By: Ed Kennedy
That was the shocking call I got from my father’s longtime, fantastic girlfriend, D, at about 3 in the afternoon while at the office. I don’t know how to explain that call outside of distant echoing of D’s voice on the other end of the line, while vivid memories of my father and family flashing in my mind that felt like watching a 70 inch screen from 2 feet away. I was choking back tears, literally hiding in an office, trying to book a ridiculous last minute flight from Baltimore to Florida. My awesome wife sprang into action and got everything in order for us to leave in a short 2 hour window. Had a call with my sister, who has been a champ through this process, who helped me drive home (via the phone) while sobbing.
My father had some (ok a lot) of health problems over the last few years, but always battled back because he was a fighter and probably the strongest 60 year old on the planet. The short version of his health story was he had a valve replacement that failed after a separate routine surgery. On the wait at the airport I kept thinking, “How was this the surgery that is going to take him?” “Why now?” and “This can’t be happening, he just kicked my ass in golf last week!”
About the golf, my dad was going into a surgery to gain a better ‘quality of life,’ not a life or death type of surgery; so we thought. My dad decided that we would play a round of golf the day before the surgery then see where the day would take us. We both played fairly well. Truth be told, I am a terrible golfer but only lost one ball which is a personal best. We got to spend three hours reminiscing, talking about our family, life, love, loss while he was coaching me through the day. He coached me throughout my athletic career, and never really stopped coaching me inside and outside the lines. We spent the rest of the day with D and her wonderful family at his favorite restaurant (in Cape Coral) and then went fishing. My aunt and uncle came over and we spent the rest of the night playing all sorts of music on Alexa. Playbook perfect day. I will never forget it and am so thankful for the many people that made it happen. A couple days later he seemed to be recovering, and I went back home. Close to a week passes, and I get the call.
We get to the hospital, and it was the hardest, longest 24 hours of most of our lives. Lots of tears, and every time a family reached the room it was like ripping the band-aid off which would create another waterfall of tears. The room was packed as 20 close family members were able to make it down. His brothers and sisters, my sister and I’s aunt and uncles, are amazing people and all scrambled to the hospital on a moment’s notice. I am so happy everyone was there for support, and while we were all hurting, we all took turns keeping us together.
The next few days after he passed were a blur. This was not supposed to happen, so we did not have much planned. Personally, I wanted to take care of getting the arrangements set, so I could escape and get my mind off the fact that I just lost the biggest influence in my life, my hero, and father. It was a whirlwind of calls to funeral homes, friends, family, acquaintances, and colleagues. One very bright shining light came from this tragedy; everyone was super nice, helpful, and overall showed a great deal of sympathy. It was really nice to see everyone pull together, show up to the services, and everyone was incredibly generous. We will never forget that, and there are so many people I am so incredibly thankful for and know it did not go unnoticed.
My father was an exceptional man who learned from experiences and had incredibly strong love for his family and friends. He was a larger than life character that will live on in our memories. Personally, I know I have not been the same and have been a little more spacey and emotional since this all happen. I have been displacing emotions, and I guess that is still grieving but still gives me guilt. I hear this is ‘normal,’ and I am writing this to maybe help someone if they are going through something drastic. I keep reminding myself of all of the positive things that came from my dad’s passing, but it is incredibly difficult sometimes, and if you don’t get your feelings out, they may come out in another way.