Kristina Furey

You Can't Get To Heaven From Here

The problems we face are not simple.  To simply pick up a gun or utilize the death penalty to solve our problems is not the answer.

While our youth were organizing to march for their lives last week, I was disturbed to hear “the President” wants to use the death penalty for drug dealers.  

It’s so easy to be distracted by the symptom of a problem and try to treat that instead of looking to treat the cause.  Please bear with me here if you would because I am about to unburden a deep pain from my heart and if I can do this carefully, perhaps I can help you see what I see… 

When I was 22, shy just two months off from my wedding date, I got that phone call that family members of a drug-addicted person yearn for; the one where the person says I can't do this anymore please come get me “I NEED HELP”.  I scribbled the note, “To whom it may concern…” explaining the call and destination I was off to, at about 2am, in case I did not make it back.  Then I left that note on the kitchen table of an empty house.  Thank God I went and got my brother, home, safe!  It was a huge FINANCIAL HIT my parents took, getting my brother into Rehab, two days later.  Still, how fortunate for all of us, they were able to manage it!  It was a huge EMOTIONAL HIT, when the calls from his ex-girlfriend started.  My brother, still in rehab, was not prepared for them and my parents were afraid she would stop my brother’s progress.  Finally, scared out of her mind, she told them THERE WAS A HIT PUT OUT ON MY BROTHER AND HIS FAMILY.  My brother was mixed up in an international drug ring, as was she and just after I picked him up, key players in that ring were all apprehended at the same time to keep any of them, from getting word out to the others about the sting.  Members of the ring had come to the conclusion my brother, who by their perception had skipped town, did so because he was involved in the sting and would testify against them.  They wanted to send a message to him, to quiet him and supposedly, killing those he lived with and loved, was the way the told her they intended to send that message.

My brother was not a bad person.  At one point, he was just a sad 13 year old boy.  It was at that point that he started to experiment with drugs.  Our mother left our family that summer, just a few months after my brother’s 13th and my 11th birthday.  I don't think people understand the anxiety that children can go through during times like that or how easy it is for their lives to unravel.  We were both in Middle School and beginning to deal with the chemical changes that take place in a young person’s body during that time and witnessing the division of youths, once friends, dividing up and sometimes against each other, as they clicked or became a loner and a target of cliques.  It's my belief that all of this change and pressure, along with the desire to feel okay and fit in, led my brother down the path of trying to alter the way he felt by using drugs.  I honestly believe his experimentation and attempt to be accepted, just turned into self-medicating.  It's a very slippery slope for a good person who is in so much pain, be it mental or physical, to discover that they can chemically reduce, control or put off the pain.  For young people I think addiction is really easy because it’s often when we are young that we experience these painful things for the first time and immediately look for some sort of resolution whether real or imagined.  Resolution can come from coping skills, tools/actions and even escaping can at least be a short term resolution.  We often learn resolution skills from the adults in our life.  I’ll just reiterate here, my mother left/escaped.  I’m not judging her.  I'm not looking for someone to blame.  I only want to show you how we learn to do what we choose to do.  My brother found a way different way to escape.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  I believe in seeking to understand, so we can forgive and get on with the lives we came to live.  We are like computers, what we experience and witness are just the different programs we have downloaded.  We don’t think thoughts we haven’t been exposed to in some way.  We don’t do things we don’t know.  Everything here just keeps getting recycled.  As Billy Joel said, “We didn’t start the fire”.  I do believe we can put the fires out if we are careful, honest, logical and generous enough to bring all of society up to spec.  (Okay, enough with my tangent.  Perhaps a blog for another day…)

Back to the hit they put on my family:  
About 3 weeks to a month out from my wedding, I took my three-year-old, stepson shopping so he could pick out his Ring Bearer's pillow.  I couldn't help but notice as I walked through the plaza going from shop to shop and while I was in the Hallmark store, that we were being followed.  Why we were being followed to this day, I still don't know but to verify it was happening, I walked into the People’s Drugstore at the end of the Plaza and when the guy followed me in, I walked up to one of the employees and ask them if I could use their phone, while glancing directly in the guys direction.  There were no cell phones back then.  The guy turned around and walked out the door.  I ended up not calling anybody.  Instead, I took my son to the card department and looked at funny cards with him, while I did my best to muster up some laughs.  After a while, I carefully walked out of the store.  I never saw or at least recognized the guy again but it haunted me.  

My brother turned himself in and later did end up going to prison.  As I recall, he was facing 30 years in prison.  I think he only served about a year.  I believe the judge went soft on him because he had checked himself into a facility before things went down the way they did.  I also believe my brother would have been in jail much longer and maybe the whole 30 years had my parents not hired a lawyer for him.  While our judicial system of court appointed attorneys makes one think justice is equal in our country, it is with a very sad and troubled heart I tell you, that is not the case.  My brother was a good person, with a good heart.  It is so unfortunate, that he suffered in ways that he did and there are others like him that suffer far more for the inequalities in our judicial system, as well as the harsh and sometimes mis-judgements.  

When my brother came out of prison he went on to do great things with his life.  He was an entrepreneur and he created jobs for many other people.  He gave homes to the homeless and jobs to the jobless.  I can't imagine what it would have been like for my family, if he could have gotten the death penalty.  I can't imagine what would have been done to my family, had the dealers that supposedly put the hit out on my brother and his family, known that they were facing the death penalty and suspected him of being the one that was turning them in.

Just as they say, “Measure twice and cut once” so should we learn to think twice and act with precision.  Easier said than done, I know...

I wrote “You Can’t Get To Heaven From Here” for my brother.  


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