Cruel Summer

With the news of his nephew's sudden death, Robb C. Sewell reflects on the bitter capstone to a difficult few months.

It’s been a challenging summer. In July, my life was turned upside by a sudden illness that is thankfully finally on the mend. My mom was hospitalized after a CT Scan showed a mass in her rectum (luckily, it wasn’t cancerous). And then there was Saturday, August 11.

I woke up that morning, as I normally do, around 6:00 a.m. I walked into the kitchen, Sciuto rubbing against my legs, anxiously waiting for me to feed her and Tabby. That’s when I heard the telephone beeping, indicating that we had a message.

I thought it might be a message from my Dad about Mom coming home. It wasn’t. It was Eric’s sister Chris. Her message was short and simple: “Guys, it’s Chris. Please call me right away.”

As I returned Chris’ call, I thought that she might be calling about their mom, who has been in declining health. I got Chris’ voicemail and left a message. I fed the girls, and then sat down in the family room and waited for her to call back. A few minutes later, the phone rang. It was Chris, asking to speak to Eric. I hesitantly made my way to the bedroom.

Trust me, Eric is not a morning person; I sure as hell wasn’t looking forward to waking him up. But that’s what I did, albeit cautiously and gently. I told him it was Chris and handed him the phone.

Eric held the phone to his ear and then uttered words that send a shiver down my spine.

“Oh my God.”

He then looked at me and whispered, “Kevin’s dead.”

Kevin. Chris’ son. Eric’s nephew. Eric’s godson. Our nephew.

Sorrow and disbelief overwhelmed me. Tears ran down my face. Kevin was only in his twenties, far too young to be gone. I sat beside Eric on the bed as he spoke with Chris, as she broke the news to him.

After he hung up the phone, we held each other, then lay together on the bed, holding each other tenderly, all the while remembering a young man we both loved immensely, mourning a life ended far too soon.

Over the past few days, memories of Kevin have poured from my heart. I first met him when he was around ten years old, a young boy with a mischievous yet infectious smile. I remembered sitting in his grandparents’ dining room, playing games. I remembered Eric and I helping him and his family move. Kevin opening gifts at Christmas. His voice deepening as grew up, as boyhood gave way to manhood. Watching him perform martial arts. Going to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, where his eyes twinkled as he looked at swords and the pretty lasses walking around the faire. I recalled us going to a dinosaur exhibit in Philadelphia. Kevin and his sister Elisha eagerly checking out the I Spy window displays at the old Strawbridge and Clothier building in Philly. So many precious memories.

I share these things for a few reasons. One, to pay tribute to an amazing, sweet young man whose too-short life touched so many others in immeasurable ways, in ways he never knew. I am so grateful that I had the chance to know Kevin these past seventeen years. He accepted Eric and I and our relationship without reservation.

To Kevin, I was Eric’s partner and friend, another uncle to love, another uncle to support him. Uncle? Well, truth be told, from time to time Kevin and Elisha referred to me as Aunt Robb and Eric as Aunt Eric, something I will forever treasure. I am grateful to Kevin for his acceptance and love. He will never be forgotten.

Second, I share these thoughts and words as encouragement to those who read this to never take for granted those in our lives, those we love. Please, make the best and most of each day.

Lastly, to Kevin, as Elphaba sang to Glinda in Wicked’s “For Good”:

So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made from what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have rewritten mine
By being my friend

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Anne Carroll August 15, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Meant to say, I'm so sorry Robb and Eric.
Lara August 15, 2012 at 06:57 PM
I was touched by your column and the love you all shared. I am so sorry for your loss. You will all be in my thoughts as my family spends time together the next few days. Precious memories of good times are always a treasure.
Shannon McGill August 15, 2012 at 10:06 PM
So sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful piece and a fitting tribute to your nephew. It moved me to tears. Thank you for sharing your memories.
Donna L Maxwell August 15, 2012 at 11:35 PM
Robb & Eric & family, our hearts are with you in your time of loss. What a beautiful & moving tribute to Kevin & a somber reminder to make each moment count. With Deepest Sympathy, Donna Maxwell & Janet Collem, Collingswood
Robb C. Sewell August 16, 2012 at 12:54 AM
Thank you all for your wonderful comments. I originally intended to write a very different post, but was moved to share about Kevin. I am truly grateful that he -- and all my nieces and nephews -- came into my life.


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