Honor For My Big Brother

Help me honor my “Big Brother” on his birthday today August 13th!

He transitioned in 2006 and he departed this earth in peace though his body was ravaged by cancer.

I miss him tremendously and told my wife Kacie she would have loved him because he had the ability as most good leaders have of making people feel special.

Below is an excerpt from my book “Grasping at the Wind” briefly describing him:

My immediate family consisted of my father John, my mother Martha and my older brother John Jr. or Long John as they called him on the streets. We called him Buttons. My big brother was three years older than I and could talk the skin off a leopard. I kept quiet at home because either my brother or father dominated every conversation.

My brother excelled as an athlete in grade school and won a scholarship, for basketball, to De La Salle High School.

Though small in stature, he possessed deft ball handling, passing skills, and radar-like shooting ability. A natural leader and point guard, he ran the basketball floor like his idol, the Hall of Fame point guard, Oscar Robertson.

De La Salle produced many leaders and had a strong academic program as well as athletics. The legendary Mayor Daley of Chicago graduated from De La Salle. De La Salle and other Catholic High Schools provided opportunities for many inner-city athletes who otherwise might not have the money to pay for the education these schools provided.

My brother always decked himself out in the latest styles and ran with the in-crowd. Gregarious and outgoing, I thought he knew everyone in Chicago. His glibness endeared him to mostly everyone he met. We fought, like all sibling’s fight, mainly because I would sneak and wear his clothes. Lacking his flair for fashion, I usually destroyed his clothes while playing or just hanging out. This made him livid, and we fought many rounds about his clothes.

Like so many other children of the ghetto, he had the potential to become whatever he desired, but like the wicked servant in (Matthew 25:14–30), he buried his talents in the rocky soil of drugs and the street life. He squandered his scholarship and dropped out of high school in the tenth grade. He eventually became a heroin addict and shot drugs for over thirty years. He was in and out of prison most of his adult life and caused my parents much grief. This created a rift between us that God repaired later in our lives.

Coming from the same household, I guess we fought the same demons. Thankfully, in the last six or seven years of his life, he finally kicked his drug habit. He fell in love, married, and worked a square job for the first time in his life. He conquered the beast of heroin addiction. In his last years, he used his speaking abilities to share his story at NA meetings around Chicago. I remember walking into a meeting while he spoke, my chest swelled with pride. He reminded me then of the big brother I idolized as a child!

He died from cancer in 2006; however, by that time he had made his peace with God. His funeral resembled a homecoming of O.G’s (original gangsters) from the “hood”. Pimps, preachers and politicians, packed the Catholic church we grew up in to pay their respects to a legend on the streets. He stayed true to the game and beat the odds. He died in peace with his wife Rochelle at his side. I preached his eulogy from (Matthew 20:1-16). He entered God’s vineyard at the last hour, but he ended with the same pay as everyone else.

RIH Long John!