Montgomery Family Shares Story of Loss to Save Others

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By Morgan Hightower

Rebecca Ellis will never forget the last conversation she had with son, Cole.

“He said ‘OK mom, I love you’ and I said ‘I love you too.’"

Moments later, 13-year-old Cole took his life.

For everyone who knew him, his suicide was a shock.

“There were no signs, there just weren’t any signs,” explains Ellis.

Cole was a leader in the classroom, on the ball field and in church.

But something was weighing him down and now the Ellis' are sharing his story, hoping to stop another tragedy.

“I think that's where it started, word of mouth. There was a need,” explains Mike Ellis, Cole’s father.

Instead of retreating, the Ellis’ have been upfront, honest and open about Cole’s death since the beginning.

They’ve counseled Cole’s friends, spoken to local churches and now, their audiences are getting larger.

“Kids, let me tell you. There is nothing on this earth worth taking your life over,” Mrs. Ellis says to a crowd.

Every speech starts out the same with a slide-show of pictures of her family and a little background about Cole.

“He was a straight A student, a leader, athletic and his heart… was incredibly large.”

There’s no script. Everything that comes next is straight from the heart.

“I just think, I hope it touches them in the way they need to be touched,” said Ellis.

Mrs. Ellis' story touched Jessie Kilpatrick, a teacher and parent.

It was a message she says she'll never forget.

“I’m just thinking about my daughter and to even fathom a little bit how she must feel, was just... I couldn’t even imagine if that happened to my daughter,” said Kilpatrick.

To students - Ellis encourages them to find an accountability partner, and tells them it’s OK to ask for help.

“Hearing her story, and how strong she is through all this, everyone needs to hear this,” says Broghan Freeland, a student at Prattville High School.

“Do you feel like when you are speaking about your son that you are reliving the loss of him or that you are reliving the joy of him being in your life?”

“I think that mostly it’s reliving the joy that he was in my life and that he is in my life still but the strength is purely God,” said Ellis.

The Ellis’ faith in a higher power has been at the center of their recovery and it's what led them to share their story.

“There will be another storm. God promises it. But what is your foundation built on? Is it strong or will you be washed away? We don’t want to community to see us washed away,” said Cole’s father.

They first spoke the night of their son’s death at a prayer vigil, then a week later at a local church. Now, they have engagements several times a month.

But it isn’t just in high school auditoriums or sanctuaries… it’s at a local ball field, or grocery store, even in their home.

“It’s quite overwhelming. These kids have so many pressures nowadays,” said Ellis.

Educators say they’re challenged to do everything, and be the best at it.

“It's something that's a huge part of their life that they're contending with.”

Richard Dennis is the principal at Prattville High School and sees daily the struggle of his students.

He says these kids need to hear Mrs. Ellis' story.

“That's what I’m banking on- that some point down the line, we've been able to reach out through Mrs. Ellis' testimony, touch somebody and save them in the future,” said Dennis.

The Ellis' message is simple but passionate.

“Suicide should never be an option. There are some of you today who may have had thoughts of suicide. Please find help.”

The Ellis' story doesn't end here. In the future, they hope to open a non-profit grief counseling center for families who have experienced loss. They’re thinking of calling it, ‘The Cole Center.’

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