Faces in the Crowd- How Our Love Lives and Never Dies

Posted on May 10, 2018 under Faces in the Crowd with 5 comments



“Bill. I love you so, I always will.”

Wedding Bell Blues – Fifth Dimension

“I am a hard worker and a fighter. I love my family more than anything, including my four legged friends.”

Meet Linda Kennedy.

The youngest of three siblings, Linda was born on Hallowe’en Day in London, Ontario. “I’m a treat; not a trick!”  quips Linda. At the age of three, her father was diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, a group of varied inherited disorders of the peripheral nervous system characterized by progressive loss of muscle tissue and touch sensation across various parts of the body. By the time she was five, her dad had leg braces. It was her first exposure to the world of people with disabilities.

Even at a young age, her caring instinct came to the fore. Her mother always thought that she would have made an excellent nurse. Eventually, her dad ended up in a wheelchair and suffered through cancer, a heart attack and pressure wounds. He accepted his lot in life with grace and dignity.

The family moved to Burlington in 1967.

Linda loved her youth and was a sports enthusiast. After graduating from high school, she attended Sheridan College where she received a diploma in Media Arts. She ended up in television, a world dominated by men at the time. She gained the respect of her peers and management and became the first female master control technician in Canada.

Bill Kennedy was born in Toronto. His family was originally from Newfoundland . He was one of ten children and at the age of 16, left home in search of work. He moved to St. John’s, married young, and had two children. The marriage ended after six years.

Bill was tall, handsome, and very athletic. Through a series of coincidences, he ended up playing on a co-ed baseball team. Linda was a teammate. After the first game, the team went to a bar. Linda thought Bill was “magnificent” but a potential “heart breaker” and not for her. She mistook his shyness for arrogance.

They played on a few different sports teams over the next few years. One night, he asked her to dance at a function. “It clicked right away. We both knew in an instant that we were made for each other.”

They were married on October 23rd, 1987. With so many people from out of town in for the wedding, they decided to have a family get together in Muskoka. The newlyweds went up a day early before the others arrived. Being baseball enthusiasts, it was not surprising that they watched game 7 of the World Series that evening. Late into the evening, Bill stepped out on the deck for a smoke. Linda heard a thump and thought it might be a raccoon jumping off the roof onto the deck.

She grabbed a flashlight and went outside. A faint vice called out, “Linda. Help me. I broke my neck. I can’t move.” Bill had leaned back on the railing of the deck, slipped, and fell over backwards, landing on his head and crushing his C6 vertebrae. It was later discovered that the railing was 11 inches too low. Even at this darkest of hours, Bill maintained his legendary sense of humour. He looked at Linda and said, “Look out, Rick Hansen. Here I come.”

After a stay in the local hospital, he was airlifted to Sunnybrook in Toronto. Bill’s long and arduous journey had begun. He spent time in the brain/spinal injury unit for a few months before moving to Lyndhurst, a rehabilitation facility. He spent 10 months there and forged lifelong friendships with other patients. Many pranks were played. Laughter was sprinkled with tears but Bill never bemoaned his fate. “Why me? Why not me,” became his mantra. Anyone can become disabled in a heartbeat.

The couple moved into an accessible townhouse and four years later they bought a house. Their home became the focal point for family gatherings and celebrations, the more the merrier, and that included pets. Their motto was, “We welcome all stray pets and people.” Bill’s disability did not stand in the way of a good time.

In order to keep the family going, Linda had to work at two jobs. She was also quickly becoming Bill’s primary caregiver. A dynamo, she had the capacity to survive on very little sleep.

Over the years, the family traveled to many places. Bill’s children from his first marriage were now living with them full time. In 2004, they traveled to P.E.I. to attend his sister’s wedding. The day after the wedding, Bill slipped and fell resulting in a pressure wound. This would be a harbinger of more difficulties ahead. He had surgery to fix the pressure wound and while in hospital, contracted c difficile, a bacterium that can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life threatening inflammation of the colon. He endured three rounds of c diff but he never complained. He was more concerned about Linda’s well- being.

In 2011, Linda stopped working to devote her time caring for Bill. “I did it because I loved him. He needed my love.”

The relationship was not without its struggles but Linda attributes her fortitude and inner strength to both her dad and mom who set the moral compass and showed the family how to deal with adversity. According to Linda, the last ten years of their marriage were their best despite the fact that these ten years also posed the greatest health challenges for Bill and the extended family.

Bill’s pressure wounds continued to be a concern and then he was diagnosed with cancer. He became a type 2 diabetic, suffered a heart attack and had congestive heart failure. His weight plummeted from 240 to 110 pounds. A feeding tube became necessary.

While all this was happening, Linda’s father’s health was in decline and she spent time helping with her dad’s care. Her dad’s disease rendered him a quadriplegic. Linda applauds her mother who set the tone and example in the household: never give up and never give in.

In 2016, Bill’s health worsened and Linda’s dad finally succumbed to his illness. Her brother in law, who she visited with regularly, died of brain cancer. And their beloved dog died that summer.

Bill turned 65 on December 13, 2016 but sadly never got to cash his first company pension cheque in January of 2017. On Christmas Day, 2016, Bill died hugging the one he loved the most.

CMT is a hereditary illness. Linda was diagnosed at the age of 26. The stress of caring for so many for so long took its toll and in 2011, she started noticing that her medical condition was worsening. Having watched her father’s demise, she knows what’s ahead. But Linda is not deterred. She wants to be a change maker and will devote her considerable energy and talents to improving the health care system. “There has to be purpose for the pain.”

Linda’s final word to Bill on Christmas Eve was HOLLAND: How Our Love Lives and Never Dies.

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5 Responses to Faces in the Crowd- How Our Love Lives and Never Dies

  1. Gloria deon says:

    Wow ! And we complain about little things ! What an amazing lady !

  2. Chistina says:

    What an incredible woman and life story. Everyone has a story and I love to hear the ones that our residents can tell. No one has a ‘simple’ life. Amazing.

  3. Cynthia Kennedy says:

    I have the pleasure of calling this amazing woman my sisterinlaw. She has been an inspiration to me in so many ways. I have always considered her an earth angel!

  4. Miriam Gillis says:

    This is an inspirational story. What an incredible lady. May she get the healing graces that she needs to live life the way she has handled her past hardships. We should think of her when we are dealing with minor issues. Thank you for presenting her story, Len.

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