Guest Author - Susan Hubenthal
KELLY'S GRADUATION SPEECH
July 26, 1991
Good afternoon, Staff, Students, Family & Friends, and Fellow Graduates.
First let me say as President this will be my last speech.Thank you.
Graduation, what does it mean? To me it is a very big sense of
accomplishment. Graduating is also something I've never done in my life
span. Besides watching a football game, I don't think I've ever started
something, followed thru and completed it. When I first came here the staff,
(a certain few in particular), told me I was somebody and I could make it,
my mother has always told me this but, as always, I just laughed inside.
Probably because I was used to setting myself up for failure.
Since I have been here, there has been a lot of ups and downs but I've
learned I can do it. I've been dorm leader for 4 ½ months of my stay. I've
been in several other leadership areas and also been elected by my peers to
the Student Government President, 2 terms running. Maybe I should give
Bush a run for his money. Ha!
To all the Graduates I say, "Give yourself a pat on the back you deserve
it. This is not the end! For me it's just the beginning.
And to all my friends and fellow students, don't lose sight of your goals.
Accomplish what it was you came here for. Besides, if I can do it, you can
Kelly had wonderful dreams and hopes for a happy future. A job was
waiting for him, and arrangements were made to share an apartment. He was
about to experience life armed with an education, a direction, and self-pride,
but most important, he was clean and sober.
But, Kelly was lonely. He was having difficulty holding a job, partly
due to his asthma and partly due to his attention deficit problems so he
moved back home. He wanted to be closer to his family and to his favorite
sporting events. Kelly loved all sports and he knew all the team statistics. He
had a great speaking voice. I always thought he could have been a sports
Five years later, Kelly died on the floor of his home. Alone. Out of
sympathy, Kelly had hired a former acquaintance, who was down and out
and recently out of jail, to do some landscaping. Kelly had a big heart, and
always helped the misfortunate.
The last time I saw Kelly alive was on Mother's Day, 1996. We went
out to lunch with his Grandma and we had a wonderful time. Kelly seemed
so mature, happier, and more settled. He told us that he had hired the
acquaintance to do some landscaping, because this man had just gotten out
of jail and he needed a job. He also commented that this person was using
drugs. Kelly said that he was very thankful all of that was behind him, and
thought the landscaper was stupid for doing drugs. Naively, I sighed to
myself, "Thank God, at least Kelly isn?t doing drugs, anymore." We hugged
and kissed good-bye. I told him I loved him and he responded likewise. That
was the last time I saw him alive.
We spoke on the phone, occasionally, over the next few weeks. The last
conversation we had was to thank him for the birthday gift and card he had
sent to me. Before we hung up, he said,"I love you, Mom." That was the
last time I would ever hear his voice.
Unrelenting grief and overwhelming guilt became my only companion. I
wasn't certain I wanted to live from one day to the next. I wished for death.
Not suicide, I just wanted to die so I could be with my son. I tried, in vain,
for over two years to find a support group for parents whose children had
died from substance abuse. I felt so alone! I put my grief on paper, and
began to write Kelly's story.
My husband bought me a computer so I could begin the journey to find
other parents whose children had died in this manner. I found GriefNet and
there was a category for parents of children who died from substance abuse.
Suddenly, I had friends with no faces, but huge hearts and open arms. They
understood my pain. They, too, were experiencing it. I was finally able to
express my grief, and no one rolled their eyes when I told them how my son
died. They didn't point fingers and assume I was a bad mother. They cared,
they stayed close, and they supported me, and loved me. My sanity was
spared! The pain hasn't gone away, it has become part of my life. But, now I
am able to help others, in return, and I am passionate to get our story told. I
have come to know and love these beautiful, sensitive, young people, as
well as their parents. We have become a family bound together, forever, by
love and grief.
This story is for parents who say, "Not my child!" It's for the parents
who are alone in grief and isolation, burdened with sadness and
hopelessness. It is for us, and for all parents of children who have been
stolen from us by drugs. It is a way to keep their memory alive and find
some meaning in their deaths. Most of all it is for our living children,
grandchildren, all children.
The Coroner didn't think Kelly had been using heroin until that week.
Kelly was right handed and he had three needle marks in his right arm. This
has raised many questions in my mind. Did he inject himself? The
landscaper, and his girlfriend, told the Sheriff they partied with Kelly and
slept over. They said when they went to bed Kelly was alive watching a
video. Supposedly they woke up around noon, the next day, and found Kelly
on the floor. DEAD! They cleaned up their mess and left. Several hours
later, they phoned authorities to report his death. There was no real
investigation. That was it! Case closed! My son is DEAD!
After a passage of time, I feel less animosity for these two people. I
realize that they, too, are victims of the "War On Drugs." I wish them no
more pain than they must already feel, I pray they are able to get effective
drug treatment and have productive, happy lives. This is what Kelly would
want for them.
Parents, please stay close to your children. If they are troubled, hold
them closer,love them more. If you suspect drug abuse, seek understanding, educate yourself about drugs and find help. Unfortunately, the system doesn't always work, and it won't until the laws are changed to
make addiction a public health issue, not a criminal offense. Too many
children fall through the cracks! We must spend more money and time on
saving our children and keeping them safe. Statistics have shown it is easier
to be cured of cancer than it is to curb drug addiction. We save the whales,
we save the owls. Together, we must save our children. They are
endangered species, too!