Written by Julie Mikus
I remember the first time I held my little brother. I remember the exact position of the chair – how it faced the window with sunlight spilling in. I remember the smell of him, and how the blanket was wrapped around his tiny body. I remember teasing my older brother, “I am the first one to hold our brother!” From the moment I saw Timmy, I loved him. He was a special boy with big brown eyes, long eyelashes and sweet baby features.
I also remember every painful detail of the day my brother died. I remember the call from the emergency room in the middle of the night, the nurse begging me to come to the emergency room to be with my parents. In the nurse’s voice, I heard sadness. I begged for her to tell me what happened. On the the other end, there was silence. I pleaded with her for what felt like an eternity to tell me what was wrong. She finally said the heavy words filled with sad and horrible weight – the kind of words that punch you in your gut, “Your brother is dead.”
My brother was 19 years old when he died. He was an incredible human. He was tall, with a huge smile and contagious laugh – oh, how his laugh filled the space around him! When he walked in the room, his spirit went ahead of him. He was loved by everybody who met him. He was one of those rare people who when he smiled – his eyes smiled. His teddy-bear hugs were epic – powerful and gentle at the same time. He was a kind, positive, and powerful soul.
Up until recently, I’ve been incredibly guarded in sharing the nature of his death. You see, my brother died of a heroin overdose on September 11, 1998. My defense mechanism has been to not talk about how he died, to protect my baby brother from judgement. I was never ashamed of Timmy. But as a big sister, I am fiercely protective, as much as that day I first held him. I am protective of how he is remembered. I am protective of who he was. I want people to focus on the amazing person he was, not how he died. After all, I am my brother’s keeper. I want to keep his memory pure, free of blemish, despite the circumstances of his death.
Most recently, I’ve come to realize its my Christian duty to bear witness to my brother’s loss. The Bible says, “they overcame by the word of their testimony.” Even painful testimonies deserve to be shared, free of fear, shame, or judgement. We must honor the most painful moments of our life.
Make no mistake, God did not waste my pain. Through the pain of losing my little brother, God gave me eyes to see the broken. He has given me the ability to respond such brokenness with compassion, sensitivity, and empathy. In my ministry, He renews my spirit daily. Every day, I am deeply honored to partner with Him to serve His people.
God has also broken my heart by realizing the urgency of the hour in the face of the current opiate epidemic. It is a problem worsening hourly. Now is such a time to share my pain, evidence of how drugs devastate, wreck, and bring families to their knees. Pennsylvania now ranks eighth in the United States for opiate overdoses. In my neighborhood of Hampton Township, ten graduates have lost their lives in the last ten months. There is urgency in this hour.
It is also a time to have hope. When a person in recovery shares their testimony, I am always filled with admiration. Their bravery is incredible…to share such a dark time of their life. I believe as their bear witness to their pain, they overcome with the words of their testimony. God doesn’t waste their pain, either. Schools are responding, communities are coming together, people are beginning to wrestle with the urgency of this hour.
Will you join me to to declare this year to be a year of grace for the addict?
Will you join me in prayer to stand in the gap for the individuals and families held captive to addiction?
Will you mourn with me for the 91 individuals who lost their life TODAY and EVERYDAY to opiate overdoses?
Will you draw near to hurting parents who have lost a child to an overdose?
I believe as we join together, God will release something powerful – and we will bear witness to ashes replaced with beauty, doom replaced with joy. While the urgency of this hour should break our hearts – this same hour demands and cries out for hope. I believe I honor my little brother’s memory by having hope. Will you join me in clinging to the promised hope of God? It is our unbreakable spiritual lifeline! In this hour, we should not let go – but only cling tighter.
Julie Mikus serves as the Program Director for Network of Hope. Besides spending time with her husband & son, she enjoys walking her dog Glory, never missing a sunset, and shopping at local thrift stores for treasures and bargains!