Updated: Sep 11, 2022
As of today, February 28th, 2021, it has been just over a week since my baby brother transitioned from this life. Mind you, he was a handsome, funny, and fully opinionated grown man at the time of his passing, but to me, he will always be my baby brother.
The night I got the phone call from my parents of his passing was a moment that I had been dreading and attempting to prepare myself for a multitude of times over the course of a decade, and even still no amount of mental preparation totally readies you for a single breathless moment like that. Something in me knew before I even picked up the phone that this time was different, and as I heard the rawness of grief coming through the phone, I slid my body out of our bed and onto the mat on the floor. It was as If I needed to touch the ground to know that I was not dreaming. My husband came and sat down beside me and all I could say was, my baby brother, my brother, he's gone. I sat there, tears streaming down my face, rocking myself back and forth. Then, like water coming forth in the desert, the Spirit alive in me took over, and I began to recite scripture. The Word of God just began to pour out of my mouth coming up from a wellspring deep inside me. I do not know how long this went on for, but I do know that my eyes did not know sleep that night.
My brother was a happy, silly, cuddly kid, and we were the best of friends. Though, I guess you could say that our story didn't quite start that way. My brother was five years younger than me, and when I realized my parents were going to have another child, I was not amused in the slightest. I thought, "What was wrong with the three of us?" and "Why wasn't I good enough?" (honest confessions of a 5 year old). I suppose you can't blame me, as my parents were the best of the best, and I simply and fully adored (adore) them and wanted them all to myself. The night he was born, they left me with family, and as I watched their car pull out of the driveway through the raindrops on the window, I felt angry and scared. The first time I went to see him in the hospital, my parents had bought a little black patent leather purse for him to "give to me" as a present. Well, in dramatic fashion, I threw the purse at him. The consolation of the shiny black accessory just didn't soothe the fear of being left behind with a new baby in the house. I can tell you assuredly that my tantrum did not last for long. My trepidation melted away into the purest love my heart could muster. I suddenly had a new found purpose... fierce protector of this baby boy. His room was across from mine, and when my friends would come over, I would draw an invisible line just beyond his doorframe. They could stand at the "line" but only I could cross it and go anywhere near the crib. My brother would gaze at me with an adoring gaze and he would go along with all my crazy ideas and inventions; he was the backstage crew of all my many living room performances. Of course, we had our fights and I would get annoyed or jealous and he would hit me with his captain hook sword, but all in all, we were wholly loved by one another and I would have done anything for that kid; I would have given my life.
He began to struggle more over the years with school, and with racing thoughts. My parents did absolutely all they knew to do, but at around the age of 13 or 14, he began to dabble with partying and some "lighter drugs" and drinking. I believe that he did this to fit in, but mostly to soothe the thoughts and insecurities. The wrong crowd found him and before I realized what was happening, he started to change. His speech started to change, his attitude, his friends, and his motivations. I was off getting involved in my own things and for a season, and we drifted apart. I began to realize the seriousness of what was going on, but at the time, I was dealing with being trapped by my own darkness. I began to separate myself emotionally from my family and I felt the seeds of bitterness begin to sprout up like vines growing in the wilderness, ready to consume anything in their wake. I no longer knew my brother and I would stifle the pangs of the grief of what we had been, with selfish endeavors and worldly pursuits. In the midst of my own wanderings and brokenness, YHWH, the Creator Most High, He found me. His presence broke through the walls of my heart like a beam of light in the darkest of caverns, and He changed me.
A bit of time passed after my encounter with the Lord, and I began to feel a burden on my heart to begin to intercede for my brothers salvation. At the time, the bitterness from the dynamics that addiction brings into a family was so deep that initially, my flesh fought this idea of interceding on his behalf, but the Spirit within me pressed in. So I began, multiple times a week, pacing the living room floor and kneeling before the throne of grace, worshipping and interceding; pleading for my brothers soul. I started to see in bits and pieces him asking about Christ but nothing concrete that I could grasp onto with my hands. I believe it was about two years later when we were sitting in my living room at night, and he asked me to come outside with him. We walked out onto the deck and he said, "I just can't do this anymore.... I need Christ." My heart began to race and I was rejoicing inside but I kept my cool and said, "Let's go back in and pray." He sat down on the couch and James and I shared the good news again with him and he said he believed in Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, as the Savior who died and rose again to save him from the power of sin and death and to grant him the gift of eternal life, and then he said he wanted deliverance. We sat there and prayed and commanded this spirit of torment to leave. I remember his fists began to clench and his body shook and then I placed my hand on his forehead and asked the Holy Spirit to come and rest on Him and fill Him to overflow. His fists unclenched and his body sunk back into the couch as he let out a soft sigh of relief. He sat there with his head back just resting in the presence of the King for what felt like an hour. I will not sugar coat things by saying the battle of the addiction got prettier, because it didn't. Heroin addiction is utterly devastating, demonic, gripping, exhausting, life sucking warfare, and it is hard for those who have not experienced its ferocity to truly understand. However, many things did change. Over time, I watched his anger soften, the violence dwindle, his voice return to the Jackson I once knew, he was vested in asking forgiveness of those he had harmed or wronged in this past, he no longer relished in sin but despised it, and he could soak up sermons for hours and hours on end. When he had to serve time in jail for something that had occurred before his encounter with Christ, he formed a bible study in his jail cell where the guard would allow him to preach at night for the other inmates. When he was at one of his rehab programs, though he was battling his own demons, he would walk in and out of other people's rooms preaching the good news of our God. One thing my brother taught me though all of this, is that even when you are in battle yourself, and the fiery darts are flying in from every angle, there is always opportunity to pick up the sword for someone else, If only you are willing. I wonder sometimes how many young souls heard the Word of God in those places from my brother, who would have never heard it otherwise. Jackson expressed so many times that he wanted to share his testimony more publicly, and it is now my honor to do so on his behalf.
