Sunday’s Inspiration: A Tribute to Jordan Kennedy

“Rhythm is a dancer, it’s a soul’s companion, you can feel it everywhere” – Snap, 1992

The above lyric is from the song that was number one in the music charts the day Jordan Kennedy was born. I remember the song well from my teens, and often danced to it myself. Now, I will never ever forget this song and everytime I hear it I will be thinking of Jordan. This, readers, is a post with a difference on Don’t Stop Living today. No travel tips, visa issues or reports on backpacking – that’s so blasse, so cliched and was never the be all and end all about this, a personal travel blog of a global backpacker. This today is a tribute to a relative of mine, Jordan Kennedy who passed away suddenly and recently. I was suitably moved, saddened and inspired by attending his “Celebration of Life” in Belfast, Northern Ireland recently that I had to get this written while emotion is still strong in my head. Here goes…

jordan kennedy belfast

Sunday’s Inspiration: A Tribute to Jordan Kennedy.

“We’ll do it all, everything” – Snow Patrol

It’s not often we get a wake up call in our lives that makes us think – wow we have to cherish our life here, our time is short and you never know when our time’s up. Don’t Stop Living has always been about living for the moment, enjoying it and loving life as much as you can, even when times get tough. Which they do. “It ain’t all champagne and skittles” as Derek Trotter once said and we know that, but we don’t always dwell on it. And we never tell our mates that when we’re down the pub do we? I don’t turn to Austin and say “enjoy this pint mate, it might be our last”, truth is, take life as it comes, spur of the moment and hang in for a topsy turvy ride. Then Bump. Ouch.

“Nobody knows the way it’s going to be” – Noel Gallagher

The last month or so of my life has been many ups and downs, probably more downs and while I’m not one to dwell either, it’s important to remember perspective is a powerful thing. A truthful and sincere post is needed here while it’s fresh in my mind. It’s time for me to reflect on those downs, the main reason for this is being inspired by the tribute to Jordan Kennedy recently. Truly, truly inspired.

“A teenage dream’s so hard to beat” – The Undertones

Let’s start with an introduction. Jordan Kennedy is a relative of mine. The exact link is complex so I’ll call Jordan a cousin as I’m endeared to him in that way and I don’t think family love should deny the right for us to be “cousins” (whether first, second, third or twice removed). The actual family link is slightly more complicated than “cousin” suggests though and we have to “skip a generation”and use our imagination if you try to work this one out. Basically on my Mum’s side of the family, Mum’s Mum, Mattie has a few sister’s, one of whom is Aggie. Aggie’s daughter Shirley, has a daughter Dawn. Dawn is married to Colin and they have two children – Jared and Jordan. It’s a family of four – the Kennedys. So I’m calling Jared and Jordan cousins.

“My perfect cousin” – The Undertones

So here my friends is my own tribute to my cousin Jordan Kennedy and why his “celebration of life” brought a tear to my eye, changed my life and moves me forward in a different way.

“I look at things now in a different light than I did before” – D:Ream, 1993

I met Jordan only a few times, and it was mostly in the 1990s. I didn’t really know him and that’s the truth. I played football in his back garden but it was with his older brother Jared, who I knew better. Jared is a bit of an inspiration to us all. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Jared overcame this obstacle and is a fun loving, smiling, happy go lucky chap. I knew that the first time I met him. I was so happy one day, a few years back when my Dad and brother Danny met up with Jared at a Northern Ireland football match at Windsor Park. I have fond memories of kicking ball with Jared in his back yard in Ballygowan, a country town in Northern Ireland.

Jared on the pitch at Windsor Park, Belfast Northern Ireland.

Jared on the pitch at Windsor Park, Belfast Northern Ireland.

Jared lived his dream, he not only played international football for Northern Ireland, but he captained us. Wow. I saw Jared play live once, at half time at Windsor Park as part of an awareness match for Cerebral Palsy. I was so happy to see Jared captaining and excelling for the Northern Ireland cerebral palsy team. The truth is though, I’ve always lived a fast life and I never caught up with Jared to tell him how incredible it was to see him playing on the pitch at Windsor Park. That’s Jared by the way – Jordan’s Older brother just to give some background for you, he’s number 2 in the photo below.

Jared Kennedy, back left playing for Northern Ireland.

Jared Kennedy, back left playing for Northern Ireland.

