It was three years ago, this past Saturday, Feb. 15, the day after Valentine's Day. His name is Kenny.
Kenny's parents are good friends. They are wonderful people, the kind of people you want to live next door to – forever.
Kenny's parents adopted six children. Although Kenny was born in the United States, his brothers and sisters came from four different countries. Kenny's home was a melting pot of love, humor, craziness and diversity.
I asked Kenny's mom to share with me about her first meeting with baby Kenny.
“Kenny was born on Sept. 18, 1973. He was the cutest little guy with reddish hair, round little face and beautiful clear blue eyes. He had sleeping problems from the beginning, which plagued him all of his life.
“I used to treasure the times I was up with him in the night because he was so cuddly and cute. He had a beautiful, infectious smile that everyone loved. He also was very sociable and friendly, even as a baby. His hair became very blond in the summers because he always wanted to be outside. He had large freckles and once won a ribbon in the freckle contest at the Utah state fair. He was a late talker and the only word he could say when he was 2 years old was “mama.” He would do just about anything to make others happy. He had perfect teeth that made his beautiful smile even more captivating.”
By the time Kenny started school, his parents realized he had special needs. They were sure he had learning disabilities, including ADHD. By the time Kenny was a teenager, he manifested depression and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Kenny's mom mentioned over and over again how much good Kenny had inside himself. He was not a coward. He sought medical help.
He loved his family and friends and would do anything for them.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “A mental illness is a medical condition that disrupts a person's thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning.
“Just as diabetes is a disorder of the pancreas, mental illnesses are medical conditions that often result in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.
“Serious mental illnesses include major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder. The good news about mental illness is that recovery is possible.
“Mental illnesses can affect persons of any age, race, religion or income. Mental illnesses are not the result of personal weakness, lack of character or poor upbringing. Mental illnesses are treatable.”
Before I personally experienced post-partum depression, I would identify any mental illness as a wimpy woman's disease. I was very wrong.
If anything, just as Kenny's mom stated, these individuals are quite the opposite. They are strong, resilient, caring people, who love life and their family.
Kenny's mom mentioned that Kenny drove a truck and traveled all over the country. During the winter months, when Kenny returned home, (sometimes, in the middle of the night), Kenny would come by their house and shovel their driveway.
Three years ago, Kenny was going through a very difficult time with his marriage. Kenny's son Kyler was the love of his life. Kenny was very upset about the situation when he called his mom.
Kenny's mom said she was worried about Kenny, because he mentioned he was moving away. His mom said she could not sleep that night that “something was just not right.” She called Kenny's cell and he did not answer.
Mom and dad headed to Kenny's house.
According to SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education), “Suicide takes the lives of nearly 30,000 Americans every year.”
I testify that we have a very loving Heavenly Father, who will bless us even more during these extreme times of need.
Following the funeral, Kenny's mom said she felt a sweet reassurance. She knew that Kenny's grandfather, her father who had recently died, was there to greet Kenny and that Kenny would be fine.
My message – be kind to others. A person may not use a wheelchair, have lost their hair or be blind. You may not see the hurt. However, they do need us to brighten their day.
Diane Mack is coordinator of Putting Families First, Jackson County’s Family Week Foundation. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.jacksoncountyfamilyweek.org.