my mom, and that breaks me heart all the more, but I just smile and nod and hug him, and try to blink back the tears that threaten to pour from my eyes at any moment. Then there are distractions that I form myself, like social media, and reading... I think as long as I give myself time once in a while this is okay.

Part of my grief now is also for my family in NJ. Knowing they're struggling and I'm so far away and there's so little I can do. My heart just aches for them.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

First time going back home

I live in AZ, and my family lives in NJ. I just happened to be in NJ when my brother died because we were visiting for the holidays. This last few weeks I went back to visit.

It was so much harder than I thought it was going to be.

I hadn't mentally prepared myself for how hard it would be to walk into that house and not get a hug and kiss from my brother.

And now everything is so... different. No one talks about you anymore, Jess. Our dad has put you into that part of his brain where he keeps everything that's too hard to talk about. Buried deep in that painful part that everyone's afraid to touch because who knows how he'll react.

It's been too hard for anyone to go through your stuff, so I got to do that while I was there. Opening the door to your old bedroom and seeing those bags... those bags had to go. They're the last physical thing from that day. I emptied them all onto the bed and began sorting all the stuff you had in your car. I tried to fight the twinge of guilt. You had all this crap in your car because you took it out of your room so I'd have space to stay with the kids. All your clothes, books, hockey stuff, and a shop vac?? So much stuff that the detectives thought you lived in your car. The detectives said when they found your body you had no cell phone or wallet on you. They thought you were probably robbed after you died. I couldn't believe that. I went through every single pocket, emptied out every bag sure I would find your wallet and phone. But I didn't.

Someone robbed you while you were dead or dying.

This is probably commonplace in Newark.

It makes me sick to my stomach.

So many people OD and are brought back by Narcan. I hate to think that someone saw you, and instead of trying to help, calling 911, and possibly being able to save you, they just took your stuff.

All $500 worth of your dog grooming stuff is missing as well.

They left the disc golf stuff, which I took and plan on putting to good use. I'll feel like you're with me when I play.

I miss how stupidly excited you got about stuff. Like disc golf. You were just so enthusiastic about it, it was infectious. I miss that so much. You were like that about everything. Passionate, funny, and infectiously enthusiastic about the most trivial things. I'm so sad for my kids, not having you around. There was never a more fun uncle.

I keep trying to think of how you're still here, but it's hard to have that much faith when it hurts so much. I used to dream about you every night, but I haven't now in months.

Our family is falling apart. Mary seems okay, but I know she's a mess just under the surface. Our mother still cries every single day. And we're just trying to go through the motions of this life, but it will never be the same. I want to do something to keep your memory alive, to share your story, but the grief paralyzes me.

Did you see Billy died the same way? Hope you guys are hanging out together again, while your moms are crying together. His girlfriend had a baby a week after he died. He looks just like Billy. Such a roller coaster for his family, but I can't tell you how jealous I am. They get to have a little part of him, they get to experience the joy of watching a baby grow to help soften their grief. I hate that we'll never get to see a Jesse Jr. There was so much happiness left in the world for your to experience. I know you felt like you couldn't be happy without drugs. That breaks my heart. And I wish I knew how to help other people who feel that same way.

Well, it's been almost 6 months and I don't know what else to say. It still sucks. I have no desire to go back to that very sad house any time soon. You are so missed, Jess. So missed.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Nothing chokes me up faster...

Than knowing these hugs will never happen again. My kids LOVED their uncle so much. 
These pictures aren't the best, but they capture those genuine smiles and I can just feel the love my kids had for him, and he had for them whenever I look at them.

These pictures were taken exactly one year ago.
Mind boggling what can happen in a year.
I never, in a million years would have thought this was our future.

Yesterday my oldest was turning this calender I have hanging on the wall back to December. She said, "Look! It's December! Let's go tell Uncle J to NOT go in his car today!"

