Sitting in a quiet house, up early (because: Daylight Saving Time) and my thoughts are filled with my little brother. Most days I am doing well; I can talk about Jack with ease, laugh and smile at the memories I have of him, and talk with my kids about the lessons Jack’s life has taught us...but this morning? This morning the tears are quick to come. It started with a text from one of our Deacons at church letting me know today’s mass intention was for Jack and that he is praying for him. Then I realized it was 4 months ago today that we learned Jack had passed away...and when I think back to that day, when I allow myself to go back to that moment in time, in my parents driveway, finding out that my brother was gone forever, the grief washes over me like a fresh wave.
I know that these tough days are par for the course, that for the rest of my life I will be caught up in a wave of grief now and then, but I also know that I need to choose joy. I need to choose happiness, mostly for myself and my family but also because I know Jack would not want me to wallow in sadness.
Oh, how I wish you all could have known Jack. He was the very definition of “People Person”...he never met a stranger and he left an impression on everyone he met. He was larger than life. So much fun, but also ingratiatingly annoying sometimes (like all little brothers are)...his opinions were spoken loudly, his competitive spirit was often over the top, and he could tease incessantly...but his heart was huge, his laugh was booming, and his love for his family was fierce.
Jack battled addiction hard, but in the end, the addiction won. An accidental drug overdose took my little brother’s life. He hated that he was an addict, that he let his nieces and nephews and family down when he used. We haven’t shied away from speaking about how Jack died and I can’t speak for everyone, but I know for myself it’s because I don’t want his death to be in vain. If my honesty about Jack’s addiction can save even just one person, one family, from having to experience what Jack went through and what those of us left behind will have to deal with for the rest of our lives, then I will know that my little brother died for a cause.
Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care about wealth or upbringing or family ties or race or gender...it can hit anyone. It can reach out and randomly grab one person from your family without warning or reason, and try as you might, you can’t always get that grasp to release. Addiction can set up a foothold after just one use or it can slowly sneak its way into your loved one’s life; a little experiment here, a little there, and before they know it, they have sold their soul to the devil that is addiction.
Talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol. Tell them about Jack...that he was a good kid that came from a good family and because of some poor choices, he is no longer with us. Watch who your kids hang out with and do NOT be afraid to tell them they are not allowed to hang out with kids that you know are making bad choices. After watching Jack’s struggles, I firmly believe that a good friend group is one of the most important things your child can have for their success in life and that if Jack had not chosen to hang out with the party crowd (please know I am NOT blaming them...Jack’s choices were his own and no one else’s) we could have had a different outcome. We could still have Jack with us.
I miss my little brother something fierce...and yet, I find ways to smile through these tough days. Remembering how Jack HATED the song “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (oh the INJUSTICE of it all!), how he LOVED sports and sport statistics, and how he loved his nieces and nephews with every ounce of his being.
Rest In Peace, my little brother.