Fifteen years ago today we lost our son, Kenny. I rarely talk about our son's death unless it is with family or very close friends. However for sometime now I have been thinking of writing about his death. I hope that by sharing this story I will find a little more closure. The picture to the left is of Kenny, his Dad and I. It was taken when Kenny was just a few days old.
How the day began...
Wednesday, February 9th, 2000 began like any other day for us. We got up and ready for work, just like we did every morning. Little did we know that our world would come crashing down around us shortly after lunch.
At the time I was a corporate travel agent for American Express. Our office was in the corporate headquarters of global company. I was on the phone making multiple reservations for someone when my boss came and told me I need to get off the phone. The person I was speaking with was not happy about the interruption and after several more attempts my boss finally told the person that there was emergency and she needed me to get off the phone. I wondered what is going on?
My boss took me to a small room where my husband Tommy waited for me. I knew when I saw his face that it was not going to be good news. He put his hands in mine and looked me in the eye and told me he was very sorry but that our son Kenny was dead. I have no doubt that this was the hardest thing that my husband had to do. Tommy said he was taking me to my parents home that they wanted to be with me. I said no, I wanted to go to the hospital and see for myself that this was for real. The reason I insisted on going to the hospital was because I had just talked to Kenny on the phone a few days before when he called asking for a copy of birth certificate. He told me that he had either lost his driver's license or it had been stolen.
No, not my son! This is a mistake! I refused to believe that my precious child had died. How? Why? Where? When? Questions I did not have answers too. Questions I needed answers to. How could this be real? What had happened to my beautiful child? It would take weeks before we learned anything about what had caused Kenny's death. In real life autopsy and toxicology reports can take weeks or even months to provide answers.
The details were in the phone calls...
The first phone call came from a High Point City Police detective to my ex-husband, Marc and the father of both of my sons. Kenny had his Dad's business card in his wallet which is how they were able to reach Marc so quickly. I didn't have a cell phone then and Marc didn't have my work number. Marc would be the one to break the news to my family.
Marc explained to my parents that the High Point City Police had called him and said that Kenny was found having trouble breathing and paramedics had been called. The paramedics did what they could and transported Kenny to High Point Memorial Hospital where the emergency room team did everything they for him but to no avail. He was told there would be an autopsy to determine Kenny's cause of death.
Marc had to make several phone calls that day and I honestly don't know in what order he made them but he had to call his wife Ann, his Mom, his siblings and tell our son David and his daughter Liz, Kenny and David's sister that our first born child, a brother, a grandson, a nephew, and a cousin was dead.
Marc also had to break the news to my parents because he knew they could reach me. With both of my parents on the phone, Marc told them that our son was dead. He wanted to know how to get in touch with me or what was the best way to tell me. My parents said that they would get in touch with Tommy and let him decide how I was to be told.
My Dad now had to call Tommy with the news. I have no doubt that this was a difficult for my Dad. Dad told Tommy everything that Marc had told them. He asked Tommy if he wanted him to go get me from work and Tommy said no he would go and get me.
On their way...
David and his best friend Jake, who never left David's side for a minute, for which I will always be grateful, packed their bags and headed out for the two hour drive to Greensboro. Marc and Ann followed not far behind. I can only imagine what that drive must have been like for all of them.
High Point Memorial Hospital...
Tommy, Momma, Daddy and I all drove to High Point Memorial Hospital. I needed to see with my own eyes that this was my child, remember he had a lost/stolen his driver's license. I was clinging to the possibly that this was not my child. Oh how I wanted that possibility to be true, though I would not have wanted another family to go through this.
We were taken to what I call "the bad news" room. You know the ones with no windows and eerily quit? I hate those rooms! The chaplain on duty came to the room as we sat there waiting for the doctor from the emergency room. The chaplain started by telling us how sorry he was and that I would see Kenny again. Seriously, my son has only just died in the last few hours and you think I should be glad that he has gone home to be the Lord! I'm sorry but that is just wrong, wrong and wrong! I was not ready to go there nor would I go until I could see the body for myself. At that moment in time all I wanted to do was scream.
Finally, the doctor from the emergency room arrived. I had requested to speak to him so that I might learn additional information and/or answer any questions he might have for the death certificate. I let my parents go in first because I wasn't quite ready yet. When I heard my Momma cry out, I knew that small possibility that this was somebody else's child was gone. I now knew it was my precious son, the one who stole my heart the day he was born.
Seeing Kenny on the gurney in that small, airless room was one of the worst days of my life. I had brought this beautiful child into this world and it was now time for me to see him safely away from it and return him to God. I didn't want to leave him in that room with no one to watch over him until he was transferred to Chapel Hill for his autopsy but I knew my job now was to make phone calls and plan his funeral. These were the last things I could do for him as his mother.
We left the hospital and went back to my parents house where by now my siblings had gathered and friends were stopping by to offer their love and support. It was quite overwhelming and I was still in shock.
Breaking the news...
The first thing that came to my mind was that I had people I needed to call. The first call I made was to my best friend, Banna and then I called several other very close friends. These are probably the most difficult calls I have ever made. My parents called all of my aunts and uncles to let them know what had happened. The news of Kenny's death was known within hours by everyone who knew our families that we had a lost a son, brother, cousin, grandson, nephew and friend.
An Outpouring of Love, Friendship and Support...
Our central meeting location was parents house. Friends, neighbors and family gathered to shower us with their love, friendship and support. Friends and co-works brought food to the house, or we would find it on our porch when we got home late at night.
Friends would stop by to pay their respects or to share a story or experience that they had with Kenny. Those stories of Kenny are the ones we appreciated the most.
We received phone calls, cards, letters and memorial Mass cards. The memorial Mass cards ranged from one or two Masses that would be said in memory of Kenny, some were designated for a certain amount of years and others were perpetual Masses said in memory of our son.
Planning a funeral...
How does a parent plan a funeral for their child when it should be them helping to plan yours? You don't, you go through the motions and you depend on your spouse, family and close friends to help guide you through one of life's most difficult tasks.
First and foremost I knew that there was only priest that I wanted to do the funeral for Kenny and that was Fr. David Lord, MIC. At the time he was the Pastor of a Catholic church in Ohio. My children had known Fr. David for many years starting while he was assigned to our church and before his final vows. I believe it was my Momma who actually talked to Fr. David on the phone. He dropped whatever was going on and got to our family as soon as he possibly could and I will never be able to thank him enough for his support at such a difficult time in all of our lives.
With Fr. David, my husband Tommy, Kenny's father, Marc and his wife Ann, our son David and my parents began to plan Kenny's funeral. There were so many details we needed to address. We had to go to the funeral home and arrange for the viewing, the obituary, the funeral, pick a casket, choose the clothes he would be buried in and what cemetery did we want for Kenny. We had readings to choose and who would read them, who was going to do the eulogy, there was music to choose and who would sing, who would be the pallbearers, when could our church schedule the funeral Mass, when did we want the viewing, flowers for the casket and the church, these and so many other questions needed to be answered before Friday.