The Eulogy for Captain Kevin Drue Donnelly
May 24, 2003
Saturday p.m. ©
And, I, Kevin’s Sister, thank you all for being so kind. With Eugene at my side, this is how ‘we’ honored Kevin, together.
We honored Kevin Drue Donnelly as he had not been honored during his funeral, during the church service by his widow, Tina Velocci Donnelly, and we honored Kevin as he might have been honored at the graveside, had anyone stayed and waited for the coffin to be delivered to Kevin Donnelly’s last resting spot.
Kevin never had a eulogy. Now at last, he has received the respect, so important to his birth family. The eulogy was also a way to move forward, to remember the past; embracing both, moving forward together with the new people that have come into our life since Kevin’s sudden and tragic death. God bless you all.
KEVIN’S SISTER: “My name is Monette Benoit; I am Kevin’s Sister.
This is Kevin’s best friend. Eugene Simonson met Kevin when he was in second grade, and Eugene Simonson was Kevin’s best friend. When I received a small box that we received from his estate, there was a photo album in it. And the last page in the photo album, which Kevin had made, had the second grade picture of Kevin and Eugene standing side by side in second grade together
Eugene grew up in my home. My mom and dad helped raise him, and there were many a morning when I stepped over Eugene sleeping in our home, after I got up in the morning.
After Kevin died, Eugene came to the funeral; when he could, to the wake.
Eugene was the one person who came the night I was sitting alone in the small room with Kevin’s casket at Dalton Funeral parlor.
Eugene was with me for part of the burial. He arrived today with the Harley Davidson group, Rolling Thunder, honoring Veterans this Memorial Day Weekend. He’s with his friend, Pat tonight, and Eugene is a deacon. They work with the prisons.
When he and I were at the Calverton Cemetery as everybody left, I asked Eugene to say a prayer for my mom and my dad because my dad had just had cancer surgery, and Dad couldn’t attend the funeral, my brothers stayed with my mom and dad.
And Eugene let loose a prayer. Boy howdy, he let loose. He hugged me, tucked me up under his ribs, and he let it go.
Then Eugene stood in line with me to find out where the casket went.
Eugene went to the freshly-dug area in the cemetery, to find the hole in the ground because the casket was quickly removed.
The men (employees?) at the Calverton Cemetery had another funeral, waiting, and they insisted on removing the casket from the spot where it had rested briefly, taps played on a tape recorder in the bushes, two military servicemen handed the American flag to Kevin’s widow.
Eugene stayed as the black limousine, the Velochi family, Kevin’s widow, Tina [Justine] Velocci Donnelly, and three stepdaughters suddenly departed.
Eugene stood with me, on line, at the Calverton main office where I waited to ask where the casket ‘had gone’…
Eugene went with me to the place where Kevin’s casket was to have been delivered.
Eugene stood with me, waiting for the men to deliver the casket and to place the casket into the ground — after they came back from lunch.
So I wanted him to be here tonight. I would like Eugene to say the first prayer because he knows my parents and my brothers, and I had his Word that he would do this tonight. So, would you all mind bowing your heads with Eugene.
DEACON EUGENE: “I know that we come from all different places in terms of God, and the intention here is not to offend. The intention here is to ask God for something, to bless us, and I know sometimes it is difficult to think of God or to see God when we are suffering from things and we have pain, but we have to remember that it’s the very pain and suffering of Christ that enables us to go to God, and it points us to God, and sometimes we get into that suffering and pain, and we stop fooling around, and it causes us to cry out to God, and so I’m going to ask God for some things tonight because he’s a good God. Okay? So if you want to bow your head and join me let’s ask:
Heavenly Father, we thank you for having gathered these people here tonight. We thank you for bringing them together in their compassion for one another, Father, to uphold one another and support one another, and we thank you for your compassion for us.
