A Gun Shot Took the Life of My Brother: How I Dedicate My Work to End Bullying & Violence!

Every January 12th, my heart sinks, the day is a little gloomier, and my soul aches. January 12th is the day gun shots went off on a cold winter night. Those shots were directed towards my beloved brother, Jason Peagram. His life was taken by violence. We still don’t have answers, we don’t have closure, but all we have are memories of his bright spirit.

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It is sometimes hard to move on without the closure of knowing what really happened that night and why my brother’s murder is silenced without any verdict. Closure helps us move on. However, you never move on when losing a sibling from violence, you just learn how to deal with it! Time heals by wrapping your heart in a bandage. Every now and then that bandage gets ripped off, and you once again feel the raw pain, grief, and loss. It stops you in your tracks, paralyzes your thoughts, fills your soul with pain. For those moments, you grieve once again what was lost and what will never be.

As I had mentioned in the past, I dedicate my work of reducing bullying and violence to my brother. Before each program, I put my earphones on, turn on Eminen’s “Lighters” song, jam out and whisper, ” This one is for you and me, Jay!” Often when I work with troubled kids, I share my story about Jay. I tell them about his life, his death, and his impact on me. Most of the time, teens relate to the story and we connect.

Four years ago, I was understaffed running this middle school program. I was exasperated, I was mourning Jay’s death, and working with these kids that just didn’t give a sh*t about my program. I struggled to manage them, the school was not supporting the program, and bullying was a problem! I was beside myself, out of answers, and I wanted to give up. One evening, I was reviewing the students journals, and I connected with this girl, “K”. She had written in her journal that she was depressed, sad, and really struggling. I wrote back to her. I told her how much beauty I saw in her, how she just needs to hold on a little longer, and that the darkness would pass. Writing to her gave me an idea. What if I took a risk and shared with the students how I lost my brother to violence? It was still so raw, it had only been a year, but I needed to get through to these kids. I was determined to reach them, to make a difference in their lives.It's time for us to take control and stop bullying.

The following day, I stood in front of 90 middle school students, in the cafeteria, and shared my story. Some cried, others gasped, and the entire room went silent. It was an eerie silence. The kind of silence that gives you goosebumps. The story had grabbed them. They sat there speechless, they saw me not as an annoying “bully teacher”, but a person, a sister grieving her brother. I closed my session that day saying, “I am standing in front of you vulnerable. Take my story for what it is. I do this work, because all I want to do is protect you from this pain. All I want to do is save a life!”Word cloud stop violence

That evening, I read the students journals from the session, and the feedback blew me away. Kids started opening up sharing their pain and losses. It was so powerful. “K” really opened up too. She became my favorite student. I gave her special attention, I knew she was in a dark place, but I saw her potential. The program lasted about 10 weeks, and on the last day, we exchanged friendship bracelets. It was so special to me, I gave her a big hug. I told her to keep believing in herself and to use her kindness and compassion to help people. I never heard back from that school or from “K”. She held a special place in my heart. Every now and then I thought of her.

A few months ago, my business was stressing me out. We were growing and I had to make some strategic decisions. I was so caught up in logistics, I was forgetting the core of my business. I was worried about making it in this industry: what if this was just a growth spurt, what if I never made it? All these questions flooded my thoughts. Distractingly, I opened my email and found this:

Hello,

I’m not even sure you use this email anymore, but I figured I would give it a shot. I suppose you’re wondering why I have decided to contact you. I came across the bracelet you gave me the other day, and immediately thought of you. Perhaps it’s a bit odd to email you after all this time, but I just wanted to remind you that you helped me a ton back in eighth grade. I know life can be terrible sometimes, and I’m hoping you will see this and feel better about life. You helped save a life and that is the best thing you can ever do. You inspired me to become a kinder person and to strive to help other people in need. Since eighth grade, I’ve assisted many people and convinced them against making destructive decisions, and I owe part of that to you. Put simply, I wanted to say thank you.
-“K” 

I sat there staring at this email crying. They were tears of joy, relief, and accomplishment. “Jay, we did it! Together, your life and my work DID save a life!” I love my work and often see that we make a difference. This email solidified it. It melted my heart, strengthened my soul, and gave me hope. “K” is an amazing beautiful young woman that will make a difference in this world. She touched my heart, and I will forever be grateful for having her pass through my life. Hopefully, our paths will cross again.Jason's last Bears Game

Her email gave me the push to continue dedicating my work to my late brother. It can’t bring him back, I can’t take the pain away, but it gives his life more meaning. He is saving lives! His life is giving teens a deeper meaning to the life that is often so misunderstood. So today, as I mourn my brother, I also celebrate his life and the impact he still has on our world.

“From heaven up above, I hope you are watching down on me, seeing how your life has so much meaning. I love you Jay!”

-Your older sister Koko xoxo

Until Next Time…

Kortney Peagram
Be Strong*Be Brave*Be a Bulldog

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