In mid-March, Kevin Lacon's place of refuge was suddenly infiltrated by dread.
The La Salle High senior watched as his older brother, Patrick, an assistant coach for the Explorers, walked with purpose toward head coach Bill Leahy during a scrimmage against Upper Dublin.
"When Coach Leahy said, 'Kevin,' I looked over, and I knew for some reason it was my dad, and my heart dropped," said Lacon, whose brother, Liam, is also a sophomore defenseman for the Explorers. "My brother said I turned white. I wasn't ready for that."
Kevin, Patrick, Liam and the Lacon family have been living with the uncertainty of a death they know will someday come.
About 10 years ago, the family patriarch, Bill, 58, was diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), which, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that affects movement and the autonomic nervous system that controls involuntary actions. That day on the lacrosse field, the Lacon brothers learned their dad had taken a turn for the worse. He is now in hospice care and confined to a bed at the family's home in Blue Bell.
"It's terminal, so I always told myself that I would be ready because I knew it was coming, eventually," said Kevin, 18. "But when that hit, I just couldn't talk. It was tough. But we have a huge family, big support system."
Bound by the sport they love, the Lacon brothers have found strength within the La Salle community, buttressed by the shared admiration for their father's fortitude amid dire circumstances.
"He's tough," Kevin said. "He's so strong. What he's going through now, I've never seen. He's literally having everything taken away from him, and there's nothing anyone can do. But he still smiles and laughs and tries, as much as he can, to talk with us without getting extremely exhausted. Even seeing him in the hospital was scary, but he was still pushing."
Back in March, Kevin said the sizable Lacon family descended upon Lankenau Hospital after a fever eventually led to their father becoming unresponsive.
Of the family's seven children, even Claire, a University of Scranton student studying abroad in Italy, flew home to her father's bedside.
About 10 days later, Bill, an avid Phillies fan who still watches every game, returned home. The Lacon brothers returned to the lacrosse field.
"I think in the intensity of the game, I try to get away," said Kevin, who will play at Salisbury next season. "That was a big thing for my mom. She wanted us to go to school, play lacrosse and kind of get away."
On Monday, Kevin scored his 23rd goal in a 16-1 landslide victory over Lansdale Catholic. On Friday, the Explorers (9-1, 5-0 Catholic League) host Hill Academy from Ontario, Canada, ranked No. 1 in North America in USA Today's Super 25.
"I think it's helped [Kevin] in certain areas," said Patrick, 30, who is also the junior varsity head coach. "I think it's helped each one of us."
Patrick said teaching the game he loves and helping players navigate typical teenage angst has been cathartic.
"You see it with Kevin, because he is very team-oriented," Patrick said. "He wants to see the team succeed rather than himself. I think that's a unique way of diving in, letting that anger translate into the team/community piece."
Liam, who had surgery two weeks ago to repair an injured right knee, is currently out for the season. Spurred by his father's resolve, however, he pushes himself in the weight room.
"My dad is extremely stubborn," said Liam, 16. "He definitely fights a lot. Whatever he set his mind to, he did. I guess I have that, too."
Kevin added, "Me and my brothers always say that we have that part of him. We always push through everything when things get tough."
For Kevin, that meant a season-ending knee injury that scuttled his freshman year at Wissahickon, an important time in the uber-early college recruiting process for lacrosse.
Sophomore year, Kevin transferred to La Salle, from where older brothers Joe and Dan graduated. Patrick went to Woodlynde School. Maggie went to Wissahickon, and Claire to Gwynedd Mercy Academy.
Kevin, No. 6 in the bunch, purposefully wears the same No. 6 on the lacrosse field. Among his fondest memories of his father come from the family's former boat, aptly named "Seven Stars."
"My mom always said, 'You can pick and choose your friends, but you're stuck with your family forever,' " said Patrick, who played lacrosse at Albright.
There seems to be, however, a slight clarification.
"Family isn't just the birth family, it's our extended family, our support family," said Connie, Bill's wife of 321/2 years. "We have received many blessings through this."
"I think society as a whole has lost that sense of family," added Connie, who herself is the oldest of nine. "It's so important. It's not all about me. You are part of a unit. And the La Salle family has been wonderful, a real gift and blessing for the boys."
"They are my heart and soul," she said of her children. "As hard as this has been, you have to get up every day and say, 'Count your blessings.' Every day is a gift for each one of us. I am grateful for my family and for my children. They are keeping me strong through all this as well. It's definitely reciprocal, because this is a horrible disease."