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My Grief Journey

By: Paul Weddle, KCH Chief Operating Officer
Published: Dec 7, 2022

Sometimes in life, you have to look back in order to move forward. Such was the case with my niece’s wedding this year. Nine years ago this July my twin brother left behind a son and daughter after unexpectedly passing away from a heart attack. The pain of his loss was immediate and all consuming, not only for me but also for my entire family. The suddenness of the event was overwhelming in the moment and in the months following; I came to realize that his death also presented other unforeseen challenges in the years ahead, like standing in for him at his daughter’s wedding. For nine years, I secretly harbored this fear and last year it came to fruition as Holly’s longtime boyfriend proposed to her while kneeling next to my brother’s memorial pavestone at the foot of Allen Fieldhouse.

Two months later, and my Dad and I received a text from Holly asking us to meet her for lunch. It was there that she asked me if I would walk her down the aisle and asked her Grandfather to take Mark’s place in the father/daughter dance at the reception. With tears in our eyes, we both said “Absolutely, it would be our honor to do so.”

Since that moment, I was overwhelmed with the responsibility of honoring my brother at the wedding and doing it in a way that would be meaningful to Holly, without casting a cloud over the event. My brother was a great father and he was very close to his kids. His death was tragic and the fact that we were twins complicated my relationship with his children. The day after my brother passed, his daughter Holly poignantly said to me – “You are a blessing and a curse Uncle Paul as you look like my Dad and you sound like my Dad, but you are not my Dad.” To which I replied, “I am so sorry. Like you, I loved your Dad dearly and I will always be here for you even though I know it will be awkward for all of us.” Her words struck a chord in me as I was having difficulty looking in the mirror myself and seeing Mark looking back at me. To gain some separation from him, I decided to grow my goatee as Mark had never worn one in the 46 years I’d known him. I did so for me, but also for Holly and Cody as seeing a living spitting image of their Dad was difficult for all of us.

Paul Weddle (right) with his brother Mark.

The year passed quickly and the time had finally come for the big event. With tears in my eyes, I typed up my speech for the rehearsal dinner. I retyped it at least ten times, as I wanted to get it right. Some of you think I should be a writer. I can tell you my brother was a natural at it and his English papers in college always left me speechless, such was his gift. Below is the gift I left for him and his daughter…

For those of you that do not know me, I am Paul Weddle, Holly’s Uncle and twin brother to her late Dad Mark Weddle. Thank you Ferber’s for a wonderful night and thank you Holly for the honor of filling in for your Dad tomorrow. Tomorrow is going to be amazing.

Over the years, I have been blessed to watch Holly morph from a curly haired, strong willed, dimpled cheek girl to the beautiful, caring, witty and fearless young woman she is today. Moreover, fearless is the operative word when describing Holly.

Looking back, one of my favorite memories of Holly’s grade school days was the Britney Spears performances she put on for the family. Her rendition of “Oops. I did it again” and “Hit me baby one more time” were fearlessly performed and wildly entertaining… Holly was also fearless as a competitor growing up and I observed this while helping Mark coach her 3rd grade basketball team. No opponent was too big and when we needed to stop the other team’s best scorer, Holly was the answer. Shortly thereafter, Holly found her true athletic passion – soccer. Just like in basketball, Holly excelled in defense and played mid defender for her teams. Over the next 9 years, we had the pleasure of watching Holly fearlessly push the ball down field, while defending her goal and helping her high school team advance to the 5A state title game her junior year in high school. In short, Holly may look like Barbie, but she kicks like Ken…

In life, as in sports Holly is also fearless. At the age of 19, Holly unexpectedly lost her Dad and insisted on giving his eulogy. It was an incredibly difficult moment for anyone, let alone a 19 year old. Holly spoke from her heart and she did it with poise, with grace and with courage and closed with the words – “I will make you proud.” Holly, I know your Dad is proud of you and if he were here today, he would be standing in my place telling you how much he loves you and how proud he is of the incredible young woman you have become. Your strength makes you fearless.

Which leads me to Charlie (McConaughey) Ferber who when I first met you – you were so relaxed, calm and collected I fully expected you to say – “alright, alright, alright”. Then I learned you fished and honestly, you had me at fishing. Fast forward a few years to the day you proposed. Your proposal to Holly while kneeling next to her Dad’s memorial pavestone at Allen Fieldhouse touched us all deeply. The thoughtfulness and planning it took to include Mark in that moment was truly inspirational, hooking all of us completely. In the days ahead, always remember that the biggest catch of your life is the one sitting beside you tonight.

Thank you both, for finding each other in this crazy world and letting us all share in your joy this weekend.

In closing, I offer this bit of advice for both of you – in the years ahead when your first reaction to each other might be – “I Don’t”, take a pause and remember that “I Don’t” begins with “I Do”.

Please raise a glass – To Holly and Charlie – May you fearlessly fill your life together with love, laughter and happiness! Cheers!

Paul Weddle (far left) next to his niece Holly and her husband Charlie on their wedding day.

I share this story with you as a reminder that grief can last a lifetime. Every day at Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care we minister to those freshly grieving, as we offer comprehensive grief support to the families of people we serve. In addition, we provide programs for the larger community, support groups and workshops, and educational resources to community groups and medical professionals. If you, or someone you know, are in need of grief support services please consider Kansas City Hospice’s Programs for Grief and Healing and reach out to us for support by calling 913.341.0318. Loss and grief is something we will all experience in our lifetimes and presents a hill we all have to climb at one point or another. For me, looking back was what I needed to do to finish my climb.


One Comment on “My Grief Journey”

  1. Forrest E Weddle Says:

    Powerful and moving!
    Thanks for sharing Paul!

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