ONE VOICE: CONLAN KEENAN Goodbye, Mom. I love you.

My life has had its ups and downs.

I have definitely caught myself asking, “How am I going to get through this?”

Growing up, I’m sure there were many times my mom, Paula, didn’t want to get up in the wee hours of the morning to drive me to a cold rink for hockey practice. But she always did anyway. She loved seeing me smile while playing the sport I loved.

No matter how good or bad I was at something, my parents were my number-one supporters. They were always there to tell me how much they loved watching and how great a job I was doing. My dad, Brian, is a firefighter, and being on call made it tough for him to take me to very many practices, games or tournaments. So that meant my mom and I got to spend a lot of time in the car together. We formed a special bond during all those road trips that was unbreakable. It is safe to say I was a "momma’s boy" growing up for sure.

However, you know that one mother who was always there taking pictures of their kids and the team every step they take? Yep, that was my mom. She always had her camera out and was telling me stuff like, “Stop right there and smile.”

Me and mom.

It was a Friday and I was a freshman in high school. My mom was dropping me off at Webster Ice Arena to load up with my team for a weekend road trip. It was the one trip we took a year that we got to ride a coach bus and spend two nights in a hotel. It was just fun to get away with the boys. Even to this day, I always get excited when Geneseo goes on long overnight road trips. If you ask me, that is the best part of being a hockey player.

I gave my mom a kiss goodbye before I jumped on the bus and I remember her telling me, “Dad and I will be watching your games, so you better go out there and kick some butt!

“And Conlan, we are always proud of you no matter what.”

I don’t remember exactly how we played that weekend, but I remember how fun it was. On the bus ride home, I was thinking about how I didn’t want to go back home, or even worse, back to school that Monday. I just wanted to play hockey.

My mom was, of course, the first one waiting in the loop when we got back. She was standing outside her car waving. My face definitely turned bright red as she yelled my name and came over to give me a big hug and a kiss as I got off the bus.

On the car ride home, I told her how embarrassing she was and that none of the other guys’ moms acted that way. As we pulled in the garage, she put the car in park and said, “Well Conlan, I’m fine with being the only mom that does that.”

Shaking my head, I went inside the house and straight up to my room to get ready for school the next day and go to bed.

I woke up the next morning five minutes before the bus showed up. Before sprinting out of the house, I rushed into my parents’ room to give my mom a kiss goodbye.

“Goodbye, Mom. I love you.”

That was the last thing I would ever say to my mom. The last goodbye I would ever tell her. And the last hug and kiss I would ever get from her.

"On the car ride home, I told her how embarrassing she was and that none of the other guys’ moms acted that way. As we pulled in the garage, she put the car in park and said, “Well Conlan, I’m fine with being the only mom that does that.”"

My friend, Spencer and I were sitting in science class, goofing around like always, when our principal, Mr. Grow, entered the classroom with a serious look on his face and asked to talk to me. I thought to myself, “What the heck have I done wrong?” Nothing seemed to come to mind.

As we walked down to his office, he told me my dad was waiting there to see me. For the rest of my life, I will never forget the look on his face as I approached him.

Sadness. Devastation. Shock. He came right up and hugged me as hard as he could.

“What’s wrong dad?”

“Mom isn’t here anymore.”

We stood there for so long, crying in each other’s arms. It was the worst day of my life.

My mom suffered a pulmonary embolism, which I later learned meant there was a sudden blockage of a blood vessel in her lung, most likely by a blood clot.

How was I going to go on in life without my mom? How was my dad going to live the rest of his life without his high school sweetheart by his side? How was my sister going to grow up without a mother figure? Things just didn’t make sense at all and I couldn’t wrap my head around what had happened.

Why did this have to happen to us? WHY US? What are we going to do without mom?

The next couple of days, I was surrounded by friends and family, but what really mattered was being with my dad and sister. The three of us were in shock and felt so much sadness and madness.

From that day on, we called ourselves “The Three Musketeers.” It was something we said that we would never ever give up. We would always have each other, no matter what else happened.

Thousands of people came to the calling hours for my mom to give their condolences. Family, friends, neighbors, her co-workers, my dad’s fire department, hockey families, my sister’s classmates and friends, and people I didn’t even know.

I know Mom will always be watching.

What I learned from them all was how great a person my mother was. How she always had a smile on her face, how she always went out of her way to say hi and make sure people were ok and having a good day. The energy she brought to work each and every day and the impact she had on people’s lives was something that stood out to me and made me realize how the smallest things you do may make another person’s day. You never know what they are going through.

I made a promise to myself that I would try to have an impact on people just like my mom did and to go about life the way she did. If I could make half the difference she did, I would call it a job well done.

I continue to carry her legacy with me, especially when I’m on the ice playing hockey. I write her name on my hockey stick because I know she is my number one fan and always watching down on me.

She would always tell me to “just have fun” when playing and that is exactly what I do. As soon as hockey is no longer fun, that’s when I stop playing.

Some might know me as a goofball, the loud and energetic one, the one who is always talking to people he doesn’t know. Others might know me as a friend, or a hockey player, or might not even know me at all.

I want people to know me as the guy that always has a smile on his face, the kid that never seems to be in a bad mood and always seems to find strength even in the most negative situations and who always puts others first.

It’s the least I can do for her.

Created By
Conlan Keenan


Photos by Keith Walters. Others furnished by Conlan Keenan.

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