My Bro - JJ Landis
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My Bro

I’m reposting (with a few edits) something I wrote on this blog in 2007 about my big brother (below). I just spent a fabulous (beyond fabulous) weekend with eight of my best girl friends; now that I’m home, I’m feeling a bit emotionally mushy. Vacation recovery is a hard thing! As I analyze my current friendships, recent growth, and stable mental health of late, I can’t help but remember where I’ve been, which is why I share. Be encouraged you who may be suffering – holding onto a God you can’t understand is a hard thing to do. But the freedom and peace that comes from taking that small but mighty step is worth it.


This picture of Jeff and my dad skipping rocks was in the newspaper in 1968 or so.
Ten years ago tomorrow my big brother died of either an accidental overdose or a suicide – not sure. He drank rubbing alcohol and his girlfriend found him dead, sitting on a chair by the refrigerator.

His death did not overly shock me. In a way, I knew for years it would happen. I used to wonder how I would be able to handle losing my only birth sibling. Once, years prior to this death, I had a sense of foreboding that I should call him lest he take his life that night. I am not sure what my call meant to him, but I wish I would have called on October 30, 1997.

Our mom killed herself when Jeff was 19 and I was 12. He followed in her footsteps, leading a destructive life. I followed too for years, but eventually had half a brain to realize I did not want to live a life of depression and misery. I ran to God, throwing off alcohol and drug use along the way, and He gave me a reason to live.

The last time I saw my brother was at my wedding in June, almost five months before his death. He gave me a small sewing kit and cheap drinking glasses for a gift. The glasses have all been broken (I am very clumsy) and the sewing kit of course is long used up.

I miss having my mother and brother. I am not sure Jeff and I were ever close enough in age to share what some siblings share, but it sure is sad to not have him here living life. His kids will be forever scarred by his life and death, just as Jeff and I were scarred by our mother’s death.

My big brother was a wonderful person. He was the funniest man I ever met (and that’s saying a lot seeing as I’m married to Lee Landis, who is no stranger to humor). He drank milk every morning, stopping on his way to work to buy a quart from the gas station. He took good care of his children. He cooked like no man I’ve met. He called our unhappy grandma every Sunday just to chat. He took lots of pride in his little house. This is a tribute to him who was very much loved.

My biggest fear in life is that I will follow the family tradition of self-destruction, which is why I lean heavy and hard on Jesus. People say they lean on Jesus, the solid rock. Sometimes it sounds fake, cliché, insincere. But I mean it. You can lean on a sturdy God or you can stumble through life on your own. I’ve tried both paths and seen results of both.
  • Peggy Zehr
    Posted at 14:27h, 20 July Reply

    Miss Jeff, too! And your fun, sweet, pretty mom. Love you!

  • jillianw04
    Posted at 20:53h, 29 October Reply

    Thank you for such a raw and honest post. I love the way you don’t overcomplicate faith. I have learned so much about my own Christian walk just by knowing you and learning from you. You don’t have all the answers. You have the only answer that really matters…Jesus. And your life points to Him in every way. By watching the heartbreak unfold in your mom and brother, you never forget the price that was paid for your freedom. You continue to be an inspiration by pointing to the fact that Jesus is the only one that can make something beautiful out of our lives.
    Love you, friend!!!

  • Anonymous
    Posted at 15:16h, 28 October Reply

    You amaze me. You are an overcomer. I am a better person by knowing you and the ways you challenge me. ~Deb

  • Liz
    Posted at 20:18h, 24 October Reply

    Thank you for sharing this. I love your mind and the way you process the life you lived and the one in front of you. You remind me what is important and your friendship is something I rely on. We all had a beautiful weekend.

  • Sue B.
    Posted at 11:42h, 24 October Reply

    Oh JJ, so sorry for your loss. Grateful that you are willing to share something so deep and personal and open yourself up to doing so. Glad that you chose a different path and that you have freed yourself from those destructive bonds. You are an amazing person and woman and I am grateful to know and be friends with you.

  • JP
    Posted at 09:31h, 24 October Reply

    Very powerful. I’m praying for you, your family, and your brother’s family. I pray that you find God’s mercies new every morning! -JP

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