Those whose lives have been lost to drugs were remembered last week during a candlelight vigil where a father, who lost his son to a heroin overdose in Oxford nearly four years ago,  spoke of his struggles in and out of rehab.

The vigil, hosted by The River ministry, was in front of the Neshoba County Courthouse.

Mike Jernigan, pastor of Sardis Baptist Church, talked about his son T. J. who worked several summers as an intern at The Neshoba Democrat.

Jernigan told those gathered for the vigil that he didn’t know much about drug addiction until it became personal rather quickly through events in his life.

He said his son T. J. was a unique and talented child who was “very much content in himself. He was a very good and intelligent kid.”

He was a talented musician and football player, Jernigan said.

Jernigan said after his son started experimenting with drugs and alcohol, he and his wife would talk to him about it.

“During his sophomore year of college he started growing a little distant,” Jernigan said. “In 2011, we knew T. J. was not the same. He was not the same bright eyed kid.”

Jernigan spoke about how his son became addicted to opioids and was in and out of rehab trying to get clean.

T. J. later confessed to his parents that he was addicted to heroin.

Jernigan recalled how he learned from a telephone call that his son had overdosed while in Memphis.

Someone drove him to a fire station where he was given the drug Narcan.

“T. J. told us that he died and they brought him back to life,” Jernigan said.

After another trip to rehab, T. J. moved back in with his parents where they “babysat” him, literally taking him to work, etc., Jernigan said.

After 72 days clean, Jernigan said his son asked to go to Oxford to see a friend.

“We knew we had to start trusting him,” Jernigan said. “He left on Friday afternoon for Oxford.”

Jernigan said the next day he was about to walk out the door when he saw several police officers walking toward his house.

“I said to myself, ‘Dear Lord, just let him be in jail,’” Jernigan said.

He recalled how the officers asked if he had a son named T. J. When he answered yes, the officers told him that they found him dead a few minutes ago in Oxford.

“Once again my life went to pieces,” Jernigan said. “My 25-year-old son that I loved so much was gone because of a drug called heroin.”

Jernigan quoted scripture and shared his testimony and his love for the Lord.

Barry Walker of The River drug rehabilitation ministry said they hosted the vigil in observance of the roughly 240 drug overdose deaths in the state last year.

Walker founded The River in late October following divine inspiration to help those who were struggling with drug addiction in the community.

The River is on the north side of the square at 406 Beacon St.