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Funeral reminds us that every life is precious

July 30, 2009 - Betsy Bethel
What do you say at a funeral for a husband and wife in their 60s killed in a murder-suicide?

The Rev. Theresa Bobot, had an extremely difficult assignment at Belmont United Methodist Church Tuesday. But with God's help, she handled the memorial service for Frank and Bonnie Koci beautifully.

I did not know the Kocis, but as it turns out we knew some of the same folks. I was there as a piper for the service. Bonnie was of Celtic heritage and a member of the Wheeling Celtic Society. At their daughter's request, I played "Amazing Grace" at the conclusion of the service.

I went with some trepidation. I wondered if there might be open hostility. But I fretted in vain. The group gathered to mourn also clearly wanted to celebrate the lives of their friends.

The hour-and-a-half service began with a reading of Psalm 23 in an amplified (read: flowery) translation. It was lengthy, but because it was not the typical translation, I feel I listened more closely. It served to soothe my jangled nerves, and I hope it did the same for the mourners.

Next there were two eulogies, one for Bonnie and one for Frank. (There also were two separate guest books, although a glance through them showed most guests signed them both.) Bonnie's eulogizer, a fellow teacher and good friend, painted a picture of Bonnie through anecdotes that illustrated the kindergarten teacher's love for music, children and storytelling, her road trips gone awry and her propensity for delivering witty and often self-deprecating one-liners. Frank's eulogizer, a friend of the couple's since college, shared memories mostly of their college and early teaching days. It seemed Frank was always ready to lend a hand in his church and community.

What the minister did next was courageous and I feel absolutely necessary. She asked those gathered to share their own memories of Bonnie and/or Frank. Talking about the good times is a huge piece in solving the grief puzzle, no matter what the circumstances of a person's death. It is hoped that publicly sharing memories brings a healing closure for those who share as well as those who listen. It is especially important in instances of violent or unexpected death, because people are so caught off guard. They feel such an upheaval. They may be angry and certainly confused. It took courage for Rev. Bobot to open the service up for comments because there was no telling what might be said. I am glad for all who knew the Kocis that the dozen or so mourners who chose to speak up showed decorum. People smiled and even laughed out loud. They knowingly nodded or shook their heads, grinning, as if to say, "That was Bonnie!" There were, of course, some tears, but not a negative word was spoken.

Next, the talented Maryann Droll played guitar and sang a lovely and, again, soothing, hymn to the tune of Danny Boy (Londonderry Air).

And then Rev. Bobot gave a sermon. I don't remember all of what she said, but what stuck with me was her assurance that God does not will such violent or tragic deaths, but the reality is that such atrocities happen in this broken world. She said that is why He sent Jesus — to save all of us who are sinners, and all of us are. Because of Jesus, no matter what happens here on Earth, we can have hope that paradise awaits us when we die.

Nobody knows exactly what went on between Frank and Bonnie. There has been a lot of speculation, a lot of rumors and hearsay, a lot of blame, perhaps misplaced, perhaps not. I did not know them and have nothing to reveal about the circumstances leading up to their deaths.

The tragedy does remind me, however, of the need for people to know they are not alone. By all accounts, Frank and Bonnie Koci were upstanding members of their community and church. Sometimes, people who are in such positions feel they must live up to a certain ideal, that they can't have deeply troubling issues or that if they do, they must keep them hushed up. They may feel ashamed and they don't know where to turn for help. They don't even know they have options.

There is help out there, if people are willing to seek it. (Again, I'm not saying the Kocis did or didn't seek help -- I don't know). Talk therapy, whether with a clergy member, trusted friend or professional counselor, can relieve burdens simply by "getting them off your chest." Just like the right power tool or kitchen gadget makes the job so much easier, professional counselors can provide people with tools to help them navigate through a myriad of struggles — from addiction, to past abuse, to communication issues with a loved one, to emotional or physical abuse. Without the right tools, it can be nearly impossible to get through. With the right tools, there is hope. Millions of others have proven it can be done.

If you feel you are in a desperate spot and don't know where to turn for help, here are some numbers to call that can get the ball rolling in the direction toward healing. Every life is precious. Get help today!

National Suicide Prevention 24-Hour Hotline: 800-SUICIDE (784-2433)

Tri-County Help Center 24-Hour Domestic Violence or Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-695-1639.

YWCA Family Violence Prevention Center 24-Hour Hotline: 800-698-1247.

Alcoholics Anonymous Hotline 800-333-5051.

Gamblers Anonymous Hotline 800-426-2537.

Narcotics Anonymous Hotline 888-251-2426.

Information Helpline (Referral Service) 304-233-6300.

Sexual Assault Help Center 24-Hour Hotline 800-884-7242.

As always, in an emergency, call 911.


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