Kevin’s last email to me arrived nine days ago. It followed a brief text exchange in which he admitted that his health was deteriorating because of his struggle with COVID. He died this week, but his email is still on my computer screen, not tucked away in a folder or tossed into the trash. But more on that later.
Kevin Gaghan wrestled for the Bishop Ireton teams that I coached in the early 1970’s. He was a good wrestler and placed high in every tournament he entered. Opponents may have scored more points in a match against Kevin, but none of them defeated him. But one of his matches is still remembered by his teammates, by his opponent, and by me.
Bishop McNamara was the visiting team for an afternoon dual meet. It promised to be an exciting one between two all-boy’s Catholic schools that were members of the athletic Metro League in Washington, DC. Ireton was favored to win, but McNamara had several good wrestlers, so some exciting individual matches were anticipated. One of those was Kevin’s match against his opponent, also named Kevin. My memory of the match is that our Kevin took control and had a comfortable, but not large, lead. However, he twisted an ankle causing him much pain. He knew that his ankle was badly injured, but he told me that he wanted to continue the match because he did not want to forfeit to the McNamara wrestler. The two scrappy wrestlers continued their match, while the McNamara coach all the while screamed for his charge to “Grab the ankle, Grab the ankle”, but the McNamara Kevin won a close match without touching the injured ankle. After the dual meet he told me that he had not wanted to beat Kevin Gaghan by taking advantage of the injured ankle, which is a testament to the character of them both—one forged ahead in the heat of adversity and the other exhibited sportsmanship.
As an adult Kevin Gaghan used the exemplary character he showed in a high school wrestling match to build a successful business. He married, shared life with his wife and two sons, and gave generously to many people and programs such as the ailing high school wrestling program that I coached after retiring. He even donated to a wrestling program here in North Carolina after I asked him for support. Kevin was a caring benefactor to a wide assortment of schools, hospitals, individuals, and programs.
The last time I saw Kevin, he had stopped to see my wife and me during a road trip he was making to see his siblings in various places, and an older brother lives in the same town as us, so he came by to share a fine afternoon before he went on to eastern North Carolina to visit one more brother before returning to his immediate family. “Just tooling around to see everybody,” he said. I admire that in Kevin, the man who took the time to visit and talk and share with loved ones.
But back to Kevin’s last email to sixteen of us. His words are italicized.
Kevin Gaghan Thu, Apr 7, 3:37 PM (9 days ago)
The power of words!! If you like music after seeing the video, click on the you tube link of the tenors singing halleluha (or however it is spelled)
The Palindrome Video
A palindrome reads the same backwards as forward. This video reads the exact opposite backwards as forward. Not only does it read the opposite, the meaning is the exact opposite.
I don’t know if Kevin knew this would be his last email to folks. But in his match against the McNamara wrestler, young Kevin showed us what a wrestler should aspire to be. A few days before his death, through the email, Kevin Gaghan shared with us a message that shows what we should aspire to be. That is his life-long lesson to us.