Let It Be

9 Nov

And when the broken-hearted people living in the world agree,

There will be an answer.

 Let it be.

For though they may be parted,

There is still a chance that they will see,

THERE WILL BE AN ANSWER.

 LET IT BE.”

                         -Beatles, “Let It Be”, 1970

____________________________________________________________________________

Dear Jeff,

You and I both knew that this day would come, the time when a few years had passed and I had shared everything about you that there was to share—every anecdote, every photo, every text message and every email—and there was simply not much more to say about who you were, how this nightmare could have happened, how utterly devastated I am to have lost our firstborn son, how our family has navigated the road to recovery, and what I’m now trying to do for the causes of suicide prevention and of exercising caution in prescribing anti-depressants.

You know, in the beginning, I wrote on the blog for purely selfish reasons.  Writing turned out to be an effective form of therapy through which I could both unleash my raging emotions and also ensure that, for at least the ten or so minutes it took someone to read a blog post, people were thinking of you.  For as only parents of deceased children can truly understand, the single biggest fear I had in the aftermath of this tragedy is that people would quickly move on and rarely think of my precious son who had died such a senseless death.  I truly felt desperate to keep your memory alive.

However, I quickly found that quite the opposite was true and that because you were such a force in this world during the time you were here, your friends and family thought about you frequently.  As examples, when March Madness rolled around, people thought of and talked about the upsets that you had always longed to see.  When David Stern announced his retirement, people were abuzz about how you must have been partying in Heaven.  When Obama was re-elected, several people emailed me on Election Day to say that they literally thought about you as they pulled the lever next to his name.

And on your 26th birthday, your friends in London, who had only known you for the three months you spent there in 2007 but upon whom you had an enormous impact, initiated Project Bald in your honor.  Everyone from those friends in London, to friends from Middlebury, to high school friends, to Chappaqua parents and of course your family, cut their hair in memory of you, and many went completely bald.

Project Bald pastires

DEREK SCHLICKEISEN--JEFF'S MIDDLEBURY KDR BROTHER

DEREK SCHLICKEISEN–JEFF’S MIDDLEBURY KDR BROTHER

Jeff's longtime childhood friend, Michael Fiorelli

JEFF’S LONGTIME CHILDHOOD FRIEND, MICHAEL FIORELLI

TARZAN TAHSIN OZAN GEMIKONAKLI, CREATOR OF PROJECT BALD

And of course, there is this day, November 9th, on which anyone who ever knew you will think about where they were when they heard the horrific and shocking news.

No, people will not forget Jeffrey Klein.  The passion with which you lived is legendary, and it will make you impossible to forget.

Even after I realized that, I still kept writing, and then for more than selfish reasons.  I’ve received dozens of emails over these three years from people who have encouraged me to keep at it because my posts were inspiring others.  I didn’t understand why at first, but I have come to realize that virtually everyone out there is dealing with something difficult in their lives, and seeing how open I’ve been about you, what happened, and how we’re dealing with perhaps the most appalling tragedy imaginable, gave people encouragement that they can overcome their own issues and also made them feel less alone.  I hope and pray that is the case, and I am humbled by even the notion that my writing may have achieved a greater purpose than the selfish one that initially drove it.

As for me, my routine of remembrance will never change.  When I sit down at my desk at work in the morning and wait for my computer to plod through its start-up process– which ultimately ends by displaying as my wallpaper the last picture of you and your brothers together on that sand mound in East Hampton– I remove your picture from my pocket (I literally carry it everywhere I go) and strategically place it on the same spot on my desk where it is easy for me to glance at it every few minutes.

Computer photo

Computer photo

Then, I dial your cell phone number, 914-450-5601, and listen to your strong voice deliver your voicemail greeting.  On this day in 2010, I trembled in fear when I couldn’t reach you and my frantic calls went straight to that very same voicemail greeting.  Now, I crave hearing your voice in that greeting, as it calms me and makes me feel like we’re starting our day together.  To forever preserve my ability to hear your voice on demand, I will continue to pay your cell phone bill for as long as I live.

