Updated: Feb 16
This is hard. It is supposed to be. It isn't supposed to be easy when you lose a loved one earlier than expected. It isn't supposed to be easy when you lose a parent, at any time. When the children are aged 17-25, just beginning their adult lives, it is even harder.
This is the situation in which 25 year old Destiny Hooper and her sister's Heaven, Kayla, Kylie, and Tristen found themselves late last month when their father Alan "Hoop" Hooper passed away.
Hoop was born in Elmira, New York. As a child his family moved to the Eastern shore of Maryland. It was there that he found a lifelong skill and learned the value of family.
Hoop had a knack for working on cars, something he and his grandfather did together from about the age of nine. Eventually, Hoop, a workaholic, would own his own shop.
Tragedy blew a whole in his life at the age of 28. He suffered heart failure, received a pace maker, then waited two years for a heart transplant.
As the breadwinner of the family, no work meant no income. Destiny and her sister were sent to live with their grandparents while Destiny's mom spent many hours by Hoop's side in the hospital.
Almost everyone who has ever had a near death experience comes out of it thinking differently about life. "He wanted to spend more time with us,' Said Destiny about her father's life changing experience, "All the things that he hadn't done because, he's always been (an) amazing dad, but, he just worked so much because, he wanted us to have a great life and then he realized that (being a workaholic) that's not as important."
He sold his shop, moved the family to North Carolina. One year later, around 2007, they moved to a place Hoop never wanted to leave, Florida.
Hoop divorced, fell in love again, and though they never married, He adopted his girlfriend's three daughters.
He bought a $7,000 limo, nicknamed Pennywise, not out of opulence, rather for family, "He didn't want us to take separate cars to family dinners. He wanted all of us to be together as much as we could," Destiny explained.
Many posts on his Facebook pages speak to how good a man he was. Destiny brought eloquence to her fathers memory, "He's amazing. He just makes you feel welcome and important. He was, he was very good at that. And if he was talking to you, you had his full attention. He just made me feel important, but he was always down to have a good time. He would be DD (designated driver) and (use) his limo for his younger friends in their 20s and 30s and he would be out till 7:00 am drinking water. Just there to have a good time and make sure everyone was having a good time, is the most important to him."
Hoop still worked with cars. He would flip them like someone flips a house. Buying the car, fixing it up, and selling it. For the sake of charity he often drove to Best Boys Home in Jacksonville to help work on donated boats the charity received.
As a Floridian, he enjoyed riding his motorcycle or driving down to the beach. But more than anything, he enjoyed his children. "He just wanted to hang out with us. So, it (what they did together) was always kind of up to us, recalled Destiny, "The beach was his only love. Other than that, it was. 'whatever you guys want to do. I'll be there.'"
Alan Hooper passed away at 49 years young this past January. In his sleep, peacefully.
The family is unsure of the cause of death.
His five children are holding their memories of good times close to heart as they pick up the pieces of their lives and move forward.
Kayla is a kindergarten teacher in Jacksonville, Tristan is recently married living in Volusia, Heaven is a driver in the gig economy, Kylie is in high school.
Destiny has turned her skill as an artist into an occupation. The backyard of the house Hoop bought, then expanded for his daughters, is decorated with her murals. She would like to earn an income painting murals. She also makes handcrafts. They can be found on her Etsy page.
As many do when they are young, Destiny has worked a few occupations and thought about others. But in the end it was her father's sense that has prevailed, "He's always encouraged me doing art. I never dove into it until I moved here. So from when I moved here (Florida) pretty much, it's just been painting and practicing and working on stuff because that has become the goal."