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.