Widowed father Kevin Powell finds solace in family, fitness – Jamaica Gleaner

Kevin Powell was ecstatic to meet his soulmate, Marsha, and grow their beautiful family together. But when tragedy struck, and his love lost her battle to breast cancer, Powell found himself grieving her untimely death, while raising not one, but two daughters.
For Powell, fatherhood is the feeling of unconditional love and of consistency. “The fact that you are moulding a child into what you want them to be, or what they want to be, it’s such a blessing. Being a father, for me, means showing my daughters that I am going to be that constant. When things around them fail, I want to be that constant and consistent force. And especially because I am raising daughters who will grow up to have husbands, I want them to understand that there is consistency in love,” he told The Sunday Gleaner. It is a consistency that he felt from his own father growing up.
Powell shared that his father was ever present. Even in the difficulties and challenges of his son’s disabilities, senior Powell was always there. “I could give my children no less. My own parenting journey is a reflection of the great father that I had, ” he added. Powell was diagnosed with arthrogryposis as a baby. It impacted his legs, which were clasped together at birth. He underwent surgery to improve motion and alignment but his joints weren’t able to develop.
Along with being a father, Powell has had to navigate being the husband and the breadwinner. So he had to ensure that the provisions were there, but that his presence was there as well. So he mentally prepared for this great responsibility. It helped that his first child, Tavia-Ann Carr, was his ‘bonus’ princess.
Married to Marsha meant raising Tavi-Ann as well. She was eight years old at the time and he was a new father who confessed that it was easy to love her. “Although her dad was always present in her life, it never felt like a competition. I was able to jump in as an educator, help her along with her schoolwork, and be there for her in any capacity. It was a beautiful journey and she really came into my life and made me into a real man. I don’t call her my stepdaughter; I call her my daughter.” It was this journey that prepared him for his second daughter, K’Hareece.
His wife had done a C-section, so after seeing his K’Hareece for the first time was an absolute blessing. Filled with jubilation, he was over the moon excited long before her debut. But when she made her ‘red carpet’ arrival, nothing and no one could separate this father-and-daughter duo.
“As they grow, you realise they aren’t always as cute. They have their challenges and issues. And you have to navigate because there is no playbook to being a dad. Our first child was docile and easy to parent. My second daughter, not so much. She is a bit more strong-headed like her father. Seeing my reflection in my child, I had to adjust my approach,” he admitted.
But it was easy because his wife was with him. He and Marsha were a well-oiled engine, running a happy and healthy family. Until one day, life as they knew it, had changed forever.
Diagnosed with breast cancer, Marsha was set on beating the ‘big C’. She removed the tumour and all was well. But in no time, it returned two or three months after, aggressively attacking her body. “We were back at square one with a growing tumour,” he recounted.
He found the balancing act so difficult. Here he was, trying to take care of his wife while taking care of his daughters, one of which was in grade six preparing for the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) examinations. The struggle came with splitting attention and Powell felt torn at every turn. He was grateful that Tavi-Ann was old enough to assist, but she was also going through her own issues, coming to terms with what was happening to her mother.
“I think my wife waited until the results were published before she passed on. K’Hareece was the only person she responded to in her state of demise, travelling as they would say. When she saw our daughter and heard that she had passed for a school of her choice, Marsha managed to give us a smile and that was the only logical and rational response we got out of her while she was transitioning. In that sad moment, there was happiness as she was a proud momma,” he said.
Speaking of transition, Powell had to jump into single daddy mode, preparing his daughter for high school on his own; carrying her through her own scholastic pursuits, undisturbed. This was the first time he was going through this alone and the duty weighed heavily on his mind and his heart.
Ironically, when Marsha took her last breath in July, Tavi-Ann was away on a work and travel programme and K’Hareece was in New York visiting family for the summer. Powell recalled all three grieving separately and it was an extremely hard time for the mourning husband coming to grips with that reality. Not being there with his daughters to comfort them when they needed it the most only exacerbated his sorrows.
When the girls returned home safely, he repainted their rooms to shift their focus. And took a mini-family vacation after the funeral to catch up on quality time and remind them that they were not alone.
The loneliness and grief took a toll on him both mentally and physically. And although he was supported by friends and received counselling from his pastor, everything felt overwhelming. He soon found refuge in the gym. Trained by Mikhail Russell of Active Nest, Powell was able to lose 33 pounds, and counting. This has brought a steady balance back into his world.
With daughters now 21 and 12, K’Hareece and Tavia-Ann are at very different but crucial stages of life. And daddy is more than happy to be there for them through their journeys, in and out of university and high school. “It hasn’t been easy, but we’re getting through life together.”

krysta.anderson@gleanerjm.com
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