“God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.” C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
July 29th changed my life forever. I don’t really even know where to begin this post. Looking at the date today, July 29th seems distant, but in my memory, it seems like yesterday. Even seeming like yesterday it also seems a million years away.
I am the proud uncle of 14 nieces and nephews. Some are great nieces and nephews. When I was about 10 years old, I had a niece and a nephew both born that impacted my life immensely. Demetra Taylor and Jesse Michael came into my life that year. Demetra was my sister Coty’s, first born, and Jesse was my brother Isaac’s first born. These two swooped me off my feet. I feel in love with both of them. But this post is about Jesse. Through out the years, I managed to stay close to Demetra, but through my life’s changing seasons, I didn’t stay super close with Jesse.
Jesse was born with bright red hair. He was a tyrant from the get go. My dad and stepmom, whom I lived with, kept him quite a bit, so I spent quite a bit of time with him. I was crazy about him. His red hair, his fits, he was a handful.
Fast forward, for the sake of time, 18 years. When I met my now wife, my sister-in-law was pretty active in our wedding plans and wedding. She was super excited, and I remember it like it was yesterday. She messaged me to tell me that Jesse had gotten a shirt and tie for my wedding, which was a big deal as he never dressed up.
Prior to our wedding, only a couple months before, Jesse and I had reconnected and he absolutely loved Leah, my fiance. I knew he had struggles, because he told me about some. During Christmas time he had come over with his mom and girlfriend for dinner, and he was passed out in our chair. I didn’t know what he was on or anything but shortly after that his mom told me he was going to go to rehab for whatever it was that he was on. I thought it was pills, but not really knowing anything about drugs or their usage, I really wasn’t sure. I just knew he was getting help.
He ended up not going to rehab because of financing, and his mom and him did it on their own. From what I remember and understand it was pretty difficult. After the new year, he had detoxed as far as I knew. He started coming over to our house quite a bit and hanging out with us, staying the night and playing video games with me. We started to grow pretty close and spent a lot of time together. This was the beginning of this year, 2016.
Through out the months he stayed with us, he began to relay his struggle with me. He told me of all the things he had done, and what they do to you. Naturally, not knowing much, I had a lot of questions. He answered them, knowing every in and out of how drugs are made, how he has made them in the past or done them. He told me everything. He would tell me how much he loved being at our house and spending time with us because we were the only family besides his mom that didn’t cut him off. We had some pretty awesome times together that almost seemed God ordained. I would pour my heart out to him and tell him of everything that I knew. How God can heal, and it isn’t about religion but the power and awesomeness of God could truly heal him.
I was at church during a revival we had in July, and I got a text from his mom telling me that he and her had gotten in a pretty big fight and that she wondered if I could go talk to him because I was the only one that could talk some sense into him. After the service was over I went home and changed and headed over to their house. She was gone, and he was sitting on the front porch.
I asked him what was going on, and somehow the conversation switched over to what he wanted to do with his life. He, in the conversation, told me that he had overdosed on heroin in March, and told me in detail what happened. He told me that since his dad, my brother, and his mom had gotten divorced, that he wasn’t ever happy. He told me that he wanted to get his GED and get a good job and a good girlfriend, as he had broken up with his in March, prompting the drug use that led to the overdose. I remember sitting there as he described everything to me and imaging him doing these things. When he had finished talking, I told him that I could literally lose control and weep over the images going through my head of this particular situation. I told him that Leah and I would do anything for him in our power and I needed him because he was the closest person to me besides my wife. I remember telling him that I don’t want to go to his funeral, that I want him to come to mine. I tried to talk about God to him, but he was so disconnected from their actually being a cure to his pain, especially religion, that it didn’t get that far. He always respected my beliefs, they just weren’t for him.
