It was 3:30am on May 19th 1998. The phone rang at my moms house, she answered "Hello" the voice on the other end said "Are you JD's mom" she said "yes"........and the phone went dead...only a dial tone. She lay awake knowing, what we would all soon know.
The phone rang, I answered, my dad said "Put Jamie on the phone" After listening to Jamie say "ok, ok, ok" the phone was handed back to me. My dad said through a cracked voice and tears..... "We're getting the call that we've dreaded but we knew would come one day, your brother is dead"....and the words after that are a blur.
My dad did not want my mom alone when she received this news so he asked me to call her best friend, Dottie. Dottie arrived within 15 minutes after my call. Even with all of the harsh and hateful words my dad had unleashed on my mom over the past 14 years, he still did not want her finding out her only son was dead while she was alone. I arrived within 15 minutes after Dottie with my almost 3 month old baby boy in my arms to find my mom clinging to Dottie on the couch, sobbing uncontrollably. My dad lived in Indy, but was there within 30 minutes after me. As my dad entered my childhood home, my mom just collapsed in his arms.
My mom and dad clung to one another as if nothing, no ill feelings had ever been shared between them. Soon my baby sister was there, as soon as she saw my dad she too knew, she dropped to her knees "what's happened, it's JD isn't it" very few words were spoken, we all knew this story.
My dad grabbed Jakob from my arms, held him tight and said "things are going to be different this time around"
I don't know if I've cried as much as I did that week.
The pain of losing my big brother was horrific, but the pain from watching my "non communicative" parents of 14 years bond over the common ground of sadness, well it just about broke my heart into a million pieces.
Then there was the selfish sadness that my children would never know Uncle JD. They would never know his amazing musical talent, they would never see the breathtaking artist he was, they would never know his quirky sense of humor, his sensitive deminor, his off the chart IQ, or his cloud of continued sadness throughout his life.
The questions whirled through my head.....WHY did he have to be so stupid....WHY wouldn't he come home for help, we had begged him to come home, my dad sent tickets and he never got on the plane....WHY was he alone.....WHY did they call us until 2 days AFTER he was dead..... but my biggest question was WHERE were his so called "friends" as he was found dead in a hotel, in SanFrancisco with a heroin filled needle in his arm!
When someone dies out of state you unfortunately have to wait on the body to arrive, and it was not in a timely manner. My mom had to identify his body over the phone....decribing his tattoos, piercings, birth marks and so on. Listening to the sobs as she gave details, and listening to her say "Yes, that is my son" was heartbreaking. JD's body did not arrive in Indiana until May 21st. Because my dad had a medical background he was waiting on the body....and examined it himself. He wanted to see him first, to touch him, to have time to prepare the rest of us for anything unexpected.
I've never seen my dad cry as much as he did the day he had to put his only son in the ground, as he repeated over and over again....."This just isn't right, it's just not fair, it should be ME not HIM"
The death of my brother did several things.....it built a bridge that had been burned between my mom and dad. It gave me an educational tool for my impressionable children, those that belonged to me....and those that did not. It gave me a platform to speak on, about the effects of drug abuse, and HOW it affects the family, not just the drug abuser.
My dreams at night are filled with a big brother that is gone, he was a lost soul, that could never find the peace and happiness that each and everyone of us desires. He was a highly intellegent, ridiculously talented artist, and a self taught musician. He had combined talents that most only dream of. But he didn't have the strength to fight the demons of drug addiction and finding his place in this world.
And what did he leave behind........a 5x7 envelope filled with his belongings, a family heartbroken and missing him, wishing there was one more chance to say good-bye.
But our story didn't end here......
Upon his death my dads best friend Herb Buffenbarger served as the pastor for the service for JD. He asked if donations could be made to a new program he was starting in Fountain Square in Indianapolis. This program was called the "Rapha Program" ~it means God of Healing. Its format was used to take drug addicts, alcoholics, and prostitutes off the streets of Indianapolis.
This program was originally funded and started with the donations that were collected upon JD's death. My dad and I served on the board. It was a very healing, and bonding time for us. One by one those that were helped would come up and thank us for our story, and opportunity for a new life. I won't lie, it didn't save everyone, but it sure saved some. And it helped heal myself....and my dad.
Each month, the story of JD was told, there was a wing named after him. And there were lots of hugs from potential "JDs" that didn't know there was any other way out.
Unfortuneately Herb died two years ago, and the program stopped, but in that time I would guess that hundreds were in and out of that program. And that never would've happened without our JD.