Eighteen years later. I still miss my dad.

I repost this every year…. I have updated it to reflect life’s changes.

“The life you have left is a gift. Cherish it. Enjoy it now, to the fullest. Do what matters, now.” — Leo Babauta I found it quite interesting that this was the quote delivered to me in my inbox this morning seeing as it was 18yrs ago today my father was tragically taken from us. I would however add to it “appreciate those in your life today. Appreciate them now. Tell them you love them. For you never know when it may be your last chance”. I update this post every year and find it interesting the meaning that these words have taken on in the wake of the COVID19 pandemic.

Today of all days I am forced to remember where I was 18 yrs ago, which is both a really good and a really bad thing. It’s a good thing since it very much helps me appreciate how far I have come and where I am now. It’s a bad thing because it reminds me of the sheer pain and pure anguish I felt on that dreadful night 18 yrs ago.

Eighteen years ago today, that day still holds the title of “the worst day of my entire life”. I remember it like it was yesterday. Waking up to the late night phone call from my uncle and two aunts. The confusion I felt. The panic that set in. The shock. The disbelief. Feeling lost. Feeling confused. Felling angry. The ‘in my face’ understanding that life as I knew it was over. The sound of my sister crying when I had to call her and tell her that our father was no longer alive. The what seemed like a never ending drive to Southern Illinois in the middle of the night. The darkness I witnessed that night was there was more than just visible. I felt it in my soul.

Visiting my step mother and youngest brother in the hospital. Seeing my dad’s battered body for the last time. Witnessing the destruction that led to his death. The sheer and utter heartbreak that I remember oh so well. Even 18 years later, it still feels as fresh as an open wound. Remembering that night still brings a rush of anxiety and leaves me feeling like I got the wind knocked out of me…. like I cant breathe (interesting choice of words considering the times we are living in).

As I reflect on the last 18 years it pains and saddens me that my dad was not here to help celebrate the many wonderful things that have happened. I reconnected with and then married my soul mate Brandon. This brought two stepdaughters, Kyla and Kailynn, into my family. I welcomed a new brother in law and 2 sister in laws into the family. We welcomed 2 nephews and 2 nieces into the family since my dad has been gone. Brandon and I bought our dream house. I think about the relationship Brandon would have with my dad. In a lot of ways he is a lot like him. My career path has taken so many twists and turns and I often still talk to my dad and think about the advice he would have given me when I was struggling. Actually, sometimes I go through the conversations in my head as I think it would be if he were here. Devan graduated college. He is now a hard working young man who holds his own. He moved out on his own and is 100% self sufficient! The girls have now completed their Jr year at college on full ride Navy ROTC scholarships. One year left and they will be graduating and shipping off!  The most precious blessing of them all though is the birth of our amazing baby boy Asa who is now 8. If you had told me 18 years ago I was going to have another baby in 10 years I would have told you that you were crazy. Now I can’t imagine my life without him. I imagine what he would think about the work I do now and how I spend much of my time advocating on behalf of others (both in my job, my volunteer work and really just in general). I know how proud he would be as he too was an advocate for social justice. My life has truly been blessed with so many wonderful things that it almost seems selfish to still be a little angry and sad and to miss my dad so much. But I do. Man do I miss him.

I sometimes still refuse to believe that my dad is not here to celebrate these momentous occasions with me. I still find myself wanting to pick up the phone and call him. I miss him just as much today as I did 18 yrs ago. I know that he is still with us in spirit. I’m pretty sure he and Asa have communicated. When Asa was little there were many occasions where Asa has had full conversations that include smiles and laughter with someone who cannot be seen by me. Still to this day, 18 years later, out of the blue Asa will start talking about Grandpa Steve. I like to think it’s my dad inserting himself the only way he can into Asa’s life. I fully believe that he is watching over all of us. That he has been there and will continue to be there every step of the way. That he is sitting in a reclining chair sipping on Tanqueray watching all of us as if we are the reality tv show of the day. I can only hope that we are living up to the legacy that he wanted to leave behind. The legacy we spoke about literally weeks before he died. I hope that he is beaming with pride that his kids all turned out alright (well for the most part anyway HA!). I hope we make him proud every day.

It sounds kind of strange to say that I feel a weird sort of gratitude that I have had the experience of losing my dad. Over the last few years it has allowed me to reach out and empathize with friends who have lost their fathers also. Its not a group anyone wants to belong to and I remember feeling completely lost and alone. I remember not really feeling like I fit in anywhere because I didn’t know anyone who had lost their dad as an adult. That has unfortunately changed, but because I remember that feeling so vividly I do my best to try and reach out to those I feel I may be able to lend a listening ear or a kind word to. I know my dad would be proud of this. Kindness and compassion were both things instilled in me by both of my parents.

So tonight I will no doubt shed a few tears when I light a candle as I have for the last 18 yrs and I will remember my dad. I will remember his voice. I will remember how he smelled of Old Spice. I will remember sitting on his lap as a little girl. I will remember opening presents on Christmas morning. I will remember him and our Indian Princess activities. I will remember our long in depth conversations. I will remember the life lessons that he taught me. I will remember his smile. I will remember his laugh. I can still hear his voice and the way he referred to me as “Court”. It still echoes in my mind. Tonight, like I do every year, I will tell Asa a story about the man he will never know. The man who is his grandfather. The man who would have loved him to pieces. Tonight I will remember my daddy.

Stephen M. Kohn January 29, 1950 – May 6, 2003

I miss you dad! Love always, Court

Stephen M. Kohn

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