The past few weeks have been tragic. As many of you know, my brother passed away last Tuesday.
I just so happened to be on a work trip in NYC when he died.
It was a crazy week.
I could go on about all the positive things that happened in NYC, but I’ll save that for another post. The truth is, I got a call on Tuesday morning that changed my life.
Don’t ask me why I was awake at 4:45 AM, but I heard my phone vibrating. It was my dad.
I knew that could only mean one thing: something happened to mom or Marcus. I let the phone roll over to voicemail as a way of bracing myself for the conversation I knew was about to happen. I listened to the voicemail. It sounded grave. I quickly called my dad back.
“Courtney, it’s your father. Your brother is dead.”
I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t know what to say. My father is a jokester and has played tricks on me before where he told me someone died who didn’t actually die, so I asked, “Are you serious?”
He was serious.
The rest of the week was a haze. I felt numb.
On Saturday, instead of heading home on a train with the rest of my team, I boarded a plane to Florida. I sat through one of the hardest experiences of my life- my brother’s funeral.
My brother, my blood, my very first friend.
I didn’t know it would be this hard.
But what makes it even worse, is the mixed feelings raging inside of me.
My brother died of a heroine overdose. He had every chance to get well. He went to rehabs, he was helped by family and friends- both near and far- he was given chance after chance after chance. And he squandered his chances.
He just couldn’t stay strong.
My brother had been clean for one year. This time last year he went to a Chr-stian rehab. He rededicated his life to G-d and even got b-ptized! This summer, he moved out and got a room. He was working. He was seeing his daughter on the weekends. He was attending ch-rch. He was slowly putting the pieces of his life back together.
Then hurricane Irma hit. The place where he was staying got flooded. He had to move. So he moved in with my aunt and uncle. He got a new job. He was doing okay.
A few months ago, my mother warned that if he went back to drugs after being clean for this long, he could easily overdose and die. I remember thinking to myself, given his current track record, he’s probably going to die!
And he did.
He couldn’t withstand the temptation. He was weak. He made a mistake. He got drugs, he got high, and died of an overdose. On my aunt and uncle’s guest bed.
Now Scarlett is left without a father, his girlfriend is left without the love of her life, and my parents are a wreck.
Our family of six is now a family five.
So, now I’m back in Virginia. The funeral is done. My sister is back at college. And my oldest brother’s baby is due any day.
It’s weird, grieving for someone who dug their own grave.
I feel sad, because I know Marcus didn’t want this. The Marcus I knew wanted to be a military man. He wanted to have 10 kids and carry them around in a mail truck. He wanted to be an outdoors man who went camping, hiking, and fishing. He wanted to stay clean.
But the drugs took over. Intellectually. Socially. Morally. Ultimately, they took his life.
The Marcus who died wasn’t the same Marcus who played steal the bacon with me in the back yard. It wasn’t the same brother who made nutcracker plays with me in our living room every Christmas and performed them for my mom. It wasn’t the same brother who played make-believe village with me everyday after school (he was the blacksmith, I was the fruit seller). It wasn’t the same brother who picked blackberries for our neighbor, Ms. Suffin, who caught fireflies in the summer, who planted gardens in the spring, who had bonfires in the winter, who raked leaves with me in the fall. It wasn’t the brother who bounced me so high on the trampoline I flipped in the air. It wasn’t the same brother who danced with me when school was out and we belted out at the top of our lungs “School’s out for the summer!!!!” It wasn’t the same brother who rode bikes with me to the airport, who roller skated around our block, who called himself “The Turtle Hunter” and filmed his own tv show. It wasn’t the same brother who rode me around on the dirt bike, the go cart, the four wheeler, who taught me how to get my hands dirty, how to be tough, how to live life and not look back for a second.
That brother died long ago.
And now that his life is over, I’m left feeling sad.
I try to conjure up my feelings, to come up with a better word than sad, but there’s really no other word I can think of that adequately expresses how I feel.
Love you forever Marcus James Kleinhans. ♥
Have you lost a loved one? Have you dealt with the consequences of drugs in your family? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.