Gun Violence: Life without my Brother

126Today is a day I will always remember; a day with unanswered questions, and missed opportunities. On January 12th, 2011, gun violence took the life of my little brother. On this somber day, I grieve the life of a young man, a life that will never be forgotten, a life that was taken too soon. It seems just like yesterday he was teasing me about "Chillaxing" and saying "Beanie you worry too much." I can clearly remember his voice trailing off in my head, as he used to emphasize my nickname at any given opportunity. Today, as I sit in the pain and grief of losing a loved one, I also grieve the loss of many. My brother was not an anomaly; he was a victim of gun violence.  I often think to myself, what would I do if I could see him again?

Here is my letter to Heaven:IMG_1597

Dear Jay,

Not a day goes by that I don't miss you. I wish I could give you a hug. Like a long tight hug; embrace you, squeeze you, one more time. Kiss the top of your head, and just hold you. I would give anything for one more hug, one more look at your porcelain skin filled with freckles, and look into your deep blue eyes filled with hope and dreams. One more conversation about your big dreams, big ideas, and big life. This one moment would give me hope and closure.

Jay, these past few years have been hard. My business has been up and down. Some dark days, days where I don't understand the violence in Chicago. Days where I sit with children's stories of abuse and violence and I wonder, how I, as one person, can make a difference. I know that you look down on me from heaven, and you see the children, the teens, and the parents that I work with. How can I make a change? This year was the worst. You are probably looking down on me and winking, saying " Good Luck Beanie...It's going to be a rough one!"  j110

The violence and racism increased and it trickled down to younger children. It was a sad year, leaders placing blame and not taking responsibility for their words. These words that have so much power. Compassion and kindness getting lost and children being fueled by aggression and hate. I know you see me, but I work with gang members, aggressive kids, and children with disabilities.  I see more hate then love. You were filled with love and compassion. You always were able to ground me and make me rise above any drama to turn a bad moment into a kind moment. I need you more then ever. So I wonder, how can we change all this youth violence? It dawned on me. We need more love!

This year, I was talking to a young gang member and I shared your story. It was brief, but somehow and some way he saw my pain. We sat there in the middle of our session and we both cried for you. He is a beautiful, big, strong, young man, but he is violent and aggressive. Working together on his behavioral issues with school, we developed this trust and mutual respect. The other day, we talked about his issues and latest fights, and something in my soul told me to share your story. I watched a young man, an aggressive man, shed a tear for your life. I realized that your story, 6 years later, still has an impact. You give youth a chance, an idea, an experience, to see how things so good can quickly go so wrong. He said, "Ms. Kortney, I am sorry for your loss..." It stuck with him.

We need to listen more and share our stories. We need to look at each other as humans, and not stereotype or hate each other. We need to stop and acknowledge our lives and feel compassion. Regardless of how hard it becomes at Bulldog, in my darkest days, I find the light, your light, that bring youth to think about different options. As I am in pain grieving you, I am also grateful for your life. Every year, you save a life. You have changed so many lives, more than I can even recount. I dedicate my work to you. You will be forever loved and never forgotten.Jason's last Bears Game

Until we meet again....

Love you Jay,
xoxo Beanie

Kortney Peagram
Bulldog Solution, Inc.

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