Father, I ask for your peace in this room, and I ask for the peace in the lives of the people in this room, Father. I ask for healing hearts, healed relationships, and I ask for wisdom, Father, for the doctors and the researchers who are working on Hep C that you might, in your infinite power and wisdom, give them what they need to know to
bring a cure to these people and their family members, Father.
I pray for every soul here, Father. I pray for salvation, and I ask that you might do all this in the name of Jesus, Amen.”
MONETTE: “Thank you, Eugene.
“There was a CD that I had wanted to quote one song, if anybody had asked August 9th, 2000, the day I hoped there would be a eulogy, kind words for Kevin.
I carried the CD with me then, and it wasn’t the time. This is the first time I’ve ever gotten to eulogize my brother. The CD is by Sarah Brightman.
“Places that I’ve never seen or experienced with you …
seas that exist no more …
and when words fail me,
of course, I know that you’re with me.
Time to say good-bye.”
And I open with the special salute that I do each night in the name of my brother Captain Kevin Drue Donnelly.
Two years and nine months since the death of Captain Kevin Drue Donnelly, finally, his family and those who loved him, have a moment to pause and to honor his life, his work, his contributions, his humor, and the best of Kevin Drue Donnelly.
I am Kevin’s Sister, and I am proud to be Kevin’s sister. We were raised in a family where Dad is 105 percent Irish.
Mom is a 120 percent Texas. I have two brothers — I now — Excuse me, I just did it!
This is the first time that I’ve ever done that, and I’ve been working on this for over two years.
I had three brothers. Wow. I now have two.
And each day I’m stuck on that one word ‘have’ or ‘had’. Maybe I just got it.
That’s still a challenge to get past that ‘A’ — from the ‘haaaaaaave’ to the ‘haaaaaad’…
I still work on that every day, and maybe because Eugene is here, I finally got it.
It was an interesting family each day, each morning, each evening. Both of our parents are teachers, and we traveled the United States in a camper. Yes, a camper, camping in federal campgrounds, most of the way.
I often teased that I was a hostage with three brothers.
No air conditioning, hot summers. We were camping, think porta-potties, toilets, federal campgrounds.
Each day a new journey, another day of sitting in the car with my three brothers. Sometimes they were very long days, but we were blessed to have traveled throughout all 48 states and every province of Canada. And Kevin had his share of pranks in many of the campgrounds, museums, civil war battlefields that my dad took us to.
Together we grew each day, whether it was in our small home or traveling the country each summer for one month. I’m saying this because I want to share with each of you, there’s an old Irish saying: Throw your hat over the wall.
When the British invaded Ireland, they built high walls to separate the people, the communities, the families that lived in Ireland.
The Irish were proud people, like Kevin.
They had few belongings to their name, but the men always had one hat.
After the Irish built the walls, they would go to the wall. And if one of the men really wanted something, to make a point, a true commitment, a true gesture, they would throw their one and only hat over the wall.
Once their hat was over the wall, and it was too high to see over that wall, they had to go get that hat.
This is a true story.
I know Kevin threw his hat over the wall, the wall of Hepatitis C and the wall to the military.
Kevin was willing to go over the wall for what he believed in and for the issues that he was proud to represent, his values, his country.
Kevin threw his hat over the wall, and then he just had to go get that durn hat — many, many times.
August 4th 2000, Kevin had no hat to throw over the wall.
When he died, he died suddenly, alone. I now remind each of you here tonight that we each have a hat.
Each of us sees walls every day.
When you see a wall that seems insurmountable, unclimbable, unbelievably hard, please think of my brother, Kevin Drue Donnelly, and just throw your hat over the wall.
You will have to go for ‘it’, your hat.
I know I did.
Without realizing it, I threw my hat over the wall for Kevin, then Hepatitis C.
I had not intended to throw my hat.
Yet the inaccuracies, the statements that were trying to become ‘truth’ – forced me to questions.
Had the proper respect been given my brother and my parents, I would not be standing here now.
I would not have had to throw my hat over the wall for Kevin Drue Donnelly and then for Hepatitis C.
