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Tragedy Begets Hope – Meet Kennedy

People all the time make silly comments about what they’re grateful for, and I’m the first to admit that I too have engaged in silly dismissals of what the Thanksgiving holiday means. I guess looking back to childhood and learning of the holiday and where it comes from, it’s easy to detach yourself from it until things happen in your life that really put into perspective what matters most.

This week, Lani and I celebrate our three year old’s birthday; his name is Kennedy. I don’t speak of Kennedy very often, not even with Lani, mostly because he died the very day he was born and it’s a very hard subject to bring up- I mean, when is there a good time for such a tragic conversation, especially considering that just a short while later, Lani’s 23 year old brother Aaron was killed in a car accident? It never seems like a great time to bring up sorrowful things, but this Thanksgiving is very different.

I’ve been talking to Lani a lot more lately about our son and our brother Aaron, and in those conversations the grief seems to lift. It seems suddenly that tragedy can lead to conversations of hope, love, and yes, laughter at memories that happened, or ones that we imagine through hopes and dreams that never had a chance to materialize- it seems that Lani had a lot to say too that she’s felt awkward to mention. Again, it just never seems to be the time or the place.

This Thanksgiving, our conversations, thoughts, and hopes are more about the things we’ve been unable to see because of so many things unsaid. This Thanksgiving is about how wonderful life is even in the face of tragedy, how grateful we are to have one another, and a few years later, all of you- our dear friends, and yes, even those of you who are not so friendly.

It is in the face of tragedy that we’ve come to be in your company, graced every day with your lives, your hopes, dreams, laughter, smiles, frowns, newborns, and those not-so-newborn anymore.

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This Thanksgiving we wanted to share something very personal with all of you that means so much to us, to help illustrate just how thankful we really are for all of you- our friends and colleagues. This is the first time that I’ve spoken publicly about our son and I rarely talk about my personal life, especially on Agent Genius, but I wanted to share some of us with you.

To many, the online community seems without a soul, but sometimes, if you really want to, you can see the person on the other side- people just like you, with problems, tragedy, and struggles, just like us- human to the core.

God Bless, and may you all have a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving.

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Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network. Before AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation has received the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular offline events. He does not venture into the spotlight often, rather he believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits and develops, so he gives all credit to those he's empowered.



  1. Robert Luna

    November 26, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    You both are wonderful and beautiful people and I am very lucky to have friends like you, have a great Thanksgiving you two.

  2. Steve Simon

    November 26, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Thinking good thoughts for you and yours this season:)

  3. Jay Thompson

    November 26, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Benn – thanks for sharing. We’ve had our own tragedy this past week, and it truly does make one thankful for friends and family and the little things we often take for granted.

    You and Lani are fabulous people, and I’m honored to know you.

    Wishing all those out there a warm and happy Thanksgiving.

  4. The Harriman Team

    November 26, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    We can totally relate, Benn. After 2 miscarriages, our son and his wife’s first child, Colin, was born prematurely 3 years ago on Nov. 11th, and survived only 45 short, precious minutes. The pain is dulled, but still there, and not a day goes by that we don’t think of him and give thanks for our own lives. Though we’ve never met, we feel an affinity with you that goes beyond the world of social media. Thank you for sharing such a painful, intimate part of yourselves with us, and may God bless you and Lani this holiday season.

  5. Matt Stigliano

    November 26, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Benn – It goes without saying that I am fond of you two (but I seem to say it all the time). Reading this and knowing you two, makes me feel a little more connected to you, shows a side we don’t always get to see and is much appreciated in terms of being more than just “the two that run AgentGenius” but more our friends, mentors, and biggest cheerleaders. I hope we all return the favor to you everyday.

    Your last paragraph really sums up what I learned about real estate thanks to social media. I thought all agents would be closed and not be willing to share with me (business and personal), but I was well wrong. I have met some great people who I might not even recognize their real face if it was in front of me (but if they were holding up an avatar I’d know in a second), but if they needed something, I’d be there for them in a heartbeat.

