Trey Stewart, Sports Editor
Confessionals of immeasurable hope, strength, and courage have been ringing out from coast to coast from those who have chosen to continue living and keep fighting as part of National Suicide Awareness Month. However, Klay Jacks aims to offer hope to a slightly different demographic: those recovering from the tragic loss of a loved one to suicide.
Jacks is a third-year college student at North Greenville University, and is someone who by most standards would be considered a fairly normal guy. But in early 2018, his so-called “normal” life was turned upon its head in the most unexpected and unspeakably heartbreaking of ways.
“She was the greatest type of woman. She would do anything for people, and she was always there if I needed her,” Jacks said, as he sat up tall while speaking glowingly of his late mother.
Kellie Jacks, who took her own life in 2018 at the age of 56, left behind a legacy of love and kindness to everyone that had the privilege of knowing her.
“In 2014, my mom was diagnosed with COPD, a disease which consistently made it very hard for her to breathe. She obtained the proper medication when she was diagnosed, and for the next four years, everything was fine. But in early 2018, she became very sick,” recalled Jacks. “She was having panic attacks, and would tell me that every breath she took felt like she was breathing in fire.”
In February of 2018, out of nowhere, Jacks received a text from his mother that alarmed him greatly. “All the message said was ‘I love you, son.’ I was terrified, and immediately called my dad who told me to come home to be with her.”
When Jacks returned to his house, he received a brutal update on his mother’s condition. His father sat him down and explained that he had found her trying to end her own life on multiple occasions.
Shock set in as Jacks realized just how serious things had gotten, and that he’d almost lost his mother without even knowing it. However, they immediately sought help for her, and she was admitted to Greenville Memorial Hospital on Friday, February 9th. She was sent home the following day.
“The rest of that weekend was great. She was eating plenty, had started cracking jokes again.” Jacks paused and recollected the vivid memories that were flying around inside his head. “For a moment, it felt like I had my mom back again. It really did.”
But as the sun set on the weekend, a brief period of time where Jacks and his father believed things were finally on the mend, they knew nothing of the pain that would follow the very next day.
On Monday, February 12th, 2018, Jacks returned home from work that evening to find police cars in his yard and his father in tears. He found out that his mother had taken a knife and turned it on herself, stabbing herself and the chest multiple times, barely missing any organs. She was airlifted to a hospital, but after two weeks, the doctors brought Klay and his father the most crushing news either of them had ever received. There was nothing they could do to keep her alive any longer.
On Tuesday, February 27, 2018, Kellie Jacks passed away.
“It changed me so much as a person,” said Jacks. “I relied on my mom for so much.”
And although one may have expected Jacks to lose hope in a situation so heartbreaking, it had quite the opposite effect on him.
“As I drove home from the hospital the day she died, I was blessed to see the most beautiful sunset I had ever laid my eyes on. At that moment I prayed, ‘God, thank you. Thank you for giving me and my mom 20 years together. Use this to change me and help me be a light to others.’”
Jacks aims to use his story to bring comfort to others who have had loved ones taken away because of suicide, as well.
“People like myself and so many others have a tragic story, and we can use that story to empower people. Everyone has a mission. I want to encourage them to push forward and keep fighting everyday. There is so much to look forward to in life, my heart breaks knowing other people decide to cut theirs short everyday.”
As September winds down, suicide awareness will likely dwindle on a larger scale, as it does every year. But for those who know Jacks personally and are aware of his story, it’s impossible to deny the power of the testimony he brings with the kindness and strength he exhibits everyday.