For years Jeff and Dande Bagby have dreamed of opening their own brewery and restaurant; they have worked to make this dream come to fruition. With many hundreds of thousands of dollars invested into construction, and a local economy slowly coming back, you have to be brave to commit to such a large project. Jeff is a well-established brewer in San Diego County.
So when the Bagbys arrived Monday morning to see a wall vandalized by graffiti, they were distraught; among the first thoughts through their minds was how much is this going to cost, as every penny has a meaning for them in this project: converting a vintage BMW dealership into a two-story brewery-restaurant complex. The second was who would do this to us, and how can people be so thoughtless?
Then they took a moment and looked at the message: "4 Kenny-Cancer Can't Kill Me," and they knew there was more to this story. In their blog, the Bagbys wrote, "this was bigger than us."
On Tuesday the Bagbys were at the site of the new brewery when they noticed three people taking pictures of the wall. Dande went to speak to them and learned the group taking pictures included Kenny's wife, Robin.
The Bagbys also know, as I do, that cancer changes, alters and destroys lives. The moment could have gone countless ways: They could have pursued criminal charges, remained frustrated and angry, continued to feel victimized. Instead Dande asked Kenny's wife if she could give her hug -- and then she did.
A friend shared the story with me via the Bagbys' blog. When I read the story, I had so many thoughts and feelings. I thought about my friend Suzy, who just lost her husband to cancer. I had a sense of my own mortality in reading the story.
According to the American Cancer Society, "In 2014, there will be an estimated 1,665,540 new cancer cases diagnosed and 585,720 cancer deaths in the US. Cancer remains the second most common cause of death in the US, accounting for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths." It is nearly impossible not to be affected by a cancer of some kind.
I was in email contact with the Bagbys over their blog. When Jeff said they had opened the brewery gates Friday afternoon, to allow for any of Kenny's friends and family who wanted to see the mural up close, and to provide an opportunity to take a few moments to remember Kenny, I thought to myself, "a celebration of his life?"
Kenny lost his battle with cancer on January 30, 2014.
In an interview, Dande Bagby shared her thoughts over this experience:
"The real magic for us in this story has less to do with our decision to not paint over the mural, and much more to do with Robin. She chose to be open and vulnerable, and to trust a complete stranger, when she had every reason not to, and could have just walked away - to us, this makes her an exceptional person, and through her, we have learned what an incredibly inspiring, giving, caring, kind, enthusiastic man Kenny was. And, through meeting their circle of friends and family during the memorial at the wall on Friday, including the artist himself, we can see that, in fact, the mural is the purest outward expression on behalf of an entire community of people desperate and powerless against his advancing illness."
On February 4, 2014, US Congressmen Steve Israel (D) will introduce a resolution in the US House of Representatives proclaiming it National Cancer Awareness Day. In an interview he had this to say: "Designating February 4th as National Cancer Prevention Day will help remind us that when we think about cancer, we must also keep in mind prevention and reducing risk and how simple behavioral changes can go a long way."
One thing is for certain: Two families are now joined by an event that could have gone countless ways, but the word human can never be underestimated. The wall that is a memorial to Kenny will be preserved in his honor.