A Walk Of Love

7 Oct

There is no other way to describe it.  On October 2nd, our family took a big step in what will be a long, difficult, multi-year healing process by participating in the Westchester “Out of the Darkness Community Walk” at Croton Point Park, organized and sponsored by the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention (AFSP).  We would not have been able to take this important step had it not been for the overwhelming support from the more than 30 dear friends and family members who walked with us, as well as countless others who couldn’t be there but made donations and/or sent loving emails cheering us on.

According to AFSP’s website, “By walking in the Out of the Darkness Community Walks, you will be walking with thousands of people nationwide to raise money for AFSP’s vital research and education programs to prevent suicide and save lives, increase national awareness about depression and suicide, advocate for mental health issues, and assist survivors of suicide loss.”

It was a walk of love in support of our family.  Since Jeff’s passing, we have felt that love so strongly from so many people.  And on this day, we were joined by our oldest and best friends from our college days, our oldest friends from Chappaqua, family members led by Connie Vames, Carey’s almost 80 year old mother who left most of our team’s walkers in the dust, and Carey’s close friends from all parts of her life. It was spiritually uplifting to be surrounded by all these special people.

It was a walk of love in honor of Jeff.  His closest friends were all there, including three who made the trip from D.C. and Virginia to honor him.  We extend our heartfelt appreciation to Andrew Becker, Andres Gonzalez-Stewart, Thao Lam, Ryan Williams, Brooke Sager, Vikash Khanna, Julie Parise, Elon Rubin, Jackie Commins, Jack Rossman and Lindsey Moschet for being there for us, not only physically on October 2nd, but emotionally for all of the past 11 months.  Jeff was a very lucky guy to have all of you as friends.

Jeff's closest friends walked with us

During the week leading up to the event, I followed the ever changing weather forecast for that Sunday, which until as recently as the night before, called for spotty showers during the day.  I should have realized that there was no reason for concern, as Jeff would never let it rain on ours and his parade.  And sure enough, it turned out to be a gloriously sunny and beautiful autumn day, so very fitting for a young man who brightened all of our days for 23 ½ years. 

Staying on the topic of tributes to Jeff, I had become aware this past spring that the Middlebury brothers of KDR, led by then President, Ray Queliz, were planning to put up some sort of memorial for Jeff at the social house.  When I didn’t hear anything further, I had assumed that it must not have materialized due to the busy pre-graduation days of senior spring for the brothers who knew Jeff the best.  Shame on me for thinking such a thing, even for a split second !

Shortly after my recent blog post about KDR was published (“The Decision To Join The Middlebury Brothers Of KDR, And Other Major Life Choices”, September 20, 2011), Ray emailed me to say that a memorial basketball hoop, with written messages to Jeff all over the backboard, was mounted over the garage at the house this past spring. In addition, he told me that Middlebury will be placing a plaque in memory of Jeff right next to the hoop sometime this semester.  The memorial hoop is pictured below.  The KDR brothers represent yet another pocket of Jeff’s life that was filled with amazing, caring friends.

How did someone with so much love in his life make such a horrific decision to leave us all behind ?  We will never know.  But I want to ask your support for my most recent initiative to show Jeff how we feel about him.  I joined Facebook this week for the sole purpose of creating a group (which I have done) called “Friends of Jeff Klein”, which I would like to grow to at least a couple hundred people.

The purpose of this group is twofold.  First, it will serve as a mechanism through which we can periodically communicate about Jeff by sharing thoughts, memories, blog posts, events (such as maybe future walks), etc.  But even more importantly, it will let Jeff know (and I do believe he will know) just how many people still care about him and that he will never be forgotten.

And so I am asking Jeff’s friends and acquaintances from Greeley, Middlebury, Duke, University College of London, or anywhere else for that matter, to please do one of two things if you are not currently a group member: either send me a “friend request” on Facebook so that I can add you to the group, or go directly to the Friends of Jeff Klein page and join the group.   And of course, Carey’s and my friends should feel free to do so as well.  This request is for a single purpose: to build a very large Facebook group of at least 200 people in Jeff’s honor and in his memory.  You can find me under Richard Klein, email address rktrain@aol.com.  I look forward to hearing from you.  Current members of the group, 150 at present, are also encouraged to add others who they know are friends of Jeff.  Let’s get to 200, which should be easy because Jeff touched many more lives than that.

Together, through this Facebook group, we’re all going to show Jeff how much a part of us he still is.  Just like so many of you recently did during the October 2nd walk of love. 

– Rich Klein

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