By: Kevin’s Sister, Monette Benoit
Author: “The Truth,” under the name, Monette Harrigan, 8/4/01
One year ago tonight, I finished my story, “The Truth,” about the life, death and resulting events since the passing of my youngest brother, Captain Kevin Drue Donnelly, 8/5/00.I wrote honestly about the good, sad, the bad and the ‘odd’ since my brother was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. I also included moments that a sister still holds close to her heart; moments when a bright light burned within my brother; moments before Hepatitis C was known by the public or to myself.My story, “The Truth,” and “The Panama Story,” written by Kevin, a riveting novel he wrote one chapter a night, after his diagnosis, each are available on the net for veterans, family members and for people diagnosed with Hepatitis C.Kevin had asked me to listen; he asked me to ‘try’ to document his predictions after his death.
I am still horrified how many of Kevin’s predictions became reality, even if temporary. Some I have documented back into the ‘inaccuracy’ arena; some I have not been able to change. Yet I document.
I often teased my youngest brother: “Oliver Stone and Watergate have nothing on you.”
Kevin would laugh and say: “Just remember to help vets. This time nobody is left behind. Help the vets and their families.” Through the sadness, grief and horror of the facts surrounding the death of my brother and the actions of others, I have continued to do so.
Many people have contacted me about making a movie to share “The Truth,” thus shall it be.
I have been approached about this often; I am still listening.
In public places, I have had my shoulder tapped by strangers who solemnly have said: “You don’t know what you’re up against.”
I’ve smiled each time, chin up, replying:
“I have lost the loss that changes it all. I flew alone to his funeral when my dad had advanced cancer surgery and my family ‘needed’ to stay with my parents. I listened to inaccuracies and events that were attempting to become fact. I sat alone in his wake.
There was no eulogy. There was no obituary. I stood in line for 20 minutes to get a map where his casket would be delivered after his widow abruptly departed the cemetery in the black limo. I waited in the hot sun for my brother’s casket to be delivered to the empty hole in the ground while grave diggers ate their lunch. I have lost the ultimate loss, and I choose to be stronger and to stand tall.”
To date, two years now, Kevin’s widow has not returned the email address book from his computer requested by the Hep community, nor the research that was within the residence with offers to purchase such information and files with funds from the Hep community. She has yet to return the few items that my parents requested – those belonging to our grandparents and great grandparents, items important only to family, not worth monetary gain.
I still ask, head high, sincerely, for what is respectful to Kevin’s parents and his birth family.
I have the one note from his widow (one note in two years; to date, not one note to Kevin’s parents; not one phone call to Kevin’s parents) – one note informing me that legally I am entitled to nothing from Kevin’s second marriage to a woman for nine years. Legally, Tina is correct.
Yet I know there is a moral and proper code of responsibility to those who are grieving a lost family member. While members of my family and I have been respectful of Kevin’s widow and her family, sadly, the same has yet, to date, to be shared for Kevin’s parents and family.
The truth, here, entails sharing what will help others, what will honor others. The anger that one still retains, is the very bond that will keep us bound together. I have written this on cards for birthdays and holidays, respectfully, waiting and praying.
I will continue to request for what is honorable and respectful. And I am still requesting to have a copy of his autopsy; one that can only be shared by the legal widow – a person who filed for divorce and had Kevin evicted from the residence two years ago tonight. Yet the law says I am unable to receive it. I will continue to request for what is honorable and respectful. Captain Kevin Drue Donnelly deserves that the truth to be shared.
Kevin had predicted his autopsy would state ‘cirrhosis of the liver,’ not Hepatitis C. Kevin was not able to drink, did not drink alcohol. Sadly, another prediction has inched further towards reality, another stat, another fact, another inaccuracy, not factual.
Kevin’s death and suffering is not in vain – not now. The pain of my family and I – the pain has been hard to bear.
Looking back at my notes to the Hep C community since his death, I feel I opened the Kimono of my heart.
