Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Dear Keith


Dear Keith,
You would have squirmed uncomfortably at all of the fuss and you certainly would have rolled your eyes at the use of this descriptor but your memorial service was beautiful. Hundreds of people who were your life-friends and supporters were at the Orinda Community Church to remember all of the things that made you uniquely you. The Rohrer family even flew in from Dubai for the service, winning the farthest-traveled award hands down. Jill, Liz, John and Jack each shared funny and touching remembrances of you, and each from very different perspectives – as a teacher, as a friend, as a coach and as an uncle. Displayed on the altar behind them was a floral arrangement including as a centerpiece the aquarium you always wanted but regrettably never got in real life – sorry about that one.

During the service I couldn’t help imagining you popping out from behind the altar at some opportune moment, flashing all in attendance one of your trademark upside down smiles, then tossing us a quick wave and running off with all of your friends, laughing at the elaborate rouse you had pulled on us over the past year. I would have happily laughed too if only that were the case but the sad reality of why we were all gathered together ruined that fantasy. As I looked down at the program in my hands with your beautiful face on the cover I was struck by how desperately you are missed, and I longed to rewind our lives to the time before cancer when you were healthy - a full life spread out before you just waiting to be explored and played out to its deserved fullness. 

When the service concluded we left the church to the music of Ringo Starr's ‘Octopus’ Garden’ played through the pipe organ. It’s a pretty safe bet that that this was the first time this particular musical selection had ever resonated through the sanctuary, but somehow it seemed fitting for one such as yourself who was always such a lover of sea creatures, particularly ones with tentacles.

In the reception hall following the service the walls were covered with “Dear Keith” notes, touching recollections written by your friends and family along with artwork and posters from your numerous fan clubs over the past year. I say all of this as if you weren’t there, but of course you clearly were there – your presence was tangible – and I can’t imagine anyone in attendance not sensing it.

I hope you liked the sushi...

* * *

So dear Keith, enjoy your new-found freedom and don’t let our sad expressions ever deflate your spirit. Fly to the fabulous places your vivid imagination created and swim alongside the undersea creatures who seem to share a special kinship with your soul. We are forever and indelibly marked by your special time with us. We are eternally linked - you will always be with us…and we will always be with you.

Love always,
Dad

32 comments:

Ginnie Grant said...

Dear Steve,

Thank you, once again - this time for describing the service for those of us who so badly wanted to be there - and were in spirit - but were unable to be there in body. I'm sorry I missed the request for, "Dear Keith" notes (I'll send a note thru the mail for that if it's not too late) but I did immediately search for my Beatles album just to hear the Octopus Anthem!

Please know that most of the Piper family was in Northern Michigan closing our cottage for the season and while there, you were very much a part of all of our thoughtas and prayers - knowing you were celebrating your own beautiful "season"...

Though his life was brief, like a perfect summer, I can't thank you enough for allowing all of us who never had the pleasure of meeting Keith to feel as though we'd known him forever - and all thru your beautifully written words. What a gift you gave each of us.

I think of how Keith touched our family (We now have Oliver, as Dylan and Piper talked me into adopting a cat because of his love for Kirby!) and the incredible ripple effect he's had on the lives of so many others too. It goes without saying, Keith touched more lives in his short life than some people touch who grow into old age. For that, I know you must be grateful and so very proud.

And though he will be sorely missed, I do hope some day next summer to meet all of the rest of you - especially Scott who is the epitome of a GREAT big brother! Perhaps over some whitefish pate in Charlevoix with Annie and Don and the rest of the Bemis/Piper family.

Until then, please know you will continue to be in our thoughts and prayers.

Much love and strength to each of you,

Ginnie, Dylan and Piper Grant

Anonymous said...

Dear Steve:
I cannot thank you enough for your courage and strength. Having kept this most amazing journal for the past year is an extraordinary example of the love that a father has for a child. We have all been struck dumb by your eloquence and by the depth of your feeling for both of your sons.
I am not sure that my vocabulary can plumb the depths of emotion that you have elicited. Suffice it to say that this has been a year that has resulted in incredible growth and emotion among not only your close friends and family, but among the larger community that has been touched by Keith and the Kelley family.
At this point, I join with all who wish you healing and, eventually, peace.
I thank you for your courage in sharing an amazing journey.
Love to you, Josie, Scott and Kirby...Barbara Hunting

Anonymous said...

God bless you all, Steve, Josie, Scott, and Kirby...and most of all you, Keith.
Your presence was definitely there for your beautiful service.
And Ringo never sounded better!
You are forever in our thoughts, hearts, and prayers.
The Mottiers

Anonymous said...

Keith is in our thoughts every day. Love to you all.

Anonymous said...

Steve, Josie and Scott,
Just wanted to let you know I was there with you in spirit for Keiths memorial. I wish I could have been there to share in the remembrance of his life. I hope this finds you at least able to breath now. Please know that your family remains in my thoughts and prayers.
Blessings,
Sharon Heath RN

Anonymous said...

A beautiful red maple was chosen by a band of Keith's friends at OIS from McDonnell's nursery. Julie Atkinson bought it and we'll be planting it on school grounds soon so that we can sit in it's shade on hot days and remember Keith, who should have been there too.

With love, Sue Boudreau

Allison N. said...

