Published online: Jun 14, 2014
FEATURE BY JASON HANSEN
This Father’s Day we want to express our gratitude for our fathers and the traditions we both share and learned from them. Written by Jason Hansen, this is a memoir of the final days of Kennedy Ann Hansen, and their rides together.
I can barely type. I have been putting this off, not wanting to do this until it was really time. Some know, and some do not know, that Kennedy and her dad’s favorite thing in the entire world was our Saturday TRUCK RIDES!
The smile on her face, the thrill and sound of the diesel engine. Kennedy screaming “Faster, dad, faster!” and then the two of us singing every word—except for the swear word, of course—in Toby Keith’s “Who’s Your Daddy?” and “Beer for My Horses”. These rides would take us different places, but we always would end up at a gas station and would buy a Coke!
I came home yesterday and, under the conditions, I looked at my wife, and said, “There is only one more thing that I want to do with her, and we need to do it today. I need to take her on our last ride, while she understands.”
Kennedy perked up and groaned out a little groan. She wanted to go, she loves these rides and as of late, we have not been able to have them. So, I fired up the truck and pulled it around front. I WILL NEVER forget the feelings in my heart or hers as I scooped her up in my arms and we both began to cry. I gently laid her in the front seat and with every ounce of courage had to whisper in her ear that this would be The Last Ride. As she cried, I cried and we all knew who were there, that these cries were not for pain… She absolutely knew and understood the event taking place.
We brought Heather to take pictures and to help hold Kennedy in place. We rolled down the windows and blasted our favorite two songs. Kennedy gently reached over and motioned for my hand. We clasped as tight as we could. The minute that the song “Beer for My Horses” came on, Kennedy reached her hand in the air, to mimic riding a horse. The funniest part about that song is that when she was able to sing, she would sing, “Root Beer for My Horses.” She was trying to sing; she was trying to smile.
We pulled into her favorite gas station, Maverik, and I asked her what flavor of Icee she wanted. She motioned, “None.” Then she reached toward me to pull me to her. I completely lost it as she held me. Heather had to get out of the truck to take pictures. Kennedy kissed me and rubbed my arm. She knew and understood that there wass something so special about our truck rides, about a man, his truck, and his daughter.
We began our drive back home and played the songs again. She put her head back and let the wind hit her face and her hair. Heather and I were sobbing. I did not want to return home. I wanted to drive and drive and drive and drive. But, I knew that this was The Last Ride, and that I needed to return her to her comfort zone, and the many visitors at our home.
We pulled in the driveway and many came out to our aid. All were offering to lift her and help transport her out of the truck. But, this was dad’s moment, this was our ride, our time, and my little girl giving me The Last Ride. I gently told them I wanted to transport her myself, and scooped her into my arms, holding her tight. I did not want the moment to end. I did not want it to go away. I knew right there and then, that was The Last Ride. Kennedy took a big breath, and again gave me a kiss. Many watching were tearful. I gently set her in her wheelchair and had to walk away.
The day of The Last Ride was something I really knew would come, but never wanted. It seems as if this last year that she has been on The Last Ride. She has taught so much; given back all she has had in her; and has reached as far as she has known how.
I woke up several times last night, breathing heavy and crying in my sleep. My tears and sobs awoke myself. But, what is amazing is finally at about 3 a.m., my little boy, Beau, heard my cries and came and crawled into bed next to me. He laid his little head on my shoulder. He snuggled against me and wrapped his arms around me. As I felt his comfort, I realized how much we still have to live for and how much we still have to accomplish. Heather was asleep in Kennedy’s room and Anna downstairs. I thought of each of them and of our future. It occurred to me that from there on, and as we lose Kennedy shortly, we will have The Last Ride within our family. A ride that if we participate, if we jump in and experience, live, love and try as hard as we can to live right…we will be reunited together as a family.
Time to get ready for The Last Ride and that brings us so much peace and joy!
Love, A broken hearted but Happy.
Dad (Jason Hansen)
Kennedy passed shortly after The Last Ride on May 30, 2014. For more information on Kennedy and her lifelong struggle with Terminal Juvenile Batten Disease.
Source: Diesel Tech Magazine