She was half laughing, being silly, and completely unaware of how much I have wished that we could do just that every day since January 2nd.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


   I honestly still can't believe it. Even as I type this the tears flow freely. I try to go on with my day to day life, but my heart is still so broken. Why didn't you come out here? August, it was August when you called and said you were going to come visit. You have no idea how excited I was about that. I called my best friends and told them. I immediately called Aaron at work to let him know. I even told my mother in law! I thought it would be so great. The kids were so excited. The infamous, loved, crazy, silly Uncle Jesse was going to come to their house. But then you didn't. August came and went. September, ya coming? Yeah, yeah, I'm coming. Just figuring some stuff out first. October. My birthday. Come back from NJ with me after I come out for my birthday. November. Your birthday. Come celebrate your birthday with me and stay for Thanksgiving. December. Come out, and then fly back with us when we go out for Christmas. And then you were gone, January 2nd. Gone.

My heart breaks for the relationship we never got to have. I'm sorry I wasn't there for you more in high school. I wish I tried harder before it got to the point that you were shooting up heroin. I wanted to be part of your life, but I had to get away from that life. Please understand, I had to. I couldn't stay there and be healthy. I feel so much guilt for having moved away. I worry so much about our sister. I don't think anyone loved you more than she did. I don't know how I can possibly try to be there for her the way you were able to be.

It's so surreal. It's so unbelievable. I keep replaying our last conversations over and over in my head. Talking about Poppy. Talking about Daddy. I wish we saw each other more this trip. I wish things weren't so horrific between you and our father so that you could have come over more. Was staying at Nan's what made it harder for you? When did you start using again? If there was anything I could have done, but didn't, I'm sorry. If there was ever anything I did that got you to that place, where you were doing this, I'm sorry. I thought that I did enough, with my texts, my letter, my phone calls, but maybe I could have done more.

I am going to try to help other people. I want your memory to live on forever, as a warning to others. I don't know where to start with that, but I want to. If you could somehow give me a hint or something, I promise I'll listen.

I made a reddit account. I'm on there every day now. I wish I had looked at this before you died. Then I'd actually have something to talk to you about. TIL that this year's pie is extra special because it will be 3.14.15 .. 9:26 5.35... it will be more pi-ish. That stupid stuff, I just wish we could chat about.

It's just so sad. The thought that you'll never have children. I'll never see you as a dad, a husband, you're already gone, your life is over... I really can't wrap my mind around it, as hard as I try. If I have another child, they'll never know you. Mary's kids won't have an Uncle Jesse in this life. It's so incredibly heart breaking. I don't know the point of typing this out. I don't know if it's helping me or not. But I don't know what else to do, and I really miss you.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Making The Blanket

A friend suggested to me that something she did when her brother died from a drug overdose. Someone from their church made them a quilt, and the family all wrote their last words to her brother on this blanket. He was then wrapped in this blanket and buried with it. My friend loved this so much, because she felt like she was sending all that love with her brother. And it gave her a chance to say all the things she never got a chance to say.

My family doesn't really do stuff like that... talk about our feelings, hug, write... so I wasn't sure how the idea would be received. But I felt like I needed to do it, and maybe it would help my sister or one of my cousins, or aunts, I don't know. But if nothing else, I wanted to do it for me. So I start looking for a blanket. A blanket that's going to be burned with my brother in less than a week from the time I make it. It was an impossible task. I knew I wanted it to be something easy to write on. Aside from that, what did it matter? But at the same time what was more important? Finding the perfect blanket became the most important thing. I searched store after store, nothing seemed right. I finally decided I would just make it. I'm a rudimentary sewer at best, so this was no easy task. But I found a nice easy to write on muslin fabric, and a soft warm Rangers fleece. The plan was sew the two together. Simple.

But of course it wasn't. The only sewing machine I had access to was my grandmother's antique singer, literally from the 1920's. And it was on her patio. And it was below freezing temperatures. It's really hard to sew when you can't feel your fingers. But I got the first side done. Second side done. And then it jammed. And jammed. And jammed. My phone rang. It was my husband, checking on me. And I just bawled. I was done. I cried and cried, and sobbed, and let all these feelings I'd be holding inside come pouring out, standing there with my half sewn blanket in Nan's freezing porch. Then my cousin showed up, and saved the day. She unjammed the machine and in no time we had the blanket finished.

