Sunny Side Up!

by Mary Helen Darah

My family lost one of the “great ones” shortly before the holidays. I have affectionately called Kent Hagemeyer “Opa” since infancy. My dad and Opa shared close to eight decades of the joys and sorrows of life, or what Zorba the Greek referred to as “the full catastrophe,” since they met in the second grade. Although we each liked to lay a personal claim to Opa, he belonged to us all. I believe his selfless family shared him with us knowing that we could all use a little of his unconditional love, childlike enthusiasm, kite flying tips and how to be (his favorite word) “SPLENDID,” even during times of killer hornets and a global pandemic. As we head into a new and hopefully improved year, we can all take away a lesson or two from Opa.
Enjoy the journey
Unlike my father who is focused on getting from point A to point B as efficiently and quickly as possible, Opa was all about enjoying the journey. A kayak trip from our Canadian cabin to Blueberry Island, on average, takes dad and me 48 minutes. With Opa, you made sure you tinkled and packed snacks, for a little kayaking jaunt could turn into a “Gilligan’s Island” adventure. While taking the same course as I did with my dad, with Opa we arrived at our destination three hours later, after watching a loon fish and figuring out if the cloud above us looked like a beaver or an angel. The biggest hold-up was a lengthy discussion about surviving in adverse conditions and the importance of thriving where you’re planted after observing a fern growing out of a small crevice in the rocks. I will always remember his observation about how you can broaden your horizons and prosper, even in harsh conditions, with the slightest bit of soil and support.

Play ball!
Opa loved spending time with those he loved, especially doing any activity that ended in “ball.”
This included pickle, hand, tennis, and bocce. In true Opa form, he would take time to appreciate and be present in the moment. Games in Florida often were held up due to pelican fly-overs or a sea turtle sighting while playing bocce ball on the beach. Yet, he had a bit of a competitive streak and would INSIST you always bring your A game. At work or at play, on and off the court, he was a big believer in being a team player, giving support, even to the opposition, and continually striving to better your game.
In a world where success is often judged by monetary gains and accolades, Opa was a constant reassuring presence that I was enough. I’m sure he shared his encouragement of “enoughness” with others, but for me personally, it was one of the greatest gifts he gave me. He would reassure me that kindness, nurturing and helping others and being a good parent and friend were underrated attributes, yet so needed in today’s world. “It is important to have goals and dreams but they need to belong to you,” he would say. “You are never going to be enough to some people. Just when you think you are getting close to the elusive bar, it will move. So be the best you can possibly be but know you are ENOUGH.” 
Family first
Above all, Opa was a family man. The beautiful thing is that we all felt like family to the big-hearted, kite-flying, sentimental man. A side note … at times his sentimentality reached extreme proportions. My mom finally bought him a new bathing suit in hopes that he would retire the one my parents gifted him 30 years ago. That was the charming, splendid thing about Opa. He loved his family and they were always the center of his world. He may have left us physically, but his enthusiasm and belief that every day had the potential to be splendid will live on. I have countless memories of sharing sunsets in St. Augustine, starlit skies up north and fly-fishing, where I also had to endure learning the history of every lure he owned.
Looking back, the times we considered “wasted time” were anything but time wasted. They were the blessing of sharing in the life of someone who made all of us appreciate the beauty of being. In the year ahead, in his honor, let us love unconditionally, waste time building drippy sandcastles, celebrate the extraordinary in the ordinary and even through difficult days, be SPLENDID.

11 thoughts on “Sunny Side Up!

  1. Beautifully written tribute to a dear man!
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
    Isn’t it amazing how one person can enrich your life?
    Ellen Carnahan

  2. Although I only knew Opa for a short time he has truly changed my life forever. He will always hold a special place in my heart ❤️ Such a beautiful article. You truly were a splendid individual.

  3. Very well done MH. You brought even more memories to brighten my day. There really is not a minute that passes where am not reminded of my dad. What he taught me, what he did, what he ate, what he said… he lives within me and reminds me to try and live in his light, and to be enough.
    Thank you for this!

    Love to you,

  4. Beautiful tribute! Opa even swayed the hearts of the very young! My daughter was in kindergarten when he volunteered. That was 17 yrs ago and he still remembered her when we would run into him! Such an amazing man!

  5. I agree with each word written. Kent was a true treasure. I am blessed to have known him, worked with him and call him friend. My life is richer for it. I will miss him. Hugs to you and to all who will miss this fine gent.

  6. What a sweet tribute. We were first cousins once removed and getting together occasionally to get to know each other better. Your tribute makes me sad that i didnt get to know more of those delightful traits. How blessed your families both were.

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