I remember being at church on July 28th, a Thursday night, and picking up my phone while sitting at the organ to text his mom, because I hadn’t heard from him since Wednesday morning. This was odd because we talked every day multiple times a day. We talked on Facebook messenger because he didn’t have a phone, and that was his only source of communication. Usually after church on Sundays and Thursdays I would pick him up to stay the night with us because we would be going through the town he lived on. When I picked up my phone to message her, I had a text from her that was asking if I had talked to him. She said she was getting a little worried because he usually pops in or at least signs on to Facebook at some point, and he hadn’t since the morning before. She told me to keep her posted and I said the same.
The next day, Friday, we had went over to my sister in laws house (my wife’s sister) to have a yard sale. During the yard sale I messaged Jesse’s mom to see if she had heard from him. She said she hadn’t and if she didn’t by the afternoon she was going to the police station to do a missing persons report because none of his friends had heard from him either. I told my wife right before the yard sale was over at noon, that I didn’t have a bad feeling, but I was getting worried anyway. It just was so unlike him.
I left the yard sale and my wife and I were on our way home in separate cars when I decided to go by my sisters house. I went by there because Demetra and her boyfriend were there and are his age, knowing the same people, and being friends with Jesse. We had all just spent the previous Saturday together. We went to a water park then had a cook out. I figured if anyone was saying anything, they would have heard it. I was right. A mutual friend had told my nieces boyfriend that he had done some heroin and was going in and out of nodding. But that was all he had heard. I left there and called my sister in law and told her what I had learned. She began crying and telling me to tell them to tell the mutual friend that she would come get him, or to drop him off at the hospital. I told her that he wasn’t with that mutual friend anymore, that he had left Jesse at home. I was talking to her when I was driving by the ex-girlfriends house and asked her if I should stop there to ask her if she had seen him or heard anything. She told me it couldn’t hurt. I knocked on the door and asked her, she was cold because this was the problems that broke them up, so I just told her to get a hold of us if she did hear anything or if she sees him. I got back in my truck and was headed home, when I asked her if she had checked the building behind their house for him. I asked her if he was able to get into it. She said he could shimmy in a back door, but she wouldn’t check because she would die if he was in there. So I told her that I would come over and check it. I called my wife and told her what I was going to do. I talked to my wife the 2 minute drive it took for me to get to Jesse’s house, and when I pulled up I said that his mom was out there waiting on me with the key. I told her I loved her and hung up. I went to the porch where she was standing and we walked around the house to the building. She had already handed me the key and I went to put it in the door and the pressure from trying to get the key in opened the door. I noticed a light on above the door, and his mom started yelling for him.
On September 22, I started this blog post, and the above paragraph was where I stopped. It is now January 30. When I started this post I was sitting alone at home for one of the first times since July 29. I have struggled so much since then. When I sat down to write this blog, I really had no idea what I was going to go through. Even sitting down to write it I had to stop. The fear that came from the situations described here was tremendous. But I digress. I will continue on with the story.
Once I stepped in the building, I immediately scanned the perimeter for Jesse. I guess in my mind I thought he would be slumped up against the wall for some reason. Looking back, I have no idea why I was looking for that. I walked around looking for him and his mom yelled out. This building was really 3 really big rooms. The first one is the one we walked into, and there was a rather large room that was in the back that had a furnace in it, and then there was another room on the other side, which was closest to the house. Both of the rooms on the front of the building had doors, but my brother had the key to the door closest to the house, and my sister in law had the key to the door furthest away. There also was a sliding garage type door on that same side of the building. The side closest to the house was going to be my place of business. I had already been working on cleaning it up and getting it ready to start working out of. I would have had it closer to being ready, but it was just so hot outside. July in Southern Illinois is hot and humid. The previous weekend, I had planned on having some family come over to help me get it cleaned, but it was just too hot. Both sides were used for storage, which I was going to take all the things on my side and move them to the other side and clean. Jesse was supposed to help me. The side we went in on was fully of storage including a couple couches and other random things.
