One last hug

Kansas City StarSeptember 17, 2013 

A dear friend of mine once told me that we’re always just one phone call away from disaster. He’d say, “whether it concerns our business or our personal lives, one phone call can change our lives forever.”

Like everyone else, I used to think that the dreaded life-changing phone call (if and when it did come) would sneak into our lives like a thief in the middle of the night. Not so. In our case, that one phone call came a little after 6 p.m. on a bright, sunny Sunday afternoon in August, as we were trying to decide what we were going to prepare for dinner.

Death is no stranger to any of us. But when it reaches out and touches someone close to you, in this case our child, it leaves you with a dark, hollow space inside and you can’t help but feel separated from everyone else on earth. No matter how much they try to comfort you, it’s as if you’ve slipped into another reality. In this reality, you look around you but really can’t see. You listen to the words spoken by others, but you really can’t hear what they’re saying.

When you lose a child (and believe me they’re always your child, regardless of their chronological age), you lose a major part of yourself. Which part? You can’t exactly put your finger on it. Is it the part that came to life the day he was born, and you got to hold him for the very first time? Or maybe, it’s the part of you that watched him turn and wave goodbye on his first day of school. Or maybe, it’s the part of you that watched him walk across the stage and turn slightly toward you, smile and then pump him arms victoriously into the air on his graduation day.

What we wouldn’t give for one more fishing trip, another round of golf, our monthly trip to Costco, a Sunday (family) dinner or breakfast, to be on the receiving end of his (inherited) sarcasm, or simply hear the sound of his voice (extremely rare, since a text message was always his communication of choice).

But most of all what we miss most is his famous comforting (I love you) hugs. What we wouldn’t give for just one more hug. We know in our hearts that’s not going to happen. Not now. Not here. But we do know that someday he’ll be there waiting for us with his arms wide open and we’ll both get to hug him once more.

Throughout all of this, we’ve learned that life happens day by day, moment by moment, and, therefore, we need to pay more attention to those precious opportunities that quietly come our way each and every day.

We both would like to thank our good friends, and the good citizens, businesses, and city officials here in Lee’s Summit for adopting our family during the most painful time in our lives.

Jim & Jeane McKenna


James McKenna is the branding manager for the City of Lee’s Summit. Reach him at

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