I was grasping for the hope that if one person, one family, one medical professional benefits from my sharing, then the outcome of Kevin’s illness, isolation, choices – good and bad, the pain and loneliness in suffering, lack of understanding of Hep C, depression and the ‘unthinkable’ – looking to the stars, to be gone forever, if one person would benefit, it would not be in vain.
Others must learn the truth documenting how this soldier of the military and a soldier in his life, lived helping others, critically ill struggled to help others, and died alone the night his wife had two sheriffs court evict him from the residence.
I am very proud of my brother.
There are moments when I know I could look over my shoulder and know the specific events that might have ‘changed’ the course of events, but I know that will not change the result.
What will change the result of Hepatitis C entering the life of my brother and my family is the education, sharing, advocating for others, for veterans, for family members, for prisoners, for homeless, for those who are lost and have no-one to listen.
Tonight is the night that one of Kevin’s goals will become a reality.
The last sunset in his residence, he was working with Phyllis Becker to open a Hep C clinic in Oregon and to assist veterans with Hep C who are imprisoned. Kevin and Phyllis were hoping to work with a Dr. Cecil, a professional whom both respected.
When I learned this week that the website Kevin had discussed on the phone with Phyllis, 8/4/00, still was not a reality, my ‘enough meter’ went off.
I prayed over how I may honor Kevin this the second year anniversary for his departure and for his sacrifice. Thus I made a commitment, in Kevin’s name, to sponsor the building and hosting of the website that Kevin had wanted to become a reality. Phyllis has assured me that she will continue her dedicated work with veterans and prisoners with her informative newsletters, Dr. Cecil will be involved, and veterans and prisoners with Hep C will receive education and information that currently is needed.
The past two years have been bittersweet.
My choice is to help where I may,
to let others lead where they may.
As Kevin’s sister, I know the effects of Hepatitis C, lack of information, lack of family support within the home, what pain can do to everyone when choices are not shared or researched.
After Kevin’s death, I printed business cards with the website that he and LeighAnn Vogel worked to build: http://www.oocities.com/hepvet.
The card includes the title of Kevin’s “The Panama Story.” I included on the card:
“If you can, please give to a hospice, Hep C Awareness Project or share a kind act with another. YOU can save vets and families. Why? I gave him my Word.”
For almost two years, I have quietly handed the cards to people of all ages, sizes and colors.
People want information; they need resources to reference.
When people tell me they “know someone with Hep C,” I quietly hand them the card.
Others, kind strangers, have helped to build my strength. Sometimes I share that I’m Kevin’s Sister, many times, it’s not mentioned, as it’s not important. What is important is someone shared a spot of hope where others ‘could’ look to the future.
Thank you to all the individuals who contributed to Kevin Drue Donnelly’s Memorial Page. My parents continue to grieve and to heal and greatly benefited from each who wrote of moments that we could not know about. Your strength, your sharing, your honesty, has helped many.
The Prison Coalition Website with Phyllis Becker and Dr. Cecil will become a reality. I am committed to advancing Kevin’s work within the veteran and Hepatitis communities. Education and advocacy will continue with the actions of others and by my efforts.
And I will continue to listen and to respectfully request that what belongs to the Hepatitis C community and what belongs to Kevin’s birth family, a request now two years in the waiting since 8/5/00, will one day be honored.
I will continue to share that I am proud of my brother, proud of his work and research, and I will continue to document.
Kevin Drue Donnelly’s legacy deserves nothing less than The Truth Now and for Each Tomorrow.
“Why? I gave him my Word.”
One day I will share why I chose the pen-name Monette Harrigan one year ago. The sequel to “The Truth” is continuing to be compiled.
And as I finish this, a thunderstorm that swiftly appeared is swirling outside. Yet I know when it is finished, I know the sun will shine tomorrow and the education, advocacy will continue. How fortunate I am to have had a brother who had commitment to details and to facts.
Thank you for listening.
Thank you for permitting me to share as the windows are rattling from the storm outside.
I have faith that when the storm is over, there will be peace.
Veterans and people diagnosed with Hepatitis C will one day find peace; this is our goal.