My name is Joe Karlin. I grew up and spent my entire childhood in Great Bend, attended St. Patrick’s School and graduated from high school in 1985. My parents are Leroy and Arlene Karlin. Our family recently lost a son/brother to suicide. I have learned that suicide is becoming more of a problem in communities such as Great Bend and Lenexa.
My mom shared with us the out pouring of love, support and prayers that the St. Patrick’s Church and the Great Bend community have provided her over these past weeks. On behalf of the Karlin family, we truly appreciate your concern and your sharing in our grief as we deal with the tragic loss of our son, and her grandson, Tom.
Such events occur to unknown, faceless people to which we have no connection. They don’t occur in the Lenexa or touch a community like Great Bend. Such a beautiful life is not supposed to end so soon, at just 17 years of age. Kids like Tom, your typical boy next door, don’t make such a decision to take their own life. Tom was well-liked and much-loved, and had a bright future ahead. Tom was a senior at Shawnee Mission West High School, where he was active in NHS and several other clubs, had two jobs, and had participated in four sports. He was smart kid, winning academic letters and a spot on the Principals honor roll. A handsome young man, his friends and family described him as gentle, understanding, considerate, kind, and compassionate. It is not a stretch to say that Tom was as kind and caring as his grandpa, Leroy. Those of you that knew Leroy know that is a very high measure.
The past two weeks since the event have been surreal. The outpouring of love and support for our family is beyond what we can comprehend. As witness to the young man that Tom was and the number of lives he touched, during the visitation, our family received condolences for more than four hours. Immediately following the visitation, Tom’s classmates organized a candlelight vigil, during which the kids mourned their collective loss and shared memories of Tom. Through our current youth minister, we learned that a group of local priests on pilgrimage in Rome offered Mass intentions for Tom and our family, one day in front of John Paul II’s tomb and another day in front of St. Peter’s tomb. Our former pastor informed us that Pope Benedict XVI offered a Mass for the intentions of Tom and our family.
As we’ve started this journey which well travel the rest of our lives, we have been shocked at the number of people who have informed us of family members or friends who attempted or committed suicide. Having been happily ignorant of that sadness and pain, we are now thrust into it and can no longer ignore it. We learned that the Barton County community is assembling a task force to address the recent and dramatic increase in suicides locally. Depression is much too prevalent; suicides attempted or committed much too often. While we know we can’t bring Tom back, we feel strongly that we must do all we can to change the future. We have established a foundation in Tom’s honor to increase depression awareness and address suicide prevention. SM West, Holy Trinity, and our neighbors have each informed us that they are each planning fund raisers, in Tom’s memory and for the purpose of raising funds for depression awareness and suicide prevention.
In closing, I’d like to share an excerpt from Toms eulogy, as read by Joe’s brother, Jerry, who was also Tom’s godfather: Tom, from all of us if there was anything we ever said or did that hurt you, or anything we didn’t say or didn’t do that you needed we beg your forgiveness. Tom, you are so tender-hearted, and we know that you couldn’t foresee the pain that your action caused your friends and family. And so, Tom we forgive you.
May God bless each and every one of you. Please help us remember Tom, and those who suffered similarly or currently suffer depression. Please join us in fighting this problem that is reaching epidemic levels. I may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.
Thank you for all your support to and prayers for my mom and the Karlin family. I am proud to call Great Bend my hometown! And please keep Tom and the entire Karlin family in your prayers.
For Amy, Anna, Ben and Mary Beth Karlin,