Monday, August 27, 2007


It has been over a week since Keith’s passing and still I find it difficult to breathe. We are surrounded by constant reminders of Keith at home, from his artwork, to his games, to the clothes in his closet and the food in the cupboards. It is good and it is hard at the same time. Time heals they say and yet the irony is that our newfound appreciation of time recognizes just how fleeting it is indeed. Extending every moment, especially time spent with loved ones has become so important to us. Which brings me to Scott.

There are so many things to say about Scott it is hard to know where to start. So I’ll just ramble on aimlessly with the usual parental license. First, we are so proud of how Scott handled this past year. He was always there when Keith needed him or more precisely when Keith wanted him, which was all the time. He never stood back or changed his demeanor despite Keith's illness, he just kept being the great big brother Keith always knew and admired. Even when Scott learned Keith would not get better, he maintained his remarkable composure never telegraphing to Keith that anything was amiss to the very end. Scott is off to high school on Wednesday, marking another milestone in his life and we wish him well.

During this past summer Scott had a great swim season. He set some high goals for himself and by the end of the summer had accomplished what he had not been able to do over the previous 8 summer swim seasons: achieve a gold time standard and qualify for the county meet. He did this in not one individual event, but three: butterfly, individual medley and freestyle. It was the most impressive display of hard work and determination Josie and I have ever witnessed from Scott (with the possible exception of leveling his W.o.W. character to 70). There is no question that Tyler and all of the Park Pool coaches and families had a huge impact on Scott this year, pushing him to his physical and mental limits. His friend Brian also lit the competitive fire in him as they traded fastest times in their age group for most of the year. But something tells me that Scott was also pushing himself for Keith, even quietly acknowledging to his mom after earning his first gold time ever that he wanted to do it because “Keith couldn’t swim this year.” Scott may not be a man of many words, but the few he speaks carry a lot of weight.

I hope any and all Park Pool readers out there understand how important you have been in keeping our lives centered and on track during the past year. From get-well banners, to one-on-one support you were there for us. The Wentzel family deserves special recognition from us for organizing the Swim-a-Thon earlier in the season with the final tally of over $9,000 raised to benefit Children’s Hospital Oakland. An amazing community within our community.

On September 9th following the memorial service that starts at 2pm there will be a casual reception. We thought it might be interesting and fun to post in the reception hall after the service some of your remembrances of Keith. The idea goes something like this: Write a couple of lines starting with “Dear Keith…” recalling a memorable occasion or fun recollection of Keith’s life. You can simply post your note to this blog entry and we will print them on cards and pin them up on the bulletin board(s) in the hall allowing us all to share and celebrate the fun and animated life that he enjoyed. If you prefer to be less public about it, you could simply bring your note to the service (please try to keep it to letter size or smaller) and we will see that it is pinned up. We thought this might be a good way for those of you who want to share a few words with Keith and for those of you who might be wish to be here but are unable to attend to participate in a meaningful way.

The photograph below is one of the last I captured of Keith. It will always be one of my favorites even though he is somewhat out of focus. I can still clearly see in his eyes the care and affection he had for Kirby and the mutual comfort and trust that Kirby found in Keith’s presence. They were an inseparable pair.

Kirby, like the rest of us, is still trying to find his footing without Keith.

(click to enlarge)

Friday, August 17, 2007

July 15 1996 - August 17 2007

So it has come to this despite all of our collective hopes and prayers. Keith passed away quietly just after midnight last evening. There is nothing more to say other than he is now finally free of his disease and at peace. We are simply winded and wordless.

Thank you to all who shared his in journey and gave us the hope and motivation to deal with each day of his difficult struggle. We are so sorry for the pain this news may bring to friends and others who have crossed Keith's path. He will be missed by all who had the fortune of knowing him but never, ever forgotten.

The following obituary should appear in the Contra Costa Times in the next day or two.

* * *

Keith DeLano Kelley

July 15 1996 - August 17 2007

We bid farewell to our beautiful son Keith. He touched the lives of so many people in his eleven years of life. He was a lover of creatures great and small, a budding artist and actor, a swimmer and most of all a great brother. Keith will always be remembered for his unique sense of humor, his love of interesting foods and his unique perspective on life. He will always be a part of our family.

Keith passed away peacefully after a courageous year-long battle with cancer. His bravery during this difficult year was truly inspiring. We are indebted to all who surrounded us with love and support throughout this journey. We will never forget you Keith.

He is survived by his parents Josie and Steve, his big brother Scott, his cat Kirby and many loving relatives.

A memorial service to celebrate Keith’s life will be held at Orinda Community Church on Sunday September 9, 2007 at 2pm.

