Sunday, June 17, 2007

And Just Like That, He's Gone

Most of you know I was working as a caregiver
for a man who decided to end his life.

With Keith's family living in Ohio and most of his
friends being caregivers like me, I wasn't sure if
there would be a service of any kind. But two of his
long time friends, Barbara and Earl, put something
together. And I am so thankful they did.

Their vision for the evening couldn't have been more
perfect. In fact, it was probably the nicest service I've
ever been to. Extremely appropriate and healing.

About 20 of us met up in Keith's backyard last Saturday.
It's landscaped beautifully, with a large, serene lap pool in
the center, and a lovely view of the South Mountains
over which the sun sets. The pool made a subtle but
potent statement -- while Keith was still alive, it was
the only place he could go to swim and be free from his
chair, bed and paralysis. But it was also where he ended
his life -- ultimately setting himself free.

It was an ideal spot to be together while paying our
respects -- catching a sunset as we said good bye to our

Keith wasn't religious. So, there was no presiding pastor.
He was a casual guy. So, we went in casual clothes.
We all went to his home to be with him while he was alive.
So, that is where we went to say farewell.

His passing, especially being that it was a suicide, left some
unresolved feelings for each of us. He lived a tough life
that quite often left him angry. He was sometimes very
hard to be around, and he pushed a lot of great people
out of his life.

Barbara and Earl facilitated a process for us that was
really interesting to me --
First, we formed a circle and sat together.
Then, we each received a folder containing two pieces of paper.
A small red one
and a larger green one.

On the red, they encouraged us to write something
that was tugging at us about Keith --
anger, guilt, frustration.
A word or a sentence.
Then, one at a time, we went over to this bowl that held
a candle and we burnt it -- Just let it go.
We gave it back. Got rid of it.

Once everyone finished...
We each wrote a positive about Keith on the green paper.
Something we'd remember about him.
Something he taught us.
And then, we went around and shared that thought
one at a time.

I learned some things about him I didn't know.
I was very moved by many of the thoughts,
and they have really served as a comfort since.
It was pretty powerful.
Earl planned to send those green paper thoughts
to Keith's dad in Ohio.

To end the service, we all stood and held hands --
still in that circle that provided surprising comfort,
as they played two songs for us.
Some closed their eyes and reflected.
Some looked upward - maybe wishing him off.
Others let out a few final tears.
One or two people added a thought at the end.

It was so nice.
Just nice.
I'm glad I was there.
And I'm glad I got to know Keith
while I still could.

I received many nice calls and emails when this
happened a couple of weeks ago.
So, thanks to all of you for your kindness.
It meant a lot to me.

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