Death and Life Experiences

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Life is all about experiences, a friend used to say; though, he experienced life in the ways of Jimi Hendrix.
 
He was, in his own spaced out way, partly correct. Experiences do make life. But sometimes its what we dont experience that prolongs it.
 
Kelly Jo and Dakoda Dowd
Kelly Jo and Dakoda share a hug at the 2006 Ginn Open. (Getty Images)
Sometimes we are fortunate enough to not have to experience something because someone before us already has. Sometimes that precedent individual is a martyr; sometimes just an unwilling victim.
 
Sometimes a very brave, unwilling victim.
 
Kelly Jo Dowd died last week due to cancer. It got in her bones, got in her organs and finally got the better of her body Thursday night in her condo outside of Tampa, Fla. She was 42.
 
The nation got a chance to see Kelly Jos courage last year as she got to watch her little girl compete on the LPGA Tour.
 
All Kelly Jo ever really wanted was to see her daughter, Dakoda, play on the LPGA. She knew that, with Dakodas talent, one day that would be a possibility. She also knew that, with her condition, one more day was always an uncertainty.
 
In late 2001, Kelly Jo discovered a lump in her breast. Ten months later it was diagnosed as cancer. That delay was costly. It cost Kelly Jo both of her breasts in a double mastectomy and much of her health through intense chemotherapy.
 
She eventually beat cancer into remission. But cancer is unrelenting, a general who loses a battle only to return with twice as much conquering force as before.
 
The Dowd family discovered two years ago that the cancer was back. And this time it wasnt concentrated in her breasts; it was just about everywhere.
 
Devastating, Mike Dowd said last year, recalling when he received the initial news.
 
It was Mike who had to give the diagnosis and prognosis to his wife. It was Dakoda who had always been a daddys girl.
 
Now she's a mama's girl, Kelly Jo said at last years Ginn Open.
 
Real estate mogul Bobby Ginn extended a sponsors invitation to then 13-year-old Dakoda to compete in his Ginn Open, thus allowing her mother the opportunity to see Dakoda compete on the LPGA Tour.
 
In a pre-tournament press conference, Mike, Dakoda and Kelly Jo all sat in a row before the media. Mike would make jokes and Dakoda would roll her eyes like a teen-aged girl with a too-cool dad. Kelly Jo talked about mother/daughter day. They answered questions about the past and contemplated those on the future.
 
And Kelly Jo made sure to make a statement. For as much as this was a gift for the family, it was also a great opportunity, a national podium for Kelly Jo to help others avoid her mistake.
 
As long as we get our message out there about metastatic breast cancer and as long as I can get my message out there about women not waiting, I'll be thrilled, Kelly Jo said.
 
As Dakoda prepared to hit her opening tee shot in the tournament, Kelly Jo bowed her head nervously and prayerfully. She then looked up to see her angel hit a drive straight and true. She let out some praise, lifted her hands above her head and met Dakoda halfway with a big, loving, prideful hug.
 
Dakoda shot 74 that Thursday and 82 that Friday. She missed the cut, but fulfilled a dream.
 
After putting herself in contention to make the cut following her opening score, Dakoda wondered aloud why women ' i.e. her mother ' always cry when something good happens.
 
Okay, I guess I'm a hypocrite, Dakoda said a day later. Yeah, okay, I cried because I was happy. But a little bit of it was, I was really, really happy, but I was really, really sad.
 
Said Kelly Jo to the media: I realize Dakoda didn't make the cut today, but as far as you guys know, she made Mama's cut today.
 
Thanks, Mom, responded Dakoda.
 
Kelly Jo Dowd was a wife and a mother. She was a model of beauty turned restaurant manager turned cancer victim turned model of inspiration.
 
There was a time when she wanted to give up. She didnt want to go through that second tour of chemo. There was also a time when Dakoda wanted to quit playing golf, when she wanted to give it all up to spend every moment possible with a mother whose life had been put on notice.
 
They helped each other to continue, to move forward.
 
Dakoda continues to play golf. She recently failed to advance through local qualifying for the U.S. Womens Open, but she will be a freshman this fall in Tampa and anticipates making the boys golf team.
 
She will continue without her mother in body, but with her in memory.
 
And if we can remember Kelly Jo as well, then some of us may avoid having to experience what she did. Which is exactly what she would want.
 
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
 
Related Links:
  • Golf Phenom Dakoda Dowd's Mother Dies
  • 2006 Ginn Open Coverage