The day you died started like any other day.
It was a sunny Sunday morning in October. The crisp fall air flowed through the open window.
I woke up around 7am. I had just returned from LinkedIn’s Talent Connect Conference – it had been one of the highlights of my professional career to keynote and emcee the livestream.
I was brewing coffee as I usually do on the weekend. I was excited to spend a lazy day with my wife and our daughter. We were about to make pancakes. The phone rang. It was your son’s mother.
“You need to call Martin County Hospital. Kai was admitted last night. No one can reach him, and they will only speak with his family.”
I never imagined I’d be standing before you all at a press conference about addiction. Like a lot of people, I had preconceived ideas of what an addict looks like. I was wrong. My brother, Kai, is what addiction looks like.
Kai was much more than an addict. He was a loving father who beamed with pride every time he talked about his son. He was a patriot who loved his country and served overseas in the Navy. He was a friend to many and would happily give the shirt off his back to help someone in need. He was a brother who stood proudly beside me as the best man at my wedding.
Kai was a force of nature. His smile forced you to smile back. His hugs could take your breath way. He had a wicked sense of humor. His laugh was infectious. It filled a room. Kai got along with everyone. He had a magnetic personality that drew people in. This is the Kai I remember.
Sadly, his path to addiction is not uncommon. He went to the doctor for treatment of a work injury. They prescribed prescription drugs to numb the pain and allow him to continue working. He didn’t have health insurance and couldn’t afford continued doctor visits, so he turned to the streets for relief.
Today would have been your 46th birthday. It’s been eight months since you left us. Some days it feels like it was just yesterday, others feel like you’ve been gone for years.
You’ve missed so much during that short time. Your son turned 16 and is becoming an incredible young man that would fill you with pride. He’s kind, considerate, thoughtful, and smart. You did a tremendous job raising him, showing him the love and support Dad showed us. I have no doubt he’ll blossom into an incredible person thanks to that.
He misses you. We all do.
You’ll be excited to know you’re an Uncle again! Maya joined our family two months ago. She’s gorgeous, happy, and healthy — just like her big sister Eve. Dad would have spoiled them rotten, like Opi spoiled us.
It hurts they’ll never know your warm embrace, your deep belly laugh, or the undeniable kindness you were known for. I’ll make sure they see lots of pictures, and the stories are passed down to them.
I was driving to the store when I got the call. “I have bad news,” said my step-mother, “You father is having some tests done, but the doctor thinks it’s cancer.” The last word trailed faintly out of her mouth and into my ears, rattling around for what felt like minutes before I could comprehend the magnitude of what I had just heard.
It had been almost seven years since I lost my Mother to a fifteen-year battle with multiple sclerosis. My father, who was affectionately known as Big Kahuna, and I had become extremely close in the years since my mom passed away. He re-married, our small family grew, and he found happiness again.