On April 30, 2023, exactly 61 years after he was born, a relatively unknown small-town country boy named Kenneth Andrew Welton (known as Andy) passed from this world into the next, surrounded by his wife and most of his children. While his life was not spectacular or fancy, he was beloved by those who knew him, and he will be desperately missed.
In life, my father was a mystery to me. I have so many memories, faded with time, that reveal only a tiny fraction of the whole man. Many of those memories are untrustworthy, tainted by my young age and inexperience with life. I’ll never know his whole story now, and I wish I had asked him more about his past and his life, but I was afraid. Afraid of what he would tell me, afraid of what he wouldn’t, afraid he wouldn’t humor me, afraid that he would. My father was a private man of very few words, at least about important things. I will regret not learning more for the rest of my life.
As cancer killed his body, it could never touch his spirit. In the end, as he wanted, he passed at home with his family in as much peace and comfort as possible. I was privileged to spend a lot of time with my father and stepmother in the final months. I experienced many beautiful moments and many of which were heartbreaking.
My father spent three years dying from cancer. I spent as much time with him as possible, but I always wished it had been more. Every time I took the drive from Missouri to Wisconsin, I cried for the moments I would miss. I spent many nights over these three years worrying that when his battle ended, I wouldn’t be there. Thanks to my stepmother, my brothers and I were there with hours to spare of his passing. Only one of my father’s five children was not present.
Many of those closest to my father visited him in the days and months leading up to his final moments. I know he appreciated those visits, even when he couldn’t say so himself. My gratitude goes out to every single person who visited and thought about him as he reached the end. I continue to be thankful to all who have expressed condolences to our family as we cope with this loss. I cannot express how much I appreciate his care team of doctors, nurses, and specialists who gave him so many extra years.
I have so much to say about this, but the words fail me now. As I come to terms with my grief, I will share as much as I am able. I am working on a creative piece, an “ode to my father” of sorts. It breaks my heart each time I work on it, so it will take some time. For now, I am keeping my mind busy with physical projects, something my father would have done to distract himself.
Even just looking at his pictures makes me cry buckets, and I drown in the devastation I feel, knowing he is no longer here with us. My world feels empty without him right now. I know this pain will fade eventually, but for now, I feel it acutely.
Until next time, dear readers, hold your loved ones closely and cherish every single moment. We are not promised tomorrow.
Cathy Marie Bown