Dear Donnie,I know Sunday, which marks your 27th year as a father, arrives bittersweet.It reminds you of the most remarkable achievement of your life: being the father of Kevan Patrick Dunlop. It also intensifies the still-fresh and unforgiving pain you have endured since Jan. 6, 2011, when your only child’s life was senselessly ended by four gunmen on a rampage. At a time when “Happy Father’s Day” can sound a bit trite, I want you to know your sometimes-pesky little sister has noticed how brilliant a father you have been and are, and that your influence in Kevan’s life resulted in him living an amazing, albeit short, life.I noticed that Kevan emulated your example of respectfully and unassumingly assisting those less fortunate. Remember the time while Kevan was in high school when he helped a distressed elderly woman whose car wouldn’t start, and he managed to back his own car into a nearby post? And what about learning after Kevan’s death of the young man, ill and wheelchair-bound, Kevan drove to appointments and church, often helping the young man with hygiene matters and getting dressed? There’s that aspiring rapper in Houston Kevan met at Tuskegee University, remember? On one of our family visits to Houston, Kevan insisted on keeping his promise to meet up with him to purchase copies of his CD to bring to Fort Worth, where he gave them to friends to expand the young man’s fan base.Kevan realized the advantaged life you and Pat provided him and understood that others were not as fortunate as he. “He’s doing the best he can” was Kevan’s mantra. That understanding and compassion were gifts from you.Kevan also learned from you that life and parenthood were gifts, and he was committed to being a responsible husband and father himself. He, like you, would not marry until he was finished with his education and had entered the workforce. And he would not bring a child into the world until he was able to appropriately provide for that child.Like you, Kevan had completed the first leg of his college education. Were he here today, Kevan’s summer internship, most likely with a major Fort Worth law firm, would be well underway after his second year in law school.Kevan inherited your love of sports, especially football, and your love for history, too. One of the last major outings you two had was the Dallas Cowboys-Philadelphia Eagles game on Dec. 12, 2010, at Cowboys Stadium.The Madden Football video game was a favorite pastime, and Kevan was playing it with a few other enthusiasts the night he was killed.In the 890 days since Kevan’s implausible death, I know you continue to struggle every day, not only with his death but with how to live your life without him. I know that on Sunday, you will pull out of safekeeping the most precious keepsake you have as a father: a card Kevan gave you on Father’s Day 2010. Here are some of the words he wrote:“You have been a strong influence in my life.”“Thanks for being there for me.”“I have been blessed to have you as my father.”“I’m proud to call you Dad.”“I hope I can follow in your footsteps.”“You are the Best Father in the World.” As you sit at Kevan’s gravesite Sunday and tell him about the ups and downs of your week, I pray that you find solace in knowing that the beautiful legacy of Kevan’s unfinished life is that he had you as his father.Happy Father’s Day!—Your sister
Pamela Dunlop Gates is a Dallas-based lawyer and former Star-Telegram writer. Her brother, Howard Kevan Dunlop of Fort Worth, is a retired public school administrator.