Then, last week, I was home in Northern Ireland and there were a series of unexpected mishaps and events that seemed to change my views on life, hopefully for the better, probably forever. Firstly, my Mum went straight into hospital with a blood clot in her lung. It was a really sad time and I visited her at least every other day in hospital. I also regret having some arguments with my brothers on that trip, so the make up is on boys (Marko and Danny never read my stories but I’m thinking of them and who knows they might just read this). Life’s too short now to hold those grudges. I’ve been away for 11 years now. Your brother will be back in Northern Ireland to spend time with his family. You can be sure of that. On a personal level, mental health problems reared their ugly head again and I had that dreaded double dentist visit last week. Hardly anything to write home about or moan. Standard procedure in the life of man, ain’t it? Not quite…then a bombshell dropped. News that made me stop what I was doing. Jordan had died. My cousin, Jordan Kennedy, who sadly I barely knew, he had died.

“Tonight I’m gonna live for today so come along for the ride” – Robbie Williams.

A tear made its way down my cheek as I heard the news about Jordan’s death. “There’s a tribute to Jordan today”, said Mum. It was my last day in Northern Ireland on this trip home and straight away I said “I’m going”. I sat downstairs in Mum and Dad’s house and cried a bit. I barely knew Jordan and hadn’t seen him in years, yet I was just so sad. Dad came home, I somehow got together a suit from a mixture of my Dad’s and brothers’ wardrobes, and black shoes (that didn’t fit, but that didn’t matter) and off we headed to the Stormont Hotel in Belfast for the “Celebration of Life” about Jordan Kennedy. I had no idea what impact this couple of hours of my life would hold nor would I quite be the same man walking out of the hotel, as the man who walked in.

Stormont Hotel, Belfast, Norn Iron: Venue for Jordan's Celebration of Life.

Stormont Hotel, Belfast, Norn Iron: Venue for Jordan’s Celebration of Life.

We arrived at the venue and Dad knew a few people already, as he always does. A few brief introductions with Dad chatting away and then we headed inside the hall. This was not a funeral. Jordan had died and the family had held the actual funeral the day before. Church, service, prayers, ceremony. Today, rather than a funeral of sadness and mourning, this was a celebration of Jordan’s life. And boy did Jordan live a good life.

“Have a party at my funeral, let every nigga rock it” – Tupac Shakur

The room had a few hundred seats in it, and my Dad and I were early enough to get seats. Others had to stand. This was to be one of the most emotional experiences of my life.

A picture of Jordan Kennedy on the massive screen towered over us all, people from all walks of life, all ages, all religions were all flocking into the room. They were all dressed well, ready to pay tribute to Jordan. A few Northern Irish celebs were in attendance too. Popular Sports Reporter Stephen Watson was lurking around (and was to be the compere) and Dame Mary Peters was in the house and would speak later. This was no small time event.

A packed room to see Jordan Kennedy's tribute on the big screen.

A packed room to see Jordan Kennedy’s tribute on the big screen.

What struck me immediately was the atmosphere in the place. Jordan had died and death is always sad. I was really sad, but some people around were happy. They knew Jordan and I didn’t. They knew how happy a chap Jordan was that it seemed appropriate that people should be happy for what Jordan gave to life rather than sad by the fact that he is no longer here. I tried to hold back the tears as I sat next to Dad, but I couldn’t. Music came on and I’ll remember the songs, their quotes interspersed selectively through this article, with a few of my own added.

“…and you said well that’s one thing we’ve got” – Deep Blue Something

Then silence as Stephen Watson steps onto the stage to introduce the Celebration. I glance quickly around the room behind me to find it packed full.

“No alarms and no surprises please” – Radiohead

If I didn’t meet Jordan in adulthood or even know him, within an hour of this presentation I’d be feeling only guilt and sadness that I hadn’t met him again in his older years. I didn’t dwell on it, life takes it where it takes us and it wasn’t to be. I remember seeing the mischievous Jordan at the family home in Comber or Ballygowan throwing biscuits on the floor back in the mid 90s. It seemed an odd memory to have but I pictured Jordan for a brief second before I got filled in with the 22 magic years of Jordan’s life.

“There’s something magic in the air” – Tim Wheeler

The entire hour or so of proceedings introduced us all to every single stage of Jordan’s life. How much of a loveable yet mischievous young man he was. From the early days of being the showman, to coping with his epilepsy, passing his way through Grosvenor Grammar School and onto Magee College in Londonderry/Derry, Jordan’s colourful explosive life was clear for all to see.

