Kahari Malik Lowery was born weighing 2 pounds, 11 ounces and almost instantly contending with devastating health issues.
His kidneys shut down, his brain bled, and he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Through countless operations in the next 15-plus years, a premature death seemed inevitable, if not imminent.
It was all so precarious that his father, Chris, now the Kansas State associate men’s basketball coach, had to be convinced by his wife, Erika, to stay in coaching for the sake of the family and himself.
His career also was enabled by K-State coach Bruce Weber, who as the coach at Southern Illinois made sure his young assistant had the flexibility to travel to Evansville, Ind., as often as possible to see his son in the hospital.
Never miss a local story.
One of the first times Erika thought Kahari was soon to die, Chris drove as fast as he could to Evansville and fainted at the sight of his son in such agony.
But he would learn to cope with that feeling many times between then and this piercing Tuesday morning, when Kahari died after a life of evoking in his father (and many others) a deeper sense of purpose in the world.
“My sweet Prince left his earthly body this morning & moved on to a much better place where he feels no pain, is free from sickness, & doesn’t need a wheelchair to get around,” Lowery wrote on Facebook. “My heart is broken but his memory & smile will live forever. Our family is thankful for all the love & kind words throughout the years about our ‘Hobby.’
“I know a lot of people never met him but he could truly brighten your day with only his picture.”
As agonizing as this moment is, as demanding as Kahari’s life was, no one who ever got to know the Lowery family wasn’t moved or inspired by seeing their loving ways together.
"He was their bundle of joy," Weber said by telephone Tuesday evening.
That certainly was unmistakable nine years ago, when I spent time with them in Carbondale for a story I wrote for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about Lowery’s precious “little Superman” who made everyone melt.
The same coach his wife called “the big, bad wolf” to the players he coaxed to 29 wins and the Sweet 16 in 2007 (when they lost 61-58 to Kansas), the guy known for conducting fierce practices with no fouls or out of bounds, had a different side when it came to Kahari and his three other children.
Typically, he would call Erika repeatedly throughout the day to ask about them … or maybe even see if she could bring them in to break up practice a little.
Kahari always was part of everything, naturally, reflecting both the father’s desire to be with him and the resolve and strength of Erika, who bore the brunt of the work in transporting him.
"Erika is truly a saint," Weber said Tuesday. "She had to be on call 24-7, but she was always smiling."
Through it all, it turns out, Kahari was teaching them.
Every breath, every minute, Kahari fought, the Lowerys would tell you. And when they thought about the sorts of things they learned from him, they’d talk about patience and perspective and perseverance and hope.
For that matter, Lowery believed Kahari taught him maybe the most important thing of all.
In the midst of coming to terms with the unfairness of it all, Lowery clung closer to Erika and his family despite not having enjoyed that example from his own absentee father.
“That’s what a man does,” Lowery said then.
The last few years no doubt have been complicated for Lowery.
After being seen as a rising coaching star, one whose uncommon maturity factored into becoming a Division I head coach at 31, he was fired by SIUC in 2012 after going 8-23 in a fourth straight season with a losing Missouri Valley Conference record.
Shortly thereafter, he was reunited with Weber at Kansas State, where Weber’s status appears wobbly after the Wildcats went 5-13 in Big 12 play last season.
But all that stuff is relegated to its proper context now:
One fewer fan, who cast an enormous shadow, will be attending K-State games as Kahari so often did the last few years.
In fact, Kahari, who made numerous trips to Children's Mercy in Kansas City, was at practice on Monday for trick or treat with the team before taking a sudden turn on Tuesday morning.
“There is no fulfillment in knowing that someone you love has passed on,” Lowery wrote on Facebook, “but the blessing of knowing that he walks with God has made this unbearable time less difficult.”
So good night to Lowery’s sweet prince.
No doubt, as Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”