I wear your clothes and always will.  It makes me feel so connected to you when I wear your Middlebury t-shirts and pullover tops that fit me so well.  That gray Nike long-sleeve pullover shirt that you opened on Christmas morning in 2008, the video clip of which I have shared on this blog, is one of my favorites, as it still somehow has a trace of your smell on it, even after having been washed so many times.  And remember when I wore your Giants jersey on Super Bowl Sunday in 2012 when the Giants beat the Patriots to win the championship?  Once I put that jersey on that day, I felt as if you were watching it with us, and I knew the Giants couldn’t lose.   And when I wore your Obama ’08 shirt, despite my own political leanings, on Election Night 2012, I knew he couldn’t lose either.

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I hope you can hear me when I talk to you.  I think you can, because when I’ve looked at your picture and said, “Ok Jeff, it’s time to go meet Julie for coffee,” or “it’s time to go meet A.B. for lunch”, or “Jeff, we’re going to London to see Tarzan, Mo and Imogen!”, or “Jeff-you, Mom and I are going into Manhattan to have brunch with Thao,” it has appeared as if your smile widens ever so slightly in that photo.  And when I tell you we’re going to a Knicks or Yankees game with Drew and Brett, it really looks like it widens a lot.  Oh, that smile.  I’ve never seen a smile light up a room like yours did and still does in your photos.  It’s magical.  Who could ever have imagined that someone who so frequently flashed that smile would one day consciously choose to end his life in such a violent manner?

jeff in midd t shirt

photo (7)

Jeff double kiss

I feel your presence everywhere I go, but perhaps nowhere more than in the gym at Club Fit.  We used to see each other there often on weekends when we went to lift weights.  I used to swell with pride when I saw you walking toward me—smiling, of course– with your headphones on; they were attached to your IPod which rested in that black armband holder which struggled to stay wrapped around your muscular upper arm.  Even now, there are times when I see a young man who resembles you approaching from across the gym, and I freeze until I’m totally convinced that it’s not you.  Yes, fantasy will probably always be a part of my life.  Some might consider that to be pathetic and pity me.  I just consider myself to be forever hopeful that you might one day come home for a short visit.

Virtually every time I’m there, I go to the old fashioned file cabinets where they still keep all the training records for members who have worked with personal trainers over the years.  Sure enough, a file folder labeled “Jeffrey Klein” containing your training cards from March of 2001 still remains.  You were 14 and in 8th grade, and you wanted to get in really good shape prior to high school to ensure that you made the freshman soccer team that fall.  Needless to say, you did.

I suppose I should remove the file folder and take it home to keep with all the other precious memories of you.  But I leave it there, because when I visit that file cabinet and look at your card between sets on the butterfly machine, it makes me feel as if you are still at the gym with me and I can walk over there and connect with you again.  Just like in the old days.  You were 5’8” at the time, on your way to 6 feet in the ensuing couple of years.

Jeff's health card

I look at your perfect health record indicated on the card and can’t avoid thinking about how you destroyed your perfect and healthy body nearly a decade later.  Thankfully, you were gone immediately and didn’t have to endure physical pain, but dear God, the thought of the terror you must have felt while in the air for those few seconds…You cannot imagine the pain that shoots through every part of me when my mind goes to these places.

Speaking of the destinations to which my mind sometimes travels, there are no boundaries when I’m walking alone on weekend mornings, deep in the woods at Gedney Park with Dobi (our greyhound that you never met but who I know you helped return to us last Christmas Eve when she went missing).  I’m sure you understand that I don’t spend all that time thinking only about you.  In fact, I spend most of it thinking about how deeply I love Mom, Drew and Brett and how incredibly thankful I am to have them and to be so close to each of them individually, and also to still be so close as a family unit.  Because if not for them, Jeff…well, you know better than anyone how this sentence ends.