    My thoughts are with you and I’m glad to hear that you and Lani are talking about it. I suck at talking sometimes, but I know what a difference it can make.

  6. Russell Shaw

    November 26, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    Very beautiful.

    Happy Thanksgiving.

  7. Brad Nix

    November 27, 2008 at 7:53 am

    Thanks for sharing. And reminding me of the pain and sadness that comes with losing a child. It makes us even more THANKFUL today as we have our 6 month old with us on his first Thanksgiving.

    Blessings Abound.

  8. Paula Henry

    November 27, 2008 at 8:29 am

    Benn and Lani – I’m thankful to know both of you. I love your total transparency and honesty.

    I first learned about you through the tragic loss of Lani’s brother. While I have never lost a sibling, I share the pain of the child you never had a chance to love and hold. Seven years ago, I watched as my daughter gave birth to a little girl who we knew would not live. Anele will not be here for Thanksgiving as her sisters will – but she will never be forgotten. In her short time, she left an indelible mark on our lives forever.

    Wishing you peace and love of family and friends this Thanksgiving as you remember those who will not be here to celebrate with you.

  9. Monika

    November 27, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Benn and Lani,
    Thank you for sharing such a painful part of your lives with us. It’s amazing how time gives one the gift of being able to remember such sad times and smile at the same time. The gift of healing…I think you’ll have an extra special Thanksgiving this year.

  10. Kris Berg

    November 27, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Happy Thanksgiving, Benn and Lani, and thank you for the opportunity to hang my hat here on occasion. It’s an honor. Have a wonderful day with family and each other.

  11. Dave Smith

    November 27, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Ben and Lani,

    Thank you for sharing and God’s blessing for you both.


    This is the best post I’ve read on Agent Genius. It went beyond our minds and hearts. Your words reach to the center of our being. I haven’t stopped thinking about it. Thank you.

  12. Bob

    November 27, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    Happy Thanksgiving Benn and Lani.

  13. Missy Caulk

    November 27, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Wow, I had no clue, and I am sorry to hear about Kennedy. Always good to clear the air, and let those walls come down.

    You inviting me to participate in AG was the highlight of my year and I am blessed to have you in my life.

  14. Mack

    November 28, 2008 at 8:01 am

    Sharing is Caring. Thanks for sharing and may you have the truly blessed holiday season that you deserve.

  15. Benn Rosales

    November 28, 2008 at 8:45 am

    Wow, this was one of those posts you write that you really expect little reaction if any at all. I can tell all of you that your comments were read one by one since the post was made live, and each one touched us both- we indeed had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and hope you did as well.

    Here’s to the future… God Bless.

  16. Irina Netchaev

    November 29, 2008 at 12:52 am

    Dear Benn & Lani,
    I just read this beautiful post and my heart goes out to you. It is impossible to imagine losing a child and a brother within a week.
    You are both strong and wonderful people and add joy to so many lives on a daily basis through this community.
    My belated Thanksgiving wishes to both.
    Many hugs!

  17. Bill Lublin

    November 30, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    Benn & Lani;
    Nothing to add to what you already know about how I feel about you guys, glad you have each other to share with as well as your extended family

  18. Vicki Moore

    November 30, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    I can only imagine the thought that went into this post, especially just before you hit publish. It can be tremendously difficult to reveal something so private and painful. But pain is something we all feel and share. I share yours. And I thank you for being my friends.

  19. Lisa Sanderson

    November 30, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    That you’ve been able to find something positive in the worst that anyone can be expected to bear speaks volumes about your characters and spirits. There is nothing else to say except thank you for sharing this personal part of your story, and for being our friends.

  20. Poppy Dinsey

    December 1, 2008 at 5:33 am

    I’m gradually catching up with my feedreader so I know this is late but I couldn’t read such a beautiful and heartfelt post and not leave a comment 🙂

    You are both truly super and I think it’s really inspiring that you shared your story, it’s so easy for us to forget that we’re all humans and we all go through pain and sadness in our lives. Social media has given us all this massive support network that we always know is there like a giant cuddle.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you both, even if it does just feel like a distant calorific memory now!

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