I received the news this morning that an old friend and co-worker died of injuries resulting from a domestic dispute. Self-inflicted injuries. I'm writing this not so much to mourn his passing (although I do) but to ask others to take a minute to reflect on old friends and family members who may be in need of an arm to lean on or a shoulder to cry on. My friend of more than 20 years seemed to have it all.....he was a man with a dream and he was well on his way to attaining it. At the age of 48 he was one month away from his life long ambition of being named Fire Chief of a large Indiana fire department. He had a farm, he had a wife, he had 2 teenaged sons and several horses, dogs and, I beleive, chickens. He was a dedicated fire-fighter and a crackerjack EMT. And, most of all, he was a man of great compassion and empathy. He righted wrongs and he always fought the good fight. Always. As a friend, he was stellar. Always there, always calm, always collected and always available. I cannot count the number of times he came to the rescue of myself or my children. I was there for his courtship - he married a girl from the fire department. I was there for his wedding and for the birth of his children. I was the first one to babysit his oldest son. I traveled to Indianapolis with him and his wife and several other fire department employees when there were problems in our department and John wanted us to right them. I do not know what happened in the years gone by. I suppose that just as things change, people change......but what has happened here is beyond the scope of my understanding. Apparently there were problems at home and, over Thanksgiving, he woke his wife in the middle of the night and took her out to the barn where there was a struggle over a gun and shots were fired, although no one was injured. At that time he gave her the gun and begged her to shoot him. He was taken to a mental health facility, held for the required 48 hours and released. A few weeks later he supposedly broke into the house and attacked his wife. She talked him down and he left, she called the police and while the police were at the home taking a report he returned and drove his car into the house. The car burst into flames and he exited the car but ignored the police request to lie down, instead asking them to "just shoot him." They did not oblige and he returned to the burning car and the police had to physically remove him from the vehicle. Both officers were slightly injured in the process and John, my friend, was badly burned. He was flown from an Indiana hospital to a burn unit in Chicago and succumbed to his injuries early this morning without regaining consciousness. I do not know what makes a man want to hurt others. I do not know what makes him want to hurt himself. I only know it happens. His pain must have been tremendous and his hope non-existant. This was not the John I knew and loved. I do not think this was the John that anyone knew and loved. I do not understand how the hospital which did the mental health review allowed him to leave without treatment. I do not understand how the system fails our mentally ill time and time again. I do not know how we fix it. Perhaps we start by making people aware it is broken. By not judging others by their acts but by looking beneath and beyond the act and into the broken hearts and minds that exist there. If I read this story in the newspaper (and trust me, it is there) and I did not know the people involved, I would, perhaps, join all of the others in the comments section saying that he should die and that he was a terrible person and he had no business being a fire chief or a husband or a father or someone worthy of our consideration for dog catcher....but I do know him - and he was not a terrible person, he was a wonderful fireman, batt, chief, EMT, friend, spouse and father for most of his life. What happened in the end, I have no idea - but the end does not describe the entirety and no one should be judged on one act alone no matter how terrible. So, please, if you know someone who's struggling, someone who's lost or angry or afraid, do something. Say something. Tell someone. RIP John - may you finally find peace and may your family recover and remember not just how your life ended but how dedicated you were and valiantly you lived it.