Ralph Roberts Writes Tribute To Deceased Daughter

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 18 July 2006 17:00

My daughter, Kolleen Roberts, is more to me than my daughter.

Kolleen is part of my fondest memories, my most deeply felt emotions, my most rewarding experiences. Kolleen is all the special people she brought into our home, along with their memories, their emotions, their laughter, and the secrets she shared with them and they with her.

On Memorial Day of 2006, Kolleen died doing what she loved best -- jet skiing with friends and family near our summer cottage on Lake St. Clair. She was 18 years old. Like all families who experience a sudden loss of a loved one at such a young age, we shed our tears and leaned on family members and friends for support. Although we could appreciate the precious gift of Kolleen's love and spirit for 18 years, we truly felt cheated out of a life that held so much promise.

When we lost Kolleen, it felt as though someone had turned off the lights in the auditorium of our lives. The hustle and bustle fell silent, hopeful expectations dimmed, and we all felt a little smaller, as if a lead blanket had been laid upon us.

Then, something amazing began to happen, something none of us had expected. Soon after Kolleen's death, we set up a blog in her memory, KolleenRoberts.com , where friends, family, and acquaintances could post tributes and stories and photos of Kolleen on the Internet.

On the first day, visitors posted over 100 tributes. By the second day, we saw more than 400 postings. And the blog continues to grow with more than 1,100 postings at last count. Friends and family members visited us in person to share their memories and stories. Flowers, cards, and letters poured in. People called us from all over the country. We met people for the first time who knew Kolleen and related stories we had never heard and some stories that Kolleen probably never would have told us. We experienced Kolleen in a way that we never could have without this tragic accident.

On May 29 of 2006, Kolleen's body was no longer living, but her spirit refused to die. It lives in the hearts and souls and stories and laughter of her friends and family. It lives in the selfless good deeds she performed. It lives in the tributes and stories and photos posted on her blog. It lives in the hearts and minds of her friends, classmates, and teammates. It lives in the positive role model she continues to be to her brother, Kyle, and her sister, Kaleigh. And it will always live and expand in the heart and soul of my wife, Kathleen, and me.

The two words "my daughter" have a special significance to every father. Those two words evoke a combination of the deepest love, overwhelming pride, maddening frustration, mild disappointment, and awe-inspiring joy. But Kolleen's death made me realize that Kolleen is much more than "my daughter" and that the collective memories and spirit she inspired during her short life were more than enough to transcend her passing.

I always thought of death as the ultimate conqueror, but Kolleen's life and the many people who refuse to let her spirit be swept away continue to prove that death is no match for Kolleen's zest for life and the immeasurable love and spirit she inspired in the many lives she touched.

Editor's note: We extend our deepest sympathies to Ralph and his family. When a tragedy like this occurs in the Realtor family, it affects each of us.

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