Friday, November 27, 2020
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Out of Darkness

Remembering Katie Klein

Our stories here at ThumbsUp247.com are intended to be uplifting. The goal is to bring a smile, a heavy dose of cheer, or a sprinkle of hope to each day and the day after. But even in our daily attempts to find humor, to warm your heart, touch your soul, uncover the silver lining, a thumbs up might be hard for you to find. It might take too much energy to produce because something tragic sabotages the vibe, undermines the positive energy.

We’ve all been there. These are the times when family and friends come together to rally one another – to take a sad story and make it better.

Today, I want to share a story of a beautiful young lady with an effervescent personality and an uncanny ability to make everyone around her smile or laugh, or just feel better being in her presence. She wears a Cheshire cat grin, the inner glow of her soul shines through her eyes. Her eyes smile too. In conversation, she listens more than she talks. She’s more interested in you than anything she has to say.

She has friends – too many to count. We all describe her the same way, emphatically. If you have a pulse, it’s hard not to love her.

But somewhere deep in the recesses of her core lies a demon. She keeps it hidden but it’s there for her to manage, to be locked away and dealt with when she’s alone. To the outside world, the secret is well kept. Most don’t even know that there is a secret and those who may be aware of its existence, don’t give it much more than a passing thought. Her shine is so bright and we believe that light comes from a happy place deep inside. Consequently, everything feels just fine to everyone – but not to Katie Klein.

Recently, Katie ventured deep into her secret world. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional, but in her mind, probably unavoidable. This thing, this shadow that darkened her spirit, whatever it was, kept rearing its ugly head. It consumed her. Helplessness and desperation set in. Maybe she felt entrapped with only one way to go.

And now she’s gone.

I’m left in a surreal state. I try to get my day going but it keeps coming back to Katie and the same question over and over and over.

Why?

She was loved universally. We basked in the glow of her loving and positive force field. She enriched the lives of so many others. But today, for Katie, there are no more tomorrows.

Questions will always remain, never to be answered – at least not in this lifetime. But maybe it’s incumbent upon the rest of us, those she left behind, to seek meaning in this monumental loss through love, communication and understanding. Maybe if one more person would have asked if she was really ok – to listen to her like she listened to us, the conversation would be different than the one we’re having now – certainly more hopeful. Instead we scatter through the ashes of despair trying to make sense of the nonsensical.

Perhaps Katie’s death is an invitation to us all, to not frown upon or cautiously dismiss issues concerning mental health, or the lack thereof. Mental health is just as important as anything we deal with physically. Some might even argue that it’s more important since a powerful and positively determined mind can help overcome physical ailments, or at the very least, make them easier to manage.

Maybe the most positive takeaway after losing Katie, as difficult as that is to fathom, is to help bring mental health out into the forefront, to give it the same respect that we give to cancer or substance abuse. Maybe as a society, we should stop tucking it away in the closet with other skeletons we collectively choose to avoid.

It’s time to bring it OUT OF DARKNESS!

Look around you. Is there someone you know who could use your help? Is there someone you know who needs encouragement to seek help? It’s possible that they could be so afraid that they might need help seeking help. But you and I will never know until we ask, until we are brave enough to help. Maybe Katie’s death can give us all, that needed courage.

When I heard the news about Katie, it took my breath away. When I heard how it happened, I was stunned. I still am. It was difficult to process the tragic news and it made conversation, in my surroundings at a very public setting, very challenging. I happened to be with some friends, one of whom struggles with depression. She took that opportunity to share some of her own demons and at first, I thought, “How can she talk about herself at this moment in time?”

And then it dawned on me, this is the perfect time. My friend just needed me to listen. So I did, and after doing so, it opened my mind to her struggles. I didn’t look at it as a displaced or unwanted conversation at a Tiki bar, but instead as an opportunity to help someone by caring, by listening, by giving my time. I have Katie to thank for that.

In the end, I will miss that little fireball terribly. Yet it’s vital for all who knew and loved Katie to allow her death not to be defined as just a tragedy, but also as an awakening. Katie struggled. Perhaps she didn’t communicate those struggles as she should have. Maybe we didn’t listen as we should have. But it’s not too late to listen to others who need an ear – to expand awareness about mental health issues and seek mental wellness.

In doing so, we can help others avoid Katie’s fate.

In doing so, we can take this sad story and make it better, for Katie Klein…

[Related Article: The Thumbs Up Mission]

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Tony Lombardi
Besides his work here at Thumbs Up 247, Tony is the founder EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com. His work has been featured on various sports websites and he hosts The Russell Street Recap. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi. Drop him a note at TL@ThumbsUp247.com.

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