But of course, a portion of my walks are dedicated to thinking about you, and over the past three years, my mind has covered a lot of ground.  I have thought of the times we shared together at every stage of your life, from my rushing home from work to play with you in the basement of our Millwood townhouse during your first four years, to shooting baskets in the driveway of our first home in Chappaqua,  our baseball trip to different ballparks in 2003 when you turned 16, going to the Big East Tournament together in 2010, trick or treating with you on Halloween every year when you were a kid, all the Knicks and Yankees games, going to your plays, band concerts, travel soccer and basketball games in middle school, JV and Varsity basketball games in high school, ski trips, family beach vacations and vacations abroad, coaching your rec basketball team for four years, flying with you to London to help you get set up for your semester abroad, parents’ weekends at Middlebury, your high school and college graduations, prepping you for job interviews, playing tennis, ping pong, one-on-one basketball and mini golf together, having baseball catches in the backyard after work, teaching you how to hit, picking you up at that party in Scarsdale when you got drunk for the first time and couldn’t get home, taking you to the train station parking lot to teach you how to drive, and coming to get you when you totaled your car on an icy Mount Kisco road in 2005.  And of course, doing everything I could over your last two months to make you understand how much you had to live for.  This list represents only a fraction of the times we shared.  Man, there weren’t many things that we didn’t do together.

In one of your suicide notes, in the paragraph addressed to me, you wrote,

“The times we shared, I will always treasure.”

But that’s ridiculous, man.  How could you not have seen the absurdity of those words?  You can’t treasure anything when you’re dead, Jeff.  Or maybe your spirit in Heaven can?  I just don’t know.

Do you remember “The Napkin”?   Oh, I thought I was so smart and had such a great brainstorm as to how to pull you out of your funk in October 2010.  I was sitting at my desk at work one day thinking about how ridiculous it was that you were feeling so down about yourself.  Then the light bulb went on, and I needed to write my thoughts down while they were fresh.

 For some strange reason, I couldn’t find a pad or a clean sheet of paper anywhere on my cluttered desk, but there was a clean white paper napkin, and so I unfolded it and started to draw.  I drew a grid with rows and columns.  Down the left side of the napkin, I listed attributes: looks, intelligence, friends/social life, family love & support, financial backing, and the ability to get into a fine law school.  Across the top, I labeled the three columns: low, medium, high.  Naturally, it was a no-brainer for me to check the “high” box next to each and every attribute.  I mean, you were a guy who unquestionably had it all.

The Napkin

I was so certain I had come up with the perfect way to illustrate to you that your future was beautiful that I literally sprinted out of my office to catch the next train home so I could show you The Napkin.  When I entered your room, I removed it from my pocket and asked you to look at it.  You studied it intently.  I remember our exact conversation, word for word, from there:

Me:  “Jeff, now let me ask you something—is there anything on this napkin that you disagree with?”

You:  “No, not at all.  I don’t disagree with any of it.”

Me:  “Ok then.  What I want you to do is keep this in your night table drawer, and whenever you feel the least bit down about anything, take it out, look at it again, and remind yourself how blessed you are.”

You:  “Ok, I definitely will.  Thanks, Dad.”

I have no idea if you ever looked at it again.  But on that night, I naively thought I had broken through the cloud that hovered around your head and that I had shown you the light.  I have been blessed with emotional stability and so I had no idea how overly simplistic it was for me to assume that I had solved this complex problem by showing you the facts on a napkin.  I was unable to relate to the depth of the despair that you were feeling, which was compounded by the medication you had been taking.

On the night of your death, I went up to your room and opened your night table drawer.  The Napkin sat right where I had seen you place it that night, and right next to it was your wallet.  I’ve since added the dollar bill that you brought to the bridge in case you decided to turn around, pay the toll, and come home.  It all remains there today.

jeff's night table

And now about the blog…

To be clear, Jeff, this blog remains wide open for business regardless of whether or not I continue writing.  My potential decision to stop writing doesn’t affect that.  This is everyone’s blog, not mine, and Elon’s concept in creating it was for it to develop into a mosaic of your life over time.  I fear that by dominating it as an author, I may have gotten in the way of that development.  And so I will encourage everyone who wants to contribute a post, a photo, a thought, or anything at all, to send it me or Elon, and we will post it.

