Loss, Love and Paying Tribute

I am here.

I am here.

It is difficult to console the inconsolable heart.  Each must experience the pain of loss or it will never leave us.  I’m not describing loss of love.  I’m describing loss of life of someone who made your world every bit as wonderful as it could be.  Be it a spouse, a child, a sibling or best friend.  Maybe you have lost a parent, grandparent, an aunt, uncle, cousin, a mentor, or a partner.  We always say “I’m sorry for your loss” but we cannot possibly feel another person’s loss.

People think they know the depth of your loss but they don’t.  That is what we call empathy and most of us are capable of feeling that.   Many of us can empathize with others.  But nobody can feel what is in your heart during such a personal, tumultuous time.  Think of times that you have realized loss through death.  Like most, we are sad and move forward and sometimes we become stuck in a place where every waking moment is wrapped tightly with emotion of that person. I’m in between those places and it is a good place for me to spend my time.  Sounds odd, right?  Actually I have found moving forward and being bombarded with beautiful memories, the perfect balance.  Memories are the driving force behind getting out of bed and living my life the best I know how.  I do not believe for half a second that I would have been able to do this if I had not had the best of the best as my husband.  What he gave me personally in my life will always be enough.  But he is where there is no more cancer, no more fear of what tomorrow might bring.  He is in a place that only peace and harmony exist.  His spirit is alive and well within me and that is a beautiful place for him to rest.  I am glad Keith was a patient man, because now he waits patiently as I live my life – day by day, month after month, and hopefully year after year.  Thanks for the memories, Keith … may they continue to keep me lifted to this place of peace.

Keith spent his 60th birthday celebration in heaven, on Sunday, August 23rd.  I bet the angels sang beautifully!  We had some chocolate cake and sang happy birthday to papa – it felt good for us to still do that and be thankful that we had the time we did with him while he lived.

On Saturday, August 22nd, we celebrated Keith and our memories of Keith during our annual fund-raiser.  Thanks to generous donations, we raised $11,350 dollars for The PMP Research Foundation to continue their efforts in Research and Education.  They will also “give back” to Dr. Salti, for his programs that directly impact patients with appendix cancer and pseudomyxoma.  It was a wonderful day and I know that Keith would be so proud and so happy to know that people still care.  People still come out to share his legacy.  I am not, by any standard, a public speaker.  I did not like it in school and I do not like it as an adult.  But I forced myself to get up in front of the crowd because I had a few things to say and because I was and am, so very grateful for all of those who donated and those who attended both in person and in spirit.  Here is a copy of that speech:

Let me start by thanking Kimberly for all of her hard work and dedication! Without her, many of you would not even know about this event. She has worked tirelessly to get donations for today and there are many. Thank you Kimberly for all you do in dad’s name.

First, some of you know that I am a volunteer for the PMP Research Foundation. Funding Research and Education along with patient support through email and social media websites is their purpose. In 8 years, they have received through private donations and fund-raisers such as this, well over 1 million dollars. They have provided funding of $750,000 for research into appendix cancer/PMP with another $100,000 to be awarded in December of this year. I am proud to work alongside them in whatever capacity I am able and believe with all my heart that Keith wanted something like this for me. If I can help just one person, through volunteering, my life will be well-lived.

Second, thank you to Dr. Salti for all that you do. It is my personal goal for the Appendix Cancer and Pseudomyxoma community to know you as I know you. An expert surgeon as we call you in our support groups. I want people to know your dedication in performing these surgeries that are grueling and lengthy – Keith’s surgery was 12-hours. I want people to know that you are not just a physician who treated Keith, but you are a part of my family. I am also proud to be a part of your team going forward as a support to others as needed. On October 6th, Dr. Salti and Edward Hospital will be holding a Cancer Symposium sponsored in part by the Research Foundation. It is free for the public to attend. Check out Edward’s website or pmpcure.org for information. Thank you again Dr. Salti, for your experience, expertise and especially your dedication to your patients.

Last and certainly not least, most of you knew Keith as a strong, powerful man. He was that way, but there was a side of him that made me fall in love with him – It was the twinkle in his eye and believe it or not, his shyness. Most of all, it was desire to be loved. I loved that man with every ounce of my being and he was so afraid that after his death he would be forgotten. Despite a building and a complex bearing his name and family and friends who have gathered here, that was his biggest fear. On behalf of Keith and on behalf of my family, thank you for not forgetting him.

We will continue our efforts for as long as people continue to support us and Keith’s memory.  As my daughter told me, “mom, if that ever happens, you and I will still go to five different bars and celebrate dad”.  I hope it never comes to that.  I hope we continue to gain support through the years for Keith’s memory; obviously our driving force, but for the many others who have lost their lives to appendix cancer and its variant pathologies and for those who fight every day.  I hope the future holds a cure, that’s our purpose – but until that time, we must individually do what we can to help others.  That is what we pray for, that is what we focus on.

Truly, the man I married … I thanked God while he lived for bringing us together.  I still thank God for that.  The true measure of a man, I believe, is the indelible mark he left on the hearts of others.  What Keith left on my heart is so deep that his dying opened up a space that only memories of him can fill.

All I Know

There are not a lot of words to the song All I Know by Art Garfunkel, but both the lyrics and the melody give me peace.  Aside from the first verse not being relevant, All I know is how very much I continue to love Keith.
I am who I am because of the love and friendship that Keith and I shared together.  I am who I am because we believed that no matter what, our love was stronger than any obstacle we had placed before us.  Still today, I am who I am because of his death and the obstacle of grief so present always, will be overcome by our love for each other.
I am stronger than I ever thought possible, though Keith and our hospice social worker told me how strong I would be.  Some days I’ve thought they knew me better than I knew myself and then there are days I say to myself – I have no choice.  Sure, I could lay down at night and choose not to get out of bed everyday, but that is not what Keith would want and it certainly isn’t what God wants of me. God saw me through the hardest nights and longest days as Keith laid motionless for three while his body underwent changes to prepare him for death.  As I held him, I loved him and that’s all I knew.  As I sat in the funeral home hours after his death making sure every last detail was right, I loved him.  As I stood at his casket for hours on end, all I knew was that I loved him.  As sad as it was during that wake and funeral, I didn’t feel anything but love. When I talk about him as I do in some way, every single day, it’s his love shining through.  Keith’s love – it’s all I know.
I hope that one day every person who reads these words has experienced or will experience in their lifetime the love and passion that Keith and I shared.  Through good times and bad, we were there for each other.  In sickness and in health, we never waned.  Death parted us physically but it absolutely did not part our love.
What I had hoped for our future together is gone now, but I no longer feel sad when I see elderly couples at dinner.  Instead I say a silent prayer that they know how blessed they are.  It is obvious that I miss my best friend but could not ask for better than what I had.

As Art Garfunkel wrote:

When the singer’s gone
Let the song go on
It’s a fine line between the darkness and the dawn
But the ending always comes at last
Endings always come too fast
They come too fast but they pass slow
I love you and that’s all I know
Keith is definitely the light in my darkness still.  And yes, his life went too fast and some days seem so slow, but I will love him always for that’s all I know.