I was ironing it, and accidentally burned my arm. The scar is now slowly fading, and is barely visible. And I hate it. I want it to stay there forever. I want this physical reminder of my brother. Not this reminder that time is marching on, and each day I'm further from him. Reminded that some day so many years will have passed it will be hard to remember him at all. I hope that day never comes. I hate that for my kids it's not that far away at all. My baby will never remember him. If I have any future children they'll never even know him. I can't believe I may have children that will live in a world void of JT.

We kept the blanket in a private room the night of the viewing and as family members had time they all went and wrote their final words to Jesse. I went in that room and poured my heart into it. I don't know what I wrote, but I cried, and wrote and cried, and I hoped on hope that somehow he could feel it. If not my words, my tears. My pain. My love.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Viewing.

I keep picturing my brother lying there in that casket. Seeing him looking nothing like himself... just laying there... my parents crying in the first row chairs, my poor grandmother, a broken mess sitting next to them. She was sobbing so hard I was scared to death she was literally going to have a heart attack.

It was absolutely the worst experience I've ever sat through. We drove in silence to the funeral home. Snow was reverently falling, blanketing everything in beautiful white dust. I had a sick feeling in my stomach for the entire drive. As we got closer, the funeral home now in view, I really thought I would throw up. I longed for my husband to be next to me, to feel the comfort of his hand in mine. Knowing he'd be there soon brought me some comfort. We pulled in the parking lot and I was in no hurry to get out of the car. I was afraid to see him. I don't like seeing bodies, with the caked on make up, and the hair done all wrong. But as soon as the car was in park my mother ran to the door, which hadn't yet been unlocked, as we were there 15 minutes early. She ran and pounded on the door, and pulled desperately on the handles. As a mother myself, I could imagine the emotions of just wanting to see him. To see her son, who she hadn't seen in almost a week.

Someone came and opened the door, and my mother rushed past her and ran to JT's casket. She sobbed over his body, hugging him and crying outloud, "I told you! JT, I told you... I told you JT." Over and over over. While my dad stood next to her,unable to contain his own emotions, also crying uncontrollably. My sister and I stood in the back watching this heartbreaking scene unfold in front of us. I just couldn't believe it. There he was. But I still couldn't believe it.

My sister and I hugged my parents, and this feeling of incompleteness just filled me. The four of us... this is all we have. Just the four of us. I only have a sister. Just us. It doesn't feel right. It still doesn't feel right.

The only good that came from that night was how many people told me or my mom that their son or daughter was struggling with opiate addiction. It is absolutely mind blowing to know how many people out there are living this life. It brought comfort to my mom to know she wasn't alone, and that all families regardless of background are dealing with this addiction. To me, it lit a fire in me, to want to do something to help kids not start this. I'm not sure where to begin, but hopefully a way will unfold and I will feel like I'm using my brother's death to bring some good to the world.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


When I write these posts it's helpful to me. It gets it out of my head. I can close my eyes and not immediately start replaying it all in my head. Like watching a movie I can't turn off. So thank you, blog.  And now I'll write the hardest part.

"Is he dead? Is my son dead?" My mother frantically begged of the detectives that rang the doorbell, twice, on Sunday afternoon. They arrived about 36 hours after we reported him missing. After we had spent 24 hours doing everything we could think of to try to find him.

"Unfortunately, ma'am, yes he is." The detective replied. Yes he is! Yes he is! My immediate thought was that he was alive. But then I realized, wait, he said unfortunately. Is my son dead? SHe hadn't asked, is my son alive. She asked if he was dead. Oh how I wished she had asked if he was alive. And how I wished the answer was, "Yes, he is."

My mother collapsed into a ball of sobs on the couch. "My baby! No, my baby!" She cried and screamed through gut wrenching sobs.

"No. No he's not dead. He's not. No he's not." I said with 100% certainty, that the detective looked at me slightly confused. I wasn't crying like my mom, I was just sure this person was lying. Or at the very least wrong. "Who are you? Who the hell are you? Where are you from? Where's your identification?" I demanded.

They showed us their badges and identified themselves as detectives for Essex county.

"So what was it? It was drugs?" My mom was able to ask.

"Yes, ma'am. We believe so. It appears to be so, but you'll find out from the medical examiner."

Medical examiner. This was a word, that until now I had only ever heard in TV shows. I did not want this word in my vocabulary. Medical Examiner. Medical Examiner.