Like so many professional athletes over the years who grudgingly retired when their numbers started to decline, but who ultimately returned to their sports when they realized that they just couldn’t stay away from the game, I too would reserve the right to come back and blog more about you someday.  But for now, I sense that it might be time for me to step aside and let it be.  I am not at all certain that this would be the right decision for me, for you, or for the blog’s readers.  And that is why I have, for now, simply decided to take a breather, listen to feedback from others, and allow my heart to ultimately decide what to do.

I listen to “Let It Be” every single weekend when I’m alone in my car, and it soothes me.  I hear Paul McCartney sing so passionately that there will be an answer, and to a degree, that is certainly true in your case.  You became overwhelmed by the cold, pressure-cooker atmosphere of a major international law firm at which you worked an exhausting number of hours, and in August 2010, you reached a breaking point and quit.

You were so shaken by the experience that you agreed to a psychiatrist’s recommendation to take anti-depressants, and those pills completely destroyed your ability to think clearly for the last two months of your life.  You never recovered from the side effects of the multiple types of medication you were given.  I pray that what happened to you will prompt others to exercise great caution and carefully consider the necessity of taking such drugs before doing so.

But there will never really be an answer, at least not in the way that the Beatles meant it.  How can there ever be an answer for the random nature of life that led you to such a job in the first place and caused you take it so irrationally hard when you left it.  Why couldn’t you just have moved on and sought something better suited for you, rather than seeking comfort from a doctor and his medication?

And how can there really be an answer given that if someone had asked me in mid-July of 2010, less than 4 months before you left us, how 2010 was going for you, I would have responded that it was probably among the top 3 best years of your life.  You had the time of your life in Newport on July 4th weekend, spent Memorial Day weekend in D.C. with your buddies, and spent days of heavy partying at Duke and UNC that April.  You were blogging away, thoroughly enjoying your times with friends and family, and your texts reflected the joy you were feeling.  Suicidal people don’t write texts that say, “This is paradise” and “living the dream…” just four months before they jump, Jeff.

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And what about the events of three years ago today?  On the day you made an earnest attempt to get to your initial behavioral therapy appointment, why on earth did your Bluetooth not work when I called you, causing you to be pulled over by a cop?  And once you got going again, how could the Sprain Parkway, the road on which one almost never finds traffic, be jammed like a parking lot that morning?

And there will never be an answer as to why, after having lunch with Mom in our kitchen for over an hour while talking it all over, you told her you were going upstairs to work on your law school applications while she picked up Brett at his bus stop.  When she got home, you were gone.

What caused you to make the snap decision, after Mom left the house, to write your final notes and bolt?  We were going to watch the Knicks-Bucks game that night, weren’t we?

There will never be closure on these agonizing questions, and that is why it is impossible to just let it be.  But I have no choice, Jeff, because you’re gone and you’re not coming back.

You closed your final note to the family by writing:

“I have prayed to God for forgiveness, and I hope He will answer my prayers.  I too have prayed for each of you, and in spite of this decision, I care about you all deeply.  I hope to see you all in Heaven, reunited, one big happy family for all eternity.  Until then, may peace be with you all.”

But that’s impossible, Jeff, because you destroyed the peace in our lives.  How can there ever truly be peace for Mom and me again?  As I’ve written in previous posts, I’m trying really hard to overcome this post-traumatic stress that I feel, but I’m struggling mightily.  By executing on your completely absurd and misguided notion as to how to put yourself at peace, you took it away from the rest of us.

Let that be a lesson to others who have loving families and who perhaps think about following in your footsteps.  If they love the “survivors” that they’d be leaving behind, they must not do it.  They must instead turn to their family and friends for support in getting through the rough patches.  That is obviously what you should have done.  We were here for you with open arms and open hearts.

Fortunately, though, despite the lack of complete serenity, we have regained our ability to enjoy things again.  I mean, I really get pumped up when I win tough tennis matches or go to Knicks games with your brothers and Mom, and I enjoy my quiet evenings out on dates with Mom more than ever.  And I love spending time with our closest friends and family.

