As the 2:40 bell rang, football conditioning was the furthest thing from sophomore Adam Lowe’s mind. He had been consoling sophomore friend Kelsey O’Rourke for several minutes now, but it was time for them to go tell the others. Wiping tears away from his eyes, the two walked down the hall. Silently. Holding hands.
They met the rest of their friends at the same place they always did, in front of the sophomore lockers. From the first look on Lowe and Kelsey’s face, they knew.
It had happened.
Their prayers had been unanswered. They knew this was going to happen, but at the back of their mind they had the notion that it wouldn’t. Consoling each other, Lowe led the group in a silent prayer. After 15 minuets the group dispersed. Lowe was left in the locker room. Alone. It had hit him.
He was gone.
Del Braddock had died.
* * * *
It was around 7 p.m. on Sunday Dec. 13 when sophomore Kyle Braddock got the call. He didn’t know the number on caller I.D. and figured it was those people jokingly calling him about how his neighbor’s water was now turning off.
He ignored the call.
His mother, Cappi Braddock, received the same call around the same time.
She answered, and heard the news.
Her husband Del had suffered a massive stroke. He was in the hospital in Houston, where he’d been on a business trip.
Kyle, Cappi and her sister Nancy left at 6 a.m. the next morning. It was the earliest flight to Houston.
“I don’t remember sleeping that night,” Cappi said. “It was horrible. [There] was a real sense of denial that it didn’t happen.”
But it had happened.
Del was at a friend’s house before meeting up with other friends for dinner, when the biggest vein in his brain ruptured.
The house was in a rural area outside Houston, so the ambulances didn’t arrive for 30 minutes. By that time, Del had slipped into a coma.
When Kyle and his mother arrived in Houston, they went directly to the hospital. They were told not to bother with hotels and to get there as soon as possible.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Kyle said. “I was scared like none other.”
His father was on life support.
“It was terrible seeing him,” Kyle said. “He was mostly recognizable except for all the tubes coming out of his head.”
Cappi and her son visited Del for a while, then went across the walkway and spent the night at the hotel connected to the hospital.
On Dec. 16, the Braddocks and doctors sat down and weighed their options. There was no question. They had to pull the plug. There was only a small portion of Del’s brain that wasn’t affected.
“If he would have come out of (the coma), he would have been like a vegetable,” Kyle said. “He wouldn’t be able to talk or walk or do anything on his own, so there really wasn’t a real point.”
Kyle didn’t want to be around when they did it. He couldn’t stand being there anymore. He needed to get out of the hospital.
So he visited his breathing dad one last time.
Kyle couldn’t look at him in the face. Tubes protruded everywhere – head, throat and neck – from the most important man in his life. Thoughts of father/son trips flooded his mind.
All the big games he watched with him on the beige couch in their living room. All the baseball games his dad coached him through. This was the man who knew every mascot of every college. This was the man who cooked him dinner every night. This was his dad. And he couldn’t even look at his face. It was just too hard.
Kyle had to say goodbye.
“I just told him how much I loved him and that I will love him forever,” Kyle said.
He exited the room and walked out of the hospital.
Now it was just Mrs. Braddock and her sister Nancy in the room. Cappi’s memories were swirling.
Life before Kyle. Constantly travelling. Not eating dinner until 9 at night because it didn’t matter. All his cooking. His love for uniforms. The random facts he knew that he’d quiz her on. How he always had to have a silly look on his face. How you could count the number of serious pictures he’s taken on one hand. How everything was a joke to him. How he made her life fun.
The doctor turned off the life support. Four hours later, Del Braddock was gone.
* * * *
Kyle was finally home. He flew from Houston to Kansas City after seeing his dad for the last time, yet he felt better being home than in the hospital. At around 2:45 the next day, Dec. 17, friends started showing up at his house. According to Cappi, it has always been easy for Kyle to get his mind off of things.
“We just sat around. Watched TV. Talked about normal things,” Kyle said.
Lowe was one of the friends that was consistently at Kyle’s house after school.
