I knew Fred since 1998, when he was 20 and I was 43. This was when he started working at Keeney Printing in Lansdale. I printed all of my icons and notecards there for my icon business for several years. I got on Fred’s nerves as I was a customer run amok. Marg Keeney had given me a key to the shop. I would come in after hours and use the copiers and the computers to make my prints. At times, I had to come in during the day to print as well. Fred was friendly enough, but he had an even darker sense of humor than I do. He loved heavy metal music and extreme graphics that to me appeared fantastical and gruesome. He was excellent at what he did, with attention to every detail. He was serious about what he did and was not afraid to put in long hours to get jobs done on time and done right.
Fred worked at Keeney for 13 years, until he was 33. He finally found a woman whom he loved. On 4th of July weekend in 2011 he intended for her to join him at his cabin in northern PA, where he was planning on asking her to marry him. However, she broke up with him. He took his own life at that cabin on July 4, 2011.
Fred’s death was devastating to his dear friend, boss and co-worker, Michael Keeney, as they were close comrades at and after work. Michael loved Fred like a brother.
I have lost 16 close friends and relations to suicide and a total of 42 acquaintances. My therapist asked me how I deal with all that grief. I replied, “Apparently not that well. That’s why I’m here.”
We have all heard people say that suicide is such a selfish act, because it hurts everyone who loves or even knows the victim. We have all heard that suicide is “the coward’s way out”; that it is braver to stay and fight to solve one’s problems. These sound like logical arguments against suicide to those who are left to grieve. But to the one suffering extreme depression and despair, they are bullshit. Through the depression and bipolar support group I attend I have met several people who have tried to commit suicide several times. It is not easy to carry out. It is not for the ‘coward’ or the feint of heart. If one does it wrong, one can end up living with permanent brain damage or some other lasting disability, along with the shame and regret that one did this to oneself. When a person is contemplating suicide, it is not to hurt other people; quite the opposite. It can come from a strong, false belief that the world, including one’s nearest and dearest would be better off without them.
So what is the best suicide prevention? This may sound trite or simplistic to you, but I believe it is love. But that love needs to be expressed by a willingness to just be with a person who suffers with a mood disorder. Logic, persuasion, expert advice don’t go near as far as just a willingness to take the risk to be a friend, knowing that may not be enough.
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.” – Paul of Tarsus
The painting is acrylic on 11″ x 14″ stretched canvas.
Price: $150 including postage to US address
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