There are so many times over the course of the sheer ugliness of the battle with heroin, when he expressed to me in so many words how desperately he wanted to go back and wipe the slate clean and to have never ever tried it at all. If this blog post does nothing else, I pray that it deters just one young person from trying drugs. No addict ever thinks to themselves the first time that they will be a statistic. They never think that they will lie, steal, cheat, wound, go to prison or die. Of all of the young men that my brother tried heroin with for the first time some 10 years ago in a car, only one, as of today February 28th, 2021 is still breathing. I could hear it in my brother's voice, the desperation of wanting to just wipe it all clean. Everything in him wanted to just do work for the kingdom, and to help other people who were hurting and lost. He started a non-profit for this very reason, and though he did not live to see it do what he intended, my amazing parents and I will do what we can to see that other people are helped through this, just as my brother would have wanted it. Addiction recovery is very expensive even with insurance, and many times those afflicted with addiction are not in treatment long enough to grant lasting change . In Jackson's honor, we want to be involved in supporting those who do not have the resources in providing long term care that my brother would have wanted them to have to opportunity to receive.
Addiction is a family disease and usually coincides with the battles of mental illness. Addiction usually never affects just one person and the demonic principality behind it aims to do as much destruction and break as many things along its path as it can. Parents are left drained of all their resources, energy, time, and tears, and siblings are often left feeling invisible. Addiction support resources will call the siblings of addicts the "invisible victims". While it is true that I have often felt the gripping pains of this reality, I do not like the word victim, as it gives well too much power and satisfaction to the enemy behind addiction, and I will not do that.
My relationship with my brother through his battle taught me a selfless love that only God could have given me the power to display. My brother's battle taught me a new level of love, compassion, humility, and empathy that I had not known before. About six months before his passing, I began to seek the Lord to release me from all bitterness and lack of forgiveness attached to the years of sadness and pain. I would fast and I would pray and I would cry. One day, the Father in His abundant mercy, lifted those vines of bitterness that had twisted around my heart, and suddenly, it was like the weeks after my brother was born happening all over again, and the anger and fears and jealously melted away into a fierce love. The last 4 months of my brothers life here in this body, I had more quality experiences and talks with him, then in the last 10 years combined, and I know that this was a gift from the Almighty for this very moment now. I would have done anything to protect my brother from all he went through with addiction, just as I protected him in his crib so many years ago. However, I have surrendered to know that it is His God who holds him in His hands and there is no safer place than there. I'll see you at the resurrection kiddo. I can hardly wait, but until then, I will fight the good fight, and I will carry on the good work that He had begun in us both unto the brilliant day of His appearing.
My brother lost his battle with addiction, but thankfully, His Savior has already won the war. And I wait for that glorious day of the resurrection and I rejoice in knowing that in Christ, he is very much alive.
Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.
1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,[a] that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Job 1:21 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
So here is the good news - All of us are sinners (we have transgressed the holy and good commandments of God} and we all fall short of the glory of our Creator. Sin is the root of all the pain, illness, suffering, and grief in the world. God in His unfailing love and abundant mercy, veiled Himself in flesh as Yeshua (Jesus the Messiah), He lived out the commandments perfectly in Spirit and in deed, he suffered, died, and He was raised to life conquering the power of sin and death so that we who truly believe on Him as our Savior can not only walk in freedom and power over sin, but we will never truly die. Death has been defeated for all those who are in Him. He will fill you with His Spirit and seal you to the day of His coming. He will sanctify you and breathe newness on you and He will restore the things previously eaten away by the adversary of your soul. He is coming again to judge the living and the dead. He is coming in great power and glory. He is The Way, and The Truth, and The Life and there is no other Name on earth or in the heavens by which mankind can be saved. Behold, He is making all things new.