“Every move you make, every smile you fake, I’ll be watching you” – The Police

I was so caught up in everything, emotionally around that it was so much to take in and no words can possibly ever do justice to the Celebration of Life. Photos of Jordan came up on screen with the tunes of Snap, Snow Patrol, the Police the Undertones all used as backing music, to perfection. Not a single flaw in this steady performance. Even from Jordan’s girlfriend. What a strong woman I thought. As she got up and gave her best speech with dignity and without shedding a tear. That takes heart, bravery and love. Jordan’s Dad Colin got the ball rolling on the “Crazy Stories” section of Jordan’s life and this had everyone in the room open eared, listening in and ready to giggle their way through a conference which had all the signs of happiness and not many signs of sadness.

“And though the news was rather sad, I just had to laugh” – The Beatles

Jordan’s Grandfather gets up and tells of the day that he put Bisto in with water to mix a coffee for a guest rather than the old Maxwell House. After realising his error and apologising to the guest, Jordan in giggles butts in with a “well done Granda”.

“Typical Jordan” comes the response.

Then there’s the time that Jordan goes to a Formal, gets bored of the teenage party and gatecrashes a wedding in the same venue, hanging out with a “MILF” (yes, this phrase was used on the day) and taking full advantage of free champagne. Result.

“Typical Jordan” comes the response, again.

One of Jordan’s University mates was sat in front of us and he got up to tell some more recent stories from the life of Jordan. Jordan was some character, and a big lad too, being given the title of the “JDA” – any problems for the boys on a night out and they’d call in Jordan – the Jordan Defence Association to sort it out. JDA, a nickname that may well be lost on those who never had the joy of growing up in Northern Ireland.

“Come on we’ll have another one [pint] boys and we’ll see what happens next” – Jordan Kennedy

As the stories flowed, one thing was clear – Jordan was a right good laugh to be around and he had an effect and an impact on so many people’s lives.

A video of Jordan filming goats on a country path was played on the big screen, one of whom had done a sh*t on the path brought the house down. Laughter flowed.

“Jordan and I were acting the goat in Florida” – Jared Kennedy

As Dame Mary Peters got up at the end to give a rousing final speech, emotion filled the room, my tears had been replaced by laughter and something inside of me changed.

I had never met Jordan in his teenage years or in adulthood, but in just an hour or so I had been filled in on everything he’d been up to. I knew Dawn, Colin and Jared were immensely proud of this splendid young man. And I was too, if I’m allowed to be, without really knowing him. My cousin, Jordan Kennedy.

Jared and my Dad Joe at the Celebration of Jordan's Life in Stormont, Belfast.

Jared and my Dad Joe at the Celebration of Jordan’s Life in Stormont, Belfast.

I chatted to Jared afterwards in the bar, stood nonchalantly with a pint in his hand asking me about the football, Northern Ireland and Manchester United. What strength I thought. “I can’t fathom what’s happened. It’s all a dream” said Jared to me “I can’t believe it. I’ll wake up tomorrow, different day.” Stay strong, Jared.

“Some might say, we will find a brighter day” – Oasis

With Jared in the Stormont Hotel in Belfast at the tribute to Jordan Kennedy.

With Jared in the Stormont Hotel in Belfast at the tribute to his brother Jordan Kennedy.

One of Jordan’s University friends brought a Northern Ireland flag which we all got to sign and write a message for Jordan – I really liked that touch as I’m a big Northern Ireland fan and especially our misunderstood flag that should simply represent our 6 counties. I also carry a travelling Northern Ireland flag on my travels around the globe. Peace out to everyone in wee Norn Iron.

A nice touch - signing a Northern Ireland flag for Jordan. Our Wee Country.

A nice touch – signing a Northern Ireland flag for Jordan. Our Wee Country.

For information purposes only, Jordan died from a heart attack following two seizures. Jordan suffered from epilepsy. To donate to epilepsy in Northern Ireland, you can click on this link: https://www.epilepsy.org.uk/involved/branches/nireland (if there are more charities that Colin, Dawn and Jared feel strongly about, I’ll put them on here too).

I feel privileged to have met Jordan and to be related to him. I felt totally honoured and overwhelmed with emotion to be in the room for his final magical performance on the big screen. Amazing, Jordan. A day I will never ever forget. I’m glad I’ve got this written up. Staying healthy, loving those around you and living in the moment have taken a much different perspective now on my walk on life’s corridor.

This post today on Sunday’s Inspiration is dedicated to the life of Jordan Kennedy. You might never know, but you’ve had an influence on my life as well now, without us even knowing each other. You’re an inspiration. Thanks.

“I’ll see you in heaven for that pint, Jordan. Lot to catch up on.” 

“…woah it’s a passion, you can feel it in the air”

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