At first, I had a guilty feeling when I felt happy about these things, as if that wasn’t appropriate after having lost our precious son.  But after reading the last page of Harriet Schiff’s book “The Bereaved Parent”, I came to understand that it was ok to be happy and that we deserved to be so.  She closed her book by writing:

“As long as I live I will be sorry Robby is dead.  That is fact.  That is something I carry always.  There are times, especially the good times, when I miss him still.  But there are still good times.  We share joys as a family that he did not live to share and I am sorry.  But we still have joys.  That is as it should be for us.  That is as it should be for you.”

And so it should be.  Given your love for us, I know you would want it to be that way.  You made the decision to no longer physically be a part of our family joys, and so I cannot feel guilty any more.  I am confident that you understand this.

Despite my obvious frustration, I know you also know how much I love you and how much energy I still devote to thinking about you, looking at you, talking to you and taking care of your memory every single day.  And I will never stop doing those things.

My wish for you is that you continue sleeping peacefully, my son.  And always remember that although I may not be writing about you anymore, you remain as big a part of our family as ever, and my love for you is eternal.

Go Knicks.  Go Yankees.  Go Giants.  And go #16 seed in March Madness which will one day upset a #1 seed, as per the declaration you made in your J.K. Rolling column from April 11, 2007.  When it happens, I expect to look up and see you holding that classic beer mug with a pretzel stick in the handle, with a smile on your face that is bigger and broader than ever.  Because I can assure you that at that moment, when the mother of all upsets has occurred for the first time in history, everyone who ever knew you or has read about you here will be looking up to Heaven, fully expecting that you will lead their celebration.  Until then…

All my love,

Dad

Jeff saluting

beer with pretzel rod

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vq1sK8Xfm5E

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4 Responses to “Let It Be”

  1. Maxine Margo Rubin November 9, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    I have read all the posts and comments over the last three years, and I implore Rich, as well as everyone who receives these posts, to continue writing, as Jeff’s spirit comes alive with every word. I have a special place in my heart for Jeff, as he helped my son get through a very rough time in his life. He had a horrific accident, and very much needed his friends to help him through his long and painful rehabilitation. The “guys” usually Jack, Ryan, Andrew, Jeff and assorted other drop-ins, would come over to my house and play poker. This included fairly loud conversations about sports and other worldly matters (girls…etc.), which many times took them into the wee hours of the night. Most parents would have promptly kicked them out at a reasonable time, but I was happy to have them over to help supply some “normalcy” to E’s life. It was a very tough summer, and finally the day came when E could go out with his friends and was able to go to a party. The friend who came to pick him up was Jeff. E was so happy to get out, but I, of course, was a nervous wreck. Jeff was amazing as he helped E into the car, took his crutches and placed them in the trunk, and then drove off. I found out the next day, that the house where the party was happening had many steps to climb to get to the front door. E was not at the point where he could do steps well, and so Jeff, with his strong hulking arms, picked him up and carried him up the stairs, basically letting E know that he was covered and safe on his watch. It was a little thing that showed the big size of Jeff’s heart. A little thing that I will never forget. While we will never return to normalcy after Jeff’s passing, I will cherish the normalcy he supplied to E’s life, as well as my own, in the summer of 2007.

  2. Mir December 15, 2013 at 11:57 am #

    I didn’t know your son in life, but I feel I have come to know him somewhat through your blog. I truly stumbled across it, and have been reading it ever since. I must be one of those people that you have helped and inspired with your heartfelt and honest words. I hope you will have much peace and joy in the future and I know your son will endure forever through your love and that of his family and friends.

    • kleinsaucer December 18, 2013 at 8:44 am #

      Thanks very much for posting this and for taking the time to get to know Jeff. Merry Christmas to you

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. A blank canvas | EEmeetsTT - November 12, 2013

    […] Rich Klein’s post on Kleinsaucer Read here. […]

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