My dad had taken my five year for a walk. I knew we needed to go get him. I said I would do it. I didn't want to be in that room, with those detectives hearing words about my brother and medical examiner in the same sentence. But as soon as I walked out the front door and started looking for my dad I realized there was no possible way I could be the one to tell my dad his only son was dead. I quickly went back inside and told my husband I couldn't do it. He went out to find him.

My mom continued to sob uncontrollably on the couch and at this moment my sister came out of the shower. Without any emotion, I looked over the detective's shoulder and across the room said to my sister, "He's gone. He's dead. Jesse's dead."

"Oh great. That's friggin' great." Mary said as she walked downstairs to her room to get dressed. I immediately regretted the way I said it.

Something clicked in my brain and I knew I needed to be strong right then. I had to hold it together for my mom. So I took a deep breath and said, "Okay. He's dead. He is actually dead. What do we do next?"

And the detective gave me a card with his number and told me I could call the medical examiner first thing Monday (the next day) morning. That was our next step. Also to chose a funeral home and contact them, and let the medical examiner know which funeral home, and give the funeral home the medical examiner's information.

I can't process anything without talking about it, so I immediately went into the backyard and called my sister-in-law. "He's dead. Allison, he's dead."

"Oh my gosh, oh sweetie I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry."

"I have to call the medical examiner."

Monday, February 2, 2015

Happily Ever After

The 48 hours we didn't know where my brother was, was hell. Sick with worry, mind racing, unsure what to do, beating yourself up because maybe you should be doing more, trying not to let yourself think the worst....

It was 1:00 in the morning but might as well have been 1 in the afternoon. Sitting on the couch with my sister and dad. TV is on, but no one is really watching it.

"Leigha, can you cut hair?" My sister asked.

"Sort of? Maybe?" I replied.

"I just need these split ends cut off."

So at 1:00 Saturday morning, I gave my sister a haircut with a pair scissors that I pulled out of a mug that contained everything from pens to chop sticks. I didn't know what I was doing, and these scissors were designed to cut anything but hair. But my sister is not exactly the type of person who cares what her hair looks like. The feeling in the house was eerie. We still couldn't really believe we would never see him again. We kept trying to come up with plausible reasons as to where he was and why he hadn't contacted us.

My theory that I was holding onto was that he had used again, he knew my dad would flip out, and he didn't want that to happen while I was there with the kids. I was supposed to be going home on Monday and I thought for sure, once he knew I was gone with the kids he would come home. There are many reasons this doesn't make much sense, but I really thought it might explain some things. I was sure he hadn't called because his phone died, his phone died, not him.

"Do you think this will be that weird night I cut your hair in the kitchen, the night before we find out our brother's dead?" I had to say it out loud. I was trying to be funny, because I really didn't think he was dead. But as I said it out loud it didn't seem funny.

"I don't know." Was my sister's only reply. I needed conversation. What was she thinking? How was she feeling?

"How are you feeling?"

"I don't feel anything."

"I wish I could stop feeling." I said. "Do you feel like you already lost your brother a years ago, since he started using?"

"I don't know. Why? Is that how you feel?"

I don't know when I lost my brother. I had tried to reach out to him over and over again, but with very little response. Him and I never even had a conversation about his drug use. I would text him every week, just little things to let him know I loved him and was thinking of him. It brings me peace now to know that he had to know I loved him. There was nothing else I could have done to help him, to let him know how much I loved him. I wanted him to come live with me and my kids. I was 100% willing, without thinking twice about it, to let a heroin addict come live in my house with my four small children. I just felt like if he could get a fresh start things would be okay. If he could grasp a taste of what my life is like, this normal functioning family, maybe it could be enough to give him hope for himself.

I wanted JT's story to end differently. I so, so wanted it to end with a fairy tale of him falling in love, ridding himself of his addiction, and living the rest of his life in peace. It was not supposed to end with him dying alone, at the age of 28. The only hope I have now is that his story is not over. This life is truly not the end. He is still here, free from his body and therefore free of his addiction. He is still growing and I will see him again. Happily ever after isn't always how we picture it. I'm willing to have faith that there still is a happily ever after, after this life.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Four weeks.

It's been four weeks since I've last seen or talked to my brother.