“Del was like a second father to me,” Lowe said. “He acted like I was his other child.”
Lowe first met Del two years ago at a football camp when he was with Kyle. As many other’s first impression of Del, Lowe knew right away he was something special. Especially when Lowe’s first impression was Del jokingly telling another parent, “I’m Del Braddock. I do what I want.”
Lowe and Kyle played on the same baseball team seventh to eighth grade. That’s when Lowe discovered the humor and happy-go-lucky sense of living Del went about with. He could tell that even though Del wanted to win and do well, he really just wanted to goof around. He would show up late to practice and lay on the horn to let everyone know that he was there. He would make fun of George Bret’s ‘ready position’ by standing behind him and putting his glove on his head and crossing his legs. As Lowe’s friendship grew with Kyle over the next few years, it grew with Del.
But Del didn’t just make his impression on Lowe, he made an impression on everyone he met.
“It didn’t matter if you knew him well or didn’t know him at all,” Lowe said. “but when you were around him, he had this certain presence about him that turned a decent day into a great day. He loved life, and you could tell.”
Del’s effect on people was widespread.
Sophomore Logan Rose met him in fourth grade at baseball, and right away thought he was a genuine individual. Because of his charm, ability to lighten the mood and his obvious love for coaching, Rose continued playing baseball until eighth grade, way longer than he would have if Del hadn’t coached.
“He always had a smile on his face,” Rose said. “He was truly, truly just a great guy.”
Rose was at school when he heard the news about the stroke that Del had suffered. He gained more and more information about it throughout the day about what had happened. The more the news, the worse he felt.
“I don’t know why it had to be him,” Rose said. “He just such a great guy and I don’t know why this had to happen to him.”
* * * *
Walking through the doors into the East gym, there was a certain buzz in the air. It was the biggest game of the year, and the perfect time for the sophomores to pay tribute to their lost friend.
The sophomore basketball team was taking on Rockhurst the Saturday after Del’s passing. Just past the doors, Lowe, Sam Byers, Reid Frye and countless others were busy at work on a banner – a banner for Del.
Written on an 8×10 foot sheet of paper was the only thing on the sophomores’ minds.
“Love for Del.”
Players, students, and parents signed the banner in memory of the man that made life exciting and worth talking about.
Before the game, Lowe told the crowd of the loss he and the others had suffered and asked for a moment of silence. During this, Kyle, with help, placed the banner above the sophomore bleachers. Where his would always be remembered.
Before the game began, Rose walked onto the court. The initials “DB” were clearly written in Sharpie on the tops of his shoes, in remembrance of his coach and his friend.
“He was such a great coach and probably the best I’ve ever had,” Rose said. “I just decided that I should dedicate my season to him.”
“Every time that I feel like I’ve got it tough I just look down and see DB and think about him and how bad he’s got it.”
It was a storybook ending. The sophomore Lancers upset Rockhurst with a narrow win. A win for Del.
Since the day of the Rockhurst game, Lowe, Rose, Byers and sophomore Jeff Cole have been selling wrist bracelets and t-shirts in Del’s memory. Rose and Lowe came up with the idea one day after talking about how they should remember Del.
“The demands so far are really high,” Lowe said. “Some families are buying 15 t-shirts for just one family.”
One hundred percent of the proceeds are being donated to an organization of the Braddock’s choice, which will most likely be a charity towards Downs Syndrome.
But even when the shirts and bands are all sold, and the banner in the gym falls down, Del Braddock will not be forgotten. Whether it was poking fun about everything he saw, heard or touched, or making others smile when they thought they couldn’t, Del Braddock will not only always stay with Kyle and his family, but the sophomores as well.
“If there was anything that Del wanted everyone to know, it was his love for his son,” Cappi said.
“It doesn’t feel real,” Kyle said. “I still feel like he’s still on that business trip. He just hasn’t come home yet.
“He never wanted anyone to be mad or sad or anything. Even if you were having the worst day of your life, when you talked to him he made everything okay. I’m really going to miss him.”