Katie Kerl: Life After Death

portrait of David J. Kerl In Memorium
David J. Kerl: In Memorium

Text by Katie Kerl, Copyright 2021


Life After Death


 I was struggling to pick a meaningful title for this article. I went to three different bars the night before Thanksgiving. It was my father’s favorite night of the year. In each restaurant/bar Biggie’s Life After Death Album was playing which, I found weird but nostalgic. There I had my title.  

My father David J. Kerl is finally at peace after years of winning over cancer. No matter how I put it he won after four years and five illnesses. Those he took with pride and dignity. Not always clarity, but it would not have been my dad if it was completely organized.  

He passed away 11-11-21 in the arms of my mother and I. As comfortable as he could be considering. I will be placing the date on my sleeve that I am completing. My down the rabbit hole life has ended in Dat world I helped create. This is where I belong. It was the last thing he got to see. 

The two weeks leading up to this he was hospitalized for dangerously low hemoglobin. After a week in the hospital, it was finally time to have hospice come in. That killed me and there are many reasons why I am letting go with him.  

Hospice could not have been nicer.  My mother and I sat there for a while with him before calling anyone after he passed. There I was lying next to my father thankful he was at rest.  It was the first time he looked comfortable in three years. 

That is the part that made me angry. While hospice workers are empathetic and amazing; the way we let people go in that manner to me is too slow. I never did see my dad in the hospital when he was there. I struggled with that the entire week. We had talked a lot about death through the years. I used to beg him to stop. Now I know why. He did not want me to see what he witnessed; unsuspectedly finding my grandmother after her stroke. That messed him up for the rest of his life. He did not want that for me. 

 I respected what we had talked about and prayed to whatever is out there that he would make it home so I could say good bye. He made it home. Everyone he was unable to see during covid came through my house like it was a celebrity passing. It comforted me in a way I did not expect. Going through this often we make it too personal when that person lived an entire life before us. We are only part of a fraction of that time. I am thankful for the 37 years I received with a father like that. He did the absolute best he could with me. I did not miss one thing, and the encouragement to just be myself alone is something ill treasure forever.  

I was so happy he got the support, and to see the people that REALLY mattered.  

In his corner of the world, he was superman to so many. I also did not stay for friends coming through either. I know as soon as he saw me, he would let go. After a week of visitors, I went home. I sat down next to him and told him that it was ok. That my mother and I would be fine. I am in a place right now to make sure of that. I do not plan to let him down. Less than 24 hours after I arrived home, my best friend decided he had enough. I am at peace with it. It hurts, I cry, but I am going to keep his tradition going. Nothing we ever did was conventional. We get upset, we cry briefly, and we buy shoes.  

Oh, did I buy shoes…. Whoever said retail therapy does not work lied to you, or I just see it differently because we did it together. Sitting in grief does nothing but waste your own time. Sitting in Philipp Plein makes it a little more tolerable. Most people think that is deranged. Not if you knew my dad. 

If you were having a difficult day, it did not last long around him. I would cry about something and he would yell there is nothing for you to be upset about; go buy shoes and have a drink. We would talk about what bothered both of us for as long as I can remember and that was enough. He did not even have to say anything. Half the time we did not have the answers living such different lives. Really listening with no judgment is what we all need. I am forever grateful for everything he taught me. There was never a dull moment, and enough life experience between the two of us for a group of people. There is no question if my father lived, fought, and won.  

I had the privilege of telling his story the last three years on Tony’s platform. From there I had the honor of taking him to see what I helped create at Derek Automotive in Atlanta. 

I got one more night to party with my father like he was not sick at all.  Fuck a wedding; my dad got to walk me into a business I helped create.  He was able to see me succeed and not take credit for someone else’s triumphs.  I will have that forever as I said in my previous piece and will continue to for as long as I am alive. 

We did something unconventional for his funeral, we cut straight to the party and celebrated his life at Springfield County Club.  It is what he would have wanted. That was his favorite place to do happy hour, and brunch in the spring/summer/Mother’s Day.  

I do not know any people who get to tell their family story for anyone to read. This is my therapy. Knowing who ever reads this gets my father was one of a kind. 

 Rest in Kerl Fashion Dad. Rocks glass in hand, Hawaiian shirt on, storytelling by a pool somewhere amazing … I am not sure we do peace that well in the Kerl family, but you got as close to it as possible. 

Cheers to you as I sit with a glass of crown knowing how lucky I am.  

Until I see you again. XO 



Katie Kerl was raised in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. She is currently living  in Northern Liberties, Philadelphia. Katie has a background in Psychology from Drexel University. She is a manager in the commercial/residential design field . Katie can be reached  on Instagram @kerlupwithkate 

For collaboration e-mail: Kate.kerl32@gmail.com

To access additional article by Katie Kerl, click herehttps://tonyward.com/katie-kerl-living-legacy/

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