A lot of old hit songs have glamorized suicide.
"Patches" by Dickie Lee was a tale of a rich boy and poor girl who wanted to get married, but the boy's parents wouldn't allow it. The girl killed herself. The boy said, "It may not be right, but I'll join you tonight."
In "Running Bear," both Running Bear and Little White Dove jumped into the "swirling stream" where "the raging river pulled them down."
In reality, suicide isn't glamourous. It's not the beautiful finale to a touching story, but a woeful end that leaves behind real broken hearts and shattered lives.
On June 30, a friend of mine took her life. Kelly Keffer, a teacher at Lehighton Area High School, died at the young age of 43. She did so much good for students. She had so much left to do.
She took Lehighton High School's volleyball program to levels of great regional respect.
She started a club called "Project Humanity" which carried the theme: "Our differences make us stronger." It focused on anti-bullying, humanitarian aid, and environmental issues. It was what she was all about: caring.
Kelly was a neighbor of mine some years back when I lived in an apartment in Franklin Township. I got to know and respect Kelly for who she was: someone sincere, willing to help anyone, and honest.
She and I would talk. She had a tough life, growing up with a single parent - her mother - in a tough town, Reading. She worked hard and succeeded, going to college, getting a degree, and then she became a teacher. She had so many reasons to be proud of herself.
So many students I've talked to have told me how she was never too busy to talk one-on-one; how she wanted to be involved with positive projects as much as possible.
The news of her suicide was impossible for me to believe at first. She worked so hard and accomplished so much, and then.....
What causes a person to take such drastic action? How can a life be so hopeless that suicide seems to be the only answer?
Unless you walk in their shoes, there isn't an answer.
I've lost other friends in my lifetime to suicide. I never tried to figure out why. The effort would be futile.
I think of my life and couldn't imagine doing something that would deliberately leave my wife, daughter, step children, and grandchildren fending for themselves - or feeling guilty for something that wouldn't be their fault.
What was Kelly thinking? What was so bad to cause her to end her life?
Kelly's suicide brought to mind the death of another friend back in the late 1980s. Former Lehighton Chief of Police Ed Hutto killed himself on a Saturday morning.
Hours before he killed himself, he called me out on a fake drug raid, then drove around with me in his personal car and telling me about so many problems in his life – career and personal. Many of those problems were obviously amplified. Obviously he wasn't thinking rational at the time.
I didn't have time to react; to let anyone know about my fears for him.
After he dropped me off, he went to a specific area and committed suicide.
My wife has told me numerous times: A healthy person doesn't know how a sick person feels.
This includes someone physically ill as well as someone having mental anguish.
People feeling suicidal can get help, but too often they feel so helpless they don't reach out.
Sometimes others must reach out to them.
Kelly's "Project Humanity" stressed that "our differences make us stronger." If only Kelly could have found the strength to overcome her demons, to seek help with her problems, and to reach out. She has touched the lives of so many people over the years. Why is it that someone like her can't find a net when they need one?
Rest in peace, Kelly.