In lieu of flowers the family suggests a contribution to George Mark Children’s House in San Leandro, Comfort for Kids hospice program or a children’s charity of your choice.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

We Love You Keith

Parent’s Note – August 15, 2007

Keith’s year-long journey has had many twists and turns, leading to a place we had hoped would return him to a normal childhood again, but instead we have been led to the one place we hoped we would never go. Sometimes we can’t choose the paths we take and so we find ourselves where we are not by lack of skill by medical teams, or by lack of family and community support and certainly not by lack of courage, character and determination on Keith’s part.

On Saturday evening, as the Perseid meteor showers rained overhead, Keith suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and slipped into a deep coma with no hope for recovery. His final conscious hours were happy and enjoyable, Scott by his side the entire day. He even had an animated phone conversation with Annie discussing all of the interesting and unusual things that Keith enjoys. Mercifully, the event was quick, Keith probably wasn’t aware of what was happening and most importantly we don’t think he suffered greatly.

We are no longer able to care for Keith at home with assistance from the Comfort for Kids hospice program. This is where we had hoped he would spend his last days - in the comforting setting of a familiar environment with Kirby nearby to curl up with him. It was unimaginably difficult to watch the medical transport van take Keith from our home knowing he wouldn't physically return, but we decided to move him to George Mark Children's House, a facility that provides end-of-life transition care along with family support for kids in situations like Keith’s. It seeks to replicate the comforts of home in a nurturing setting while providing the nursing care that Keith needs now (more on this incredible place at some later date). It is the right place for us to be given the situation.

We have decided not to try to extend his life artificially and will withhold any further active medical intervention other than what is needed to keep him comfortable – he’s been through more than enough already. He is in a peaceful state and we are with him at his side, as has been the case throughout his journey, to the point where his path and ours must ultimately part. His physical life will soon pass and that moment will come at any time now.

It is so sad that it has come to this point; especially after all he has endured. He never let go of the idea that he was going to get better and that comfort stayed with him and buoyed him through all of the incredibly difficult treatments he faced. We have struggled with our emotions for days now and needless to say already miss him so much. The poem I penned below about Keith and his journey past and forthcoming is my inadequate attempt to begin to deal with it.


Fresh on our faces
Soothing and replenishing
Among nature’s forces so diminutive
Yet able to coax quiet waters
To sparkle to attention
Reflecting back shimmering
Cool appreciation
Filling sails and uplifting
With unyielding but gentle sway

On small shoulders ride life's simple offerings
Delivering fragrance to our souls
Pollinating our consciousness until we too
Take notice of unrecognized beauty
Like seeds from a dandelion
The smallest of nature's works
Are moved at its urging

In its short life it tussled our hair
With sharp and bracing presence
Refreshing our spirits and
Filling our lungs with its gift
Yet cleverly knowing when to vane shift
Pushing gently from behind
Ephemeral though it would be

Slowly it stilled without reason
As if some unseen thief
Realizing its unique endowment
Crept in under night’s cloak
And stole breath by breath
Its very essence until motion ceased
And the breeze was no more

Left stunned in stifling absence
Disoriented and confused
We gasped for air -
Grasping for any satisfactory measure
To explain why something so benign
Something so beautiful should ever leave us

And yet what seems may not be

Imperceptibly at first
A faint shift of light hints its presence
And a leafy chorus softly gathers its visual voice
Awakening branches to new life
Swaying in profound relief
The welcome return of the breeze

From a new source it flows
Urging fescued hills to wave their greetings
In familiar but singular patterns
Altering the spirals of red-tails as they climb
Buoyed by ether strings
To lofty points where the spreading vista
Exposes our very small place

In rhythmic earth breaths
The breeze passes its soft reminder
To all who might pause and consider
The wonder of something so small
Something so gentle and pure
Leaving such indelible impact
Living large within its time -

Touching all who care to notice

Monday, August 6, 2007


At some point or another we’ve probably all picked up a stick on a beach somewhere, jabbed it into the sand and scratched out a circle, sweeping an arc until finally closing the loop at the very point it began. I am reminded of this simple image tonight because in a way our journey has come full circle.

It has been one year to the day of the first entry of this journal and so we have literally traversed the solar system riding bronco-style on the back of Gaea only to return to the exact spot we started. The neuroblastoma tumor that was widely disseminated throughout Keith's body 12 months ago has likewise circled back from near remission to an advanced stage once again despite the aggressive treatment and accompanying travails that he has endured.

We will continue treatment at home and spare Keith any more hospital time if we can at all avoid it. And while there is much to tell, the subject unfortunately isn’t one that we wish to detail in this forum right now. Maybe at some future point we will be suck up our courage and be able to share more.

For now, we will celebrate the time we have together as a family and ultimately stand witness to the closure of a small but absolutely perfect life-circle.