The last conversation I remember having with him was about his first kiss. I'm not sure how it even came up, talking about random people I guess. And Jesse said, "Yeah Alexis was my first kiss."

"She was like 13, and you were what? Like 10? I think that's statutory at that age!" I laughed. "What happened to her anyway? Wasn't she sick? Did she die?"

"Yeah, she had lupus, but she died from a heroin overdose."

Who would have thought that a few hours later he would die the same exact way?

We all knew things were bad. But they never seemed that bad. Certainly no one ever thought it was going to end like this. I knew the tension was building, and the situation wasn't good. I kept thinking, this is going to end badly. I just never thought it would end this badly.

So what am I going to do now? How is this huge trial going to change me? What good can come from this? Because I need to believe something good can come from this.

Four weeks.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

When someone dies from a drug overdose

"Was your brother ill?" A nosy, but I'm sure well meaning friend asked, at my first social event since finding out my brother died.

And I paused for a moment. Because when someone dies from addiction, what do you say? Yes he was ill, deadly ill as it turns out. But maybe you wouldn't think so. 

"It was a drug overdose." I say flatly. "So yes. You could say he was ill."

I can see the shock in people's faces as I tell them. There is this sick part of me that likes that part. I have always loved shocking people with news. I think it's part of the reason why I keep getting pregnant so often. I love the shock when I tell people (though after 4 babies that is certainly wearing off). That sounds sick and twisted, I know. Character defect, I'll work on it again when I get to step 7.

When someone dies from a drug overdose the feelings are different than if they had died in a car accident. Or fighting bravely for our country. Or a strong struggle against cancer. My brother frequently talked about joining the military. I was a bit worried about it, with everything currently going on in the world, in the middle east. I expressed my concern to my sister, who replied candidly, "I'd rather my brother die a hero in the military, than from friggin' heroin."

Six months after she said that, those words would ring in my ears as the detectives told us my brother was found dead in his car.

You're not just dealing with grief. Which is tough enough. You're dealing with shame, guilt, what-if's, blame. And those emotions don't heal with time. They get buried and manifest themselves later in bouts of rage, binge drinking, and fights about taking out the trash. There are very few thoughts that bring comfort during this time. When someone dies after living a long life there is peace in knowing they lived a full life. You can say things like, "He's in a better place now." And, "He lived a good life." We try to say and hope my brother's in a better place, but in Catholic family who also teaches that bad people go to hell... but then in the next sentence say that JT is at peace... it leaves a bit of confusion and questioning of beliefs.

It's not right to compare your loss to someone else's. It's not. But yet I can't help but wish that if my brother had to die now, couldn't he have died any other way? Even gotten into a car accident on his way to get his drugs. Spare my parents the shame. Even if people say it wasn't their fault, assures them that this could happen to any family, I know my mother will spend the rest of her life blaming herself. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015


The day after the funeral I had to fly home, to my beautiful home I've made with my husband, on the other side of the country. Our beautiful house, our four precious babies, our dog and our cat, and this lovely little family that is as happy and pure on the inside as it appears to be on the outside. This family that I thought could only exist on television shows, is my real life. I am living my dream.

And yet overwhelming guilt took over all of my emotions as I had to go. How could I leave my mother? My father? My sister? My body got on the plane bound for Arizona, but my heart stayed in NJ. In millions of tiny pieces.

It's hard to piece a heart back together when the pieces aren't all in one place.

It's hard when your head knows you're not doing anything wrong, but yet this awful feeling of guilt overtakes your soul. I know that this life I'm creating is a wonderful environment to raise my children, and yet this huge part of me wants to uproot all of it and move to NJ to take care of my family. I had gotten to a point in my healing where I knew I couldn't control it, but now I think, well I can't control it, but I could help a lot more than I am. I could do more if I was there. I know I can't control it, but I could help... what is wrong with me?

Therapy starts Tuesday. I hope they fix broken hearts that are scattered across the country.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cutting threads

 A good new suit has the pockets sewn shut. Some men prefer it that way. But not my uncle. He wanted to be able to put his hands in his pockets. It was a below freezing day in January, I don't blame him.

