I see your face everywhere. And I am so pissed at you for dying. I am so mad that you left behind two children and family that loves you. But I can’t be mad. Not really anyway. It’s not like you chose this. It’s not like you wanted to go. But still, a part of it all angers me. A part of me is so mad that God chose you, now, when your kids are still so young. He chose you now when they need you the most. He chose you, over everyone else, and I don’t understand why that had to be. It sucks. A lot. But it is what it is. Like it or not. You’re gone.
I remember the last time we saw each other. Shouting over the crowd and the people in between us. “So, another girl, eh?” “Yeah. We don’t seem to make boys around my house.” “That’s all right. Your girls are adorable. Beautiful. What’s her name going to be again? Fiona? Something like that your mom said…” “Finola.” “Wow. What a pretty name. That’s a cool name. Congratulations again.”
That was it. Those may not have been all we said, but I remembered that snippet of the day. We talked about other things. The game, the heat, the kids. Nothing in particular. Your smile, the way your eyes lit up when you smiled, will never ever leave my heart. That smile will be with me all of my days in its own way. You laughed. You were so happy to be there, sitting with us all at the Indians game. And I remember you being so excited to meet my little girl.
And you didn’t.
38 years old is too young to die. 6 and 8 are two ages one should not be to bury a parent. I know that I am supposed to have this altruistic “but God has a plan” mentality about this. But I don’t. I told Caelan this, though. “Why did your cousin die?” “Well, baby, God needed another angel up there. And we never really know why people have to die.” But something in me keeps telling me it’s bullshit. Of course, I am sure God has some plan for you. For your kids. But something doesn’t feel right. Maybe in time. But not now. Not today.
You were the first of our generation of cousins to pass on. And goddamn, that reality hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday. Seven of us. All of us in the prime of our lives. In our best days. In the times when life only goes on and gets better because we are getting older. We are starting to say, “when I was your age” or “when we were growing up.” We don’t die at this point in our lives. WE don’t die!! It isn’t right. Death doesn’t come when you’re raising your children. Death doesn’t come when you’re so full of life. Death doesn’t come when you’re young and have so many years ahead of you to look forward to.
But death did come. And it took one of the greatest guys I knew. Sure, we weren’t super close anymore. Adulthood and all of the trials with it put distance in between us, as it does. You always came around though, when you needed advice from my mom, a reminder of life from my dad, or just someone to listen to you. It hasn’t always been easy for you. And I am sorry for that. But know that you were a better and stronger man for having gone through what you had than someone who had no idea what it felt like to struggle at all. You were better.
Memories. Joint birthday parties. Camping and boating at the river. Just hanging out at either my parents’ house or your place. Finding a new home for Sage and Lincoln when you couldn’t take them with you to the new place. Talking to you sometimes about nothing at all. I remember watching your kids. I babysat those two a lot more than I realized I did looking back. Playing with them in the old house. Watching you with those kids was like watching a child discover something new every minute. You could not have been a prouder, better, or more loving father. Those kids never knew a moment without love when they were with you. I cannot imagine their reality now. I promise to do anything in my power to help them live their lives in their new normal to the best of their abilities. I promise this only if you promise to keep an eye on them every single moment of every single day. Those children have been through the wringer, in more ways than one. And I can only hope that your strength, your courage, and your immense love for them entered their souls wholly as it left your body that morning. I hope you got to kiss them goodbye as Ted and Alice waited for you, to take you Home. I hope they never forget how much you love them. I hope you always remember how much they love you.
Tomorrow is going to be tough, my friend. I have to come and start saying goodbye to one of the first friends I knew in my life. There is a reason we take two days here to say goodbye. There is a reason we don’t have to say it all at one time. It’s a process. And it takes time. More than two days. But two days will be a start. I haven’t said goodbye yet. I’ve said things to you. I am sure you have heard me. I have yelled at you. Cried at you. Whispered to you. Prayed to you. And though I may never understand why you had to go, if I were to pick an angel to be watching over my family, I couldn’t find one who loved us all more.
Kevin Michael Petree. It’s hard to be believe you’re gone.
But who you were, no are, to all of us will never, ever fade away.
Rest my friend. Until we meet again…
I love you.