By Scott Kennedy
After losing his young son to cancer, a father asks for understanding of his broken heart
By Scott Kennedy
For nearly six years, I had no quiet on Saturdays. That was just how I loved it. Being Hazen’s father was my sublime nirvana. My wife, our boy and I reveled in a magical life, making New York City our playground from dawn to dusk. We raged all day Sunday, too.
Now it is Saturday morning and I am alone. The day is stark and real. Later I will distract myself with an urban adventure, but it’s different without my son. Having your only child die just before his sixth birthday is inconceivable; going through the ravages of your kid having cancer for two years cannot be described. The torture can turn survivors into stone.
We have a duty to ourselves and to our children to live on somehow. The strongest of us can aim to make the best of what we have left. We can help others. I happen to be lucky because I have no regrets. My son and I shared more within a span of almost six years than many people achieve in an average lifetime. Still, I miss him so much.
Life without my boy is confusing. A chaotic mess whirls around what remains of my heart, my brain, my aching gut. In calendar time, it has been two years since Hazen died. Time does not heal the wounds, but it does allow for more space between the intense bouts of pain.
After Hazen’s death, the idealist in me thought the universe would realign in a way in which I could be saved somehow: Loved ones and friends would collectively evolve into a permanent commune of loving support. Initially, this did happen. But the aftereffects of Hazen’s death caused a seismic shift that did not reflect emotional logic. Instead of my wife and I forging an even closer bond, she chose to leave and start a new life. There is a new accounting ledger of family and friends whose strong foundations kept them rooted beside me after the tsunami.
The notion of “moving on” that is often offered as a solution leaves me feeling truly alone in the world. We live in a society of supposed solutions for almost every problem. But there is no weekend seminar or Dummies guide for this situation. Rather than offering solutions, please just listen to my broken heart. Allow me to wail and cry. Be my ally as I curse God. Let me talk about the amazing life of my son. Listen.
Every single day there is a moment when I am wildly lost. I ask myself, “What happened?” and then I remember, and then ask, “How can this be?” For a while I struggled to find the answers and never got out of the maze. I still ask these questions every day, but now I don’t look for solutions. Instead, I see the maze not as a trap without escape but as various paths of possibility—paths I can take instead of pathos: humor, humility, humanity, helping others. These are all traits of Hazen’s that can now live on through me.
Hazen’s strong character was his gift to me throughout his life. I was fortunate to cherish that gift in real-time and now use it to navigate through the thick despair that is life without him. I am left with this simple guiding light—born of his soul-baring and smiling eyes. It is as fundamental as the true and deep love that existed between us. The honor of being Hazen’s dad keeps me going.
Hazen Kennedy was featured in CR’s Fall 2006 cover story.