As Kevin’s sister, I would have peacefully, graciously accepted the truth, and moved on.
Yet my standing here tonight, two years and nine months later, is proof that I had to go get a hat.
My father and mother grieve the loss of their youngest son each day.
They were not able to attend the funeral of Kevin, due to Dad’s advanced aggressive cancer surgery.
People at Kevin’s funeral approached, one by one and some in small groups, to ask me: Why really aren’t your parents here?
We have not had the closure of unity that some have, to begin the healing of the death of a loved one.
Kevin, I honor you.
Kevin, I am so incredulous to see and to feel the love here in this room, the people that have been here at this Hepatitis gathering, what they have shared with me.
I feel like a deer in the headlights, stunned, listening.
My right shoulder has been wet from the crocodile tears that so many have shared.
Grown men, many veterans, sharing their knowledge and respect of you and your work. Women hugging me, holding my hand.
Yet, it was the men who cried – a lot; they are the ones who impacted me the most with the gravity of your impact, Kevin, upon the Hepatitis community and the respect that you earned.
Kevin, you threw your hat high.
You threw it overhand, high into the air, and I salute you, Kevin.
I know Mom and Dad wish they could be here to honor you for all you shared, your accomplishments.
Yet, Kevin I have to share that we, your family, still miss the boy who went to all the Cub Scout meetings earning every badge, working to Eagle Scout.
We miss the Kevin who became a medic in the army and excelled in ‘all’ you did.
We miss the Kevin who laughed and shared many of your new challenges, sports, pole vaulting, mountain climbing – the many challenges you tackled and you won. We have had to go on, Kevin, sadly without you.
August 5th, 2000, the night we were told you died, when I spoke to Dad by phone, De said, quote, “Well, now Kevin is at peace. He’s at peace perhaps for the first time in a long time.”
I know you are helping others, Kevin. I feel your energy.
I know you are helping others to toss their hats over the wall.
I really miss you, and I really miss my youngest brother – the one who used to get all the spiders, so I wouldn’t kill them — even the little brother who found all my diaries no matter where I hid them, some with Eugene, I’m sure. I had diaries. They, Eugene and Kevin, found all of them. Kevin would leave me notes in the diary to let me know he had found each one. I stopped writing diaries because of my brother.
I miss the brother who hugged me, the brother who stood my side, when I needed you.
I also really miss the brother who helped me decide whether to stay with a boyfriend, or not. He’d write a pro and con list with me. Honest, and then he would write at the end:
Put this where the sun don’t shine.
I miss the one who laughed and shared with me, and the one who in the end, died sadly alone.
But you, Kevin, you did live the life you chose, helping others.
You did get to choose, and that last night August 4th, 2000, with no hat to toss, you went home.
Please help me rebuild Captain Kevin Drue Donnelly’s library and his research for Hepatitis C, science, the military. That was the one request that was most important to Kevin.
Stunned, I have to share: All his predictions sadly came true.
Some of us became stronger as a result of your request, Kevin.
I know I learned how to leandeeper into the wind, respectfully, asking in your name, over and over…
If you have emails from my brother, you can email them to me: Monette@ARTCS.com.
I want to rebuild what Kevin requested. I salute each of you.
I am Kevin’s Sister. I have to end with: I really miss my brother, and I thank all of you and the Hepatitis C community for all the joy and all the happiness you all shared with Kevin because I heard about the phone calls, your emails.
Kevin would often call me — there are people in this room, Canadian, American — there are people in this room — when you introduced yourself to me, I had heard about you. I knew who you were.
I thank you for giving Kevin those moments because when you ended a phone call with Kevin, he went on to another journey.
Yet,Kevin shared many of those journeys with me and a few who knew him — before Hepatitis ever entered his world. And so I thank all of you. God bless, thank you.
Do what you do, say what you say: Time to say good-bye, Kevin. ©
Saturday, May 23, 2003
Memorial Day Weekend
Monette Benoit, Kevin’s Sister.