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.