Dear Keith,
In my universe - I am grateful for the many who have touched my life in ways large and small. You will always have a special place in my heart. I thank you and your mom, dad and brother and all those closest to you for letting the rest of us follow your journey, your bravery, your fun spirit, your love of life - it will always be a gift I hold dear. You'll never be forgotten, you'll always be close, you'll always be missed - yet you will always be present. Love from, Allison

Anonymous said...

Today is Monday October 15, 2007. I felt that I just had to log in and write a note. Steve and Josie, please know that not a day goes by that I don't think of Keith and the past year. Every goofy thing the kids do or the dog does I want to tell Keith. I am not sure you still check this website - but I have connected through this site for over a year and can't seem to just stop. I am so sad that the cancer took our friend.
I think of you daily and am here if you need anything
Julie Whitsitt

valerie said...

I guess we all feel the same. After a year of checking in, it still feels important to be connected, even though I never met the Kelleys (those of California, anyway). Keith, you were with us as we walked the Making Strides against Breast Cancer walk yesterday - for me, cancer is cancer when it takes people away from those who love them... The "Book Ladies" raised over $1000 to help out. It was small, but it felt good, and I thought of you all. Thanks again for sharing your story with us so that we could learn to live more fully.Valerie

Annie said...

Now that five plus months have passed since Keith left us, I suppose no one will ever read this small entry, but his death is still so hard to bear for me. It seems as though I miss him more each day. Well, Keith, maybe you can read this up in heaven, Just wanted to tell you how much I love you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Annie, and ditto! You are not alone. I was especially vigilent during the recent holiday season, and beginning of a new year to remember all of you in my thoughts and prayers.

I work at Stanford and go by LPCH and RM House often and can't help think about Keith and family. I try to focus on the positive and remember the lessons learned, and think of Keith soaring above us all. =) -Tami

Allison N. said...

Hello Kelleys and Keithanator fans everywhere. I think of you all often. I think of Keith when a particularly fat cat crosses my path, when I see a garden gnome in someone's yard, and just last night when we were setting up (aka struggling to learn) our new Wii system. I just know that Keith could have given us some excellent tutorials on how to conquer this mystifying device. Love from, Allison

Anonymous said...

Hard for us to believe it has been two years since we have seen Keith's smile. I still come back to this site to watch the pictures cycle by and remember what a gift he was to all of us.

Keith you are in our thoughts every day - we know that you and GrandBern are together, watching over all of us.

With much love,

A Judy, U Jack, J.J. and Genna

Chris Kelley said...

Still miss you massively, Keith.

Annie said...

Thinking of you always!

Mollie said...

Dear Kelleys,
Hello! I just wanted you to be sure that I, and many other now 8th graders, think of Keith everyday. As I walk between classes and spot the rock now in place in front of the traffic circle, I can't help but think of him- sitting there and peacefully watching all the proceedings. I am so pleased that his presence has accompanied us through our time at OIS. Wonderful things are told to all who ask about him, and his story effects of all who hear, placing things truly into perspective. I'm sure he has been doing many unimaginably wonderful things, but he has not been forgotten by our class.
Best wishes,
Mollie Fiero

Chris Kelley said...

You're always in my heart, Keith.

Chris Kelley said...

Remembering you, Keith, on what should have been your 15th birthday.

Chris Kelley said...

Thinking of you.

Anonymous said...

Keith, I hope you know we haven't forgotten you and never ever will. You would've been a junior with us right now and everyone at Miramonte who has heard about you and your story still think about you so much. All of us Wagner kids tell stories about the fun times from elementary school playing kickball and especially Honk in fourth grade. You made one amazing duck! I love you and miss you so much.

Lots of love to your family.

Ann Kelley said...

Happy Birthday, Keith! You would have been seventeen today.
Love you--always.
Annie

Anonymous said...

Hi Keith.

I am grant Evans brother and I remember how devastated grant was when this all happened even though I was so young. I didn't understand it but having come across this blog now has made me cry extremely. I'm sorry for your loss and although your family probably doesn't know me, I'm sorry for them too. It's terrible that you passed so quickly, and I don't understand why you had to go. I really hope you are in a better place now Keith...

From
Andrew

Chris Kelley said...

Happy Birthday, Keith.

Anonymous said...

Hi Keith-

I hope you know that we all still think about you every day. You would've been in college with all of us Wagner kids right now. Last night I shared your story with some of my floormates and they were truly inspired. Although you may not be physically with us now, I want to thank you so much for everything you've done. We love and miss you dearly.

Steve Kelley said...

Dear Keith,

Today is your 19th birthday! How I wish you were with us to celebrate and enjoy a piece of Texas sheet cake (your favorite) as we always do on this special day. You always are, and always will be in our hearts. Now and forever.

Love Dad.

Chris Kelley said...

Happy 19th birthday Keith!

Ann Kelley said...

Thinking about you dear Keith this Christmastide

Chris Kelley said...

Thinking of you on your 20th birthday!

Ann Kelley said...

Think of you daily, dear Keith and wonder now what kind of man you would have become at aged twenty. ❤️

Chris Kelley said...

Thinking of you, Keith, on this eve of your 21st birthday.

Ann Kelley said...

Will always love you, Keith and on your 21st birthday, you are in my thoughts today. ❤️

Steven K said...

Keith,
You are with us always and yet we miss you so much. Happy birthday dear friend.

Dad