"Leigha, do you have scissors or something?" He asked me, both of standing uncomfortably close in my parents' crowded kitchen. My mother, aunts, and cousins, all dressed in black, huddled around the kitchen table. Making small talk. No one sure what to say. Me, now searching for a pair of scissors, grateful for something to do. Found the scissors and went back to my uncle.

"Here let me help you." I said as I slowly, carefully began to cut the thread that held his pockets together. They didn't want to come apart easily. A task that should have taken only a few seconds if we had the proper tool (ie, a seam ripper) was taking quite a few minutes. But it was okay, we had plenty of time. No one was in a rush to leave. Maybe if we didn't go, this wouldn't be happening. I don't know if anyone else was thinking that on some level, but I was. It got quiet, as I noticed everyone stopped their conversations and were now just watching me work. Carefully cutting each string. Their eyes made me nervous. So I started talking.

"You know this will probably be the one thing I remember from this day. Cutting these pockets. It's those random things you always remember, right?" And we kind of laughed.

And then I was done, and he happily put his hands in his now free pockets. And I thought,it seemed like such an intimate thing to do. Something a wife would do. Certainly not something a niece, you only see twice a year would do. What situation would call for such circumstances? I can think of only one, my brother's funeral.

My brother's funeral.

What details do I remember about my brother's funeral? It was only two weeks ago (actually two weeks tomorrow) yet many details are already lost, because they were never registered in the first place.

Getting ready. Picking out an outfit for my mother and telling the cashier at Penny's that this was the outfit I was buying for my mom to wear to my brother's funeral. And I burst into tears. Then made a joke, and laughed inappropriately. He discreetly scanned a coupon for me. I hoped he didn't think I told him because I was looking for a discount. But why did I tell him? The truth is I wanted to scream it at everyone I saw. I wanted that entire mall to know that my brother JT, was gone. I hated that all these people were going about their lives, the world kept on spinning, like he never even existed. And to many of these people, he didn't. And they might hear about his tragic passing, and without knowing him, just assume they knew everything. Because once you hear someone overdosed, on HEROIN, well you know what kind of person that is.

But that wasn't my brother. My brother was funny, hilarious really. Kind, so so kind. He was charismatic. He was good at hockey, like insanely good at hockey. And everyone friggin' loved him. I mean everyone. It was the bane of my existence throughout adolescence. I never knew if those girls were being nice to me because they liked me, or because they wanted to get to know my brother. Most of them just wanted to get to know my brother. And even the few that knew me before they knew my brother, fell in love with him as soon as they met him. Even my very best friend, who knew how obnoxious he really was (as all little brothers are when you're a teenager) confessed that she always thought/hoped some day they would grow up and get married. When I was six years old my best friend had her first kiss, and it was my brother.

This is who he was. A charming, hilarious, athletic, lady's man. Not a strung out, thieving, conniving, lying, cheating, jerk of a drug addict. That was never my brother. Even at his worst, he never stole from anyone. He always had a smile.... I think I'll write an entire post about that smile and was behind that smile. It wasn't malicious, but it was dark. So much pain.

And it was that pain that fueled his addiction. And his desire to keep us all thinking he was this amazing person, that he was even until the end, caused him to use heroin alone, and die in his car in Newark, freaking New Jersey. Alone.

JT Walters (name has been changed) should not have died alone in his car. He should have had a long beautiful life, and died an old man surrounded by his amazing family. Instead he spent the last year of his life with a monkey on his back, thinking about nothing but getting high. Hating himself for thinking about getting high. Wishing he could do something else to be happy. But heroin was the only thing that made him happy. "So what... so what if I do heroin once in a while? It's okay, I'm not stupid. I know what I'm doing. I never stole. I never got in a car accident. I never got arrested. I'm not stupid. I'm not like those idiot junkies. I do a test shot every time. I know what I'm getting. I use smart. I'm not stupid. I don't have a problem." These are the things I'm sure he told himself. He wasn't scrawny and scary looking, like I'd imagine most heroin users were. He had muscle tone, and hygiene. And all those things are true. He wasn't stupid! Except none of it freaking matters. JT never got to hit rock bottom. He never got to realize he was in trouble, until he was taking his last breath. And that is the heartbreaking truth.

So my brother's funeral? This was going to be a post about my brother's funeral.  Maybe I'll get there eventually.