I have typed and retyped the same sentence 5645646878132 times.  There are few instances where I just don’t know where to start, and this is one of those.  It’s hard to eulogize someone who defies description, and it’s hard when you were friends, but not best friends.  There are many people who I care for (and people that I don’t know at all) who were closer to Justin than me, so it’s important to point out that this isn’t about me at all.  I just want to talk about a few things and be as honest as I can be and tell some stories.

From 2005 to 2008, I worked at the movie theater in Paintsville.  If Justin Chafin ever paid for a movie during that time, I must not have been working.  When one of my best friends married one if his fraternity brothers, I gained a whole group of awesome guy friends, but I’d already known Chafin for years.  At a wedding once, we did a full Dirty Dancing style lift like a couple of morons.  There were texts and messages filled with 90’s music trivia, and a grand tour of Pikeville in summer of 2013.  That’s the thing — everyone that has ever met him has stories like this.  Tons of people have a million more than I do.  But, there aren’t any bad stories with Chafin.  I can’t imagine anyone on this Earth has a single bad thing to say about him.  What would you say?  Oh, he was too funny?  Oh, he was too witty?  Oh, he was too smart?  That guy, Justin Chafin, he loved Kesha and America too much and was just too fun to be around.  Get out of here.

My heart has been burdened and heavy for his friends and family since I heard the news.  What do you do in that situation?  I really don’t know.  Suicide is so hard to talk about and even harder to deal with when it’s someone close to you.  I can’t fathom the shock, the pain, the guilt, and all of the questions.  It absolutely breaks me for them just thinking about it.

If you are reading this and you have struggled or are struggling, please talk to someone.  Don’t hide it, don’t feel guilty.  There is nothing wrong with you.  You are important, you are needed, and you are loved.  Most of all, you are not alone and you don’t have to do this by yourself.  I have been in the darkest places, I have felt the weight of wishing I didn’t have to live anymore, I have quite literally prayed that I would die.  I have wished terrible things on myself and cried myself to sleep believing that the world would be better off without me.  I’m not scared to admit that to you today because I want anyone reading this to know that it can get better, there are people who want to help, and there are people who understand.  You are never, ever alone.  Night or day, I would pick up the phone for anyone reading this, anyone I know well or barely know, if it means helping you get through a tough time and an even tougher decision.

Suicide is taboo.  When you don’t understand the struggle, it’s easy to dismiss it.  I have heard many people say things like, “How selfish” and “What a coward” (and many, many other awful things) about anyone committing suicide — this must stop.  This stigma and idea that someone suffering so deeply is somehow a selfish, cowardly person is the reason people do not get help.  Your attitude and willingness to just lend an ear may save a life because you never, ever know what someone is going through. You never know what is happening behind closed doors and how much they hurt.  Many people reading this today don’t have any idea that I, myself, have struggled with suicidal thoughts since I was a teenager.  It may come as a surprise to you.  You may say — but she’s so happy, she’s so funny, she’s so… that is my entire point.  Be mindful of the words you speak and extend kindness to everyone you meet. You have no clue if someone close to you or someone you see every single day is teetering on the seesaw of depression, anxiety, and wishing for it all to end.

Justin Chafin should not be gone.  The loss of such a joyous person will be felt by many people for the rest of their lives.  My sincere prayer is that he found the peace he so desperately sought, and I hope he was met by Ronald Reagan and immediately handed an American flag.  You will be sorely missed, sir.

Until next time.