As I surveyed the room and looked around for Jesse, I started to walk in further. I went to the door way that led to the other room, and surveyed it as well. All of this took place in just mere seconds, but felt like hours. As I walked closer into the room and surveyed the perimeter, I looked down, and there laid Jesse. He was ghostly white, eyes open. He was only wearing shorts. His shirt was off, his shoes were off, with socks still on. I let out some sort of scream that let his mom know I found him. She says that she will never forget that sound. I somehow called my wife, Leah, and told her I found him. She asked where to tell the police to come. She couldn’t hardly understand me. I remember when I first called her, she asked if he was breathing. I was losing it so much that I remember having to calm myself down to see if I could see him breathing. He was not. When I called her, she was on the other line calling our pastor, who is her brother, and telling them to pray because I was going into that building. She was in the middle of telling him that when I beeped in. She had a feeling about me going in there and when she called our pastor, he had that same feeling, and him, my two sister in law’s and my mother in law all began to pray. In the middle of their prayer, I called Leah back to tell her I had found him. She got off t he phone with me and called 911. I went out of the building to find my sister in law on the ground saying “I can’t bury my baby.” She was on the phone with 911.
I called my dad over and over again and he wouldn’t answer. I got a hold of my grandma and told her to call him, because I didn’t have my stepmothers phone number. Shortly after that he called me and was on his way. In what seemed like a few minutes there were 30 people easily there. Jesse’s dad, my brother, showed up. My sister came, grandma and grandpa, anyone who was in the family showed up. When my dad arrived, he ran up to me and hugged me. Although I had already been crying, that was when I truely lost it. I cried so hard that I almost passed out. I was hyperventilating. I regained my composure.
The next few hours felt like days. It felt like a horrible dream. I didn’t know what to do, how to think, what to feel, or how to pray. I didn’t sleep for two days. Everytime I closed my eyes, fear gripped me.
The next 6 months would be the hardest time of my entire life. I never would have imagined what I would encounter, nor did I know it even existed. I lost my best friend when I was 21. She died in a car wreck on the way home from work. I thought that was hard, this was harder.
I was given some medicine to help cope a little bit, but it just made me zone out and scared Leah so I stopped taking it.
The worst part of it all was the fear of being by myself. It turns out that he was murdered, which we pretty much thought from the beginning. That fear gripped me and made me a prisoner to my own mind. I don’t say that as it being worst than losing Jesse, just the worst part of the grieving. I miss him so much and would do anything to have him back.
Through all of the pain and fear, I was also blamed by some of my family that I knew more about his death. Actually, to this day, I have been ostracised by my brother and one of my sisters for thinking this. That in itself is super painful. While all of this was happeneing, my wife was pregnant.
Slowely, over time, I began to get better. I never stopped thinking of him, but I was doing better at going outside alone, and going place alone and being home alone. Until 3 weeks ago.
I was sitting at work when all of a sudden, it hit me. I found my 19 year old nephew dead. I actually found him. I found his body, with no life in it, alone. It hit me out of nowhere. Well, for a couple days I slowly repressed back into what I thought I had gotten past. But this time it was deeper and way worse. It was faster and sudden. I told my wife about it. The day before my birthday, January 11 to be exact, my wife went to her sisters house to get a couple things prepared for my birthday the next day, and I stayed at home making my world famous spaghetti sauce. I was in the kitchen cooking away, listening to worship music and began to cry. I cried for 3 hours straight. I thought for sure that I was going to lose my mind. The fear I had was that I was litterally going to lose it, and not be able to know it or come back from it. I had a family to take care of. I have a baby to raise, I can’t have come this far in my life, to lose it when I have it all. That night something broke. But just a few days later, at church, God moved in a way and truely broke everything that I carried. This is different, and I haven’t felt this way in a long time. I have joy upseakable and full of glory. Anyway, I wanted to get this out, and started writing this for a different reason, but now the reason is to show what God can truely do in your life.