This photo shows Keith, enjoying a hike with his friends, and pointing out something that caught his attention. More about Keith and his love of nature, later; first I want to tell you what I am feeling on the 11th anniversary of his death. Also, I want you to know that you won’t upset me by mentioning his name; I would love to hear his name as he is always in my thoughts, especially this time of year.
Keith was living far away from us when he died by suicide. No one saw this coming, especially those people who were physically around him in the weeks before his death. We struggled to understand his every action and thought leading up to that tragic event. In retrospect, we saw the job troubles, the loss of weight, and some day to day minor setbacks, but we cannot walk in his shoes and fully feel the enormity of his anxiety and depression.
An unfortunate outcome of this learning process is that I have mentally recorded his last few days and hours, and I able to play that back each year. It is inevitable that memories of these disturbing days pop back into my thinking. So if I seem out of balance at the end of March, please have patience with me.
A second thing that happens is that I have this mental game imagining what Keith’s life, and my life, would be like if he was alive, married, and had children. This game kicks in when I see young men with their wives and children. This becomes acute at Easter time, because we believe that Keith’s life ended on Palm Sunday in the year that he died.
The problem with my thoughts and memories is that I cannot make them go away. It is like having a program on your DVR, it won’t erase, and it automatically starts up when you watch your TV at the end of March.
Now, I will return to the topic of Keith and his love of Nature. In the recent issue of the magazine for the National Audubon Society, the editors cited a research study on the positive impact that nature has on people’s behavior. People who were exposed to nature had more empathy for their fellow living things (including humans, of course). People who spent more time in man-made environments were more materialistic. Keith somehow knew he was more at peace with the world when he was outdoors, thus his passion for fly fishing, hiking, rafting, skiing, and birding.
Here is what I would like you to do for me today. Think of what your plans are for the day. Consider how important they are if this were the last day of your life. Think of the most beautiful, peaceful, or exciting thing you can do in your local environment. Set aside those mundane tasks you have ahead of you, grab a friend, head out of doors to the park, mountain, or seashore, and enjoy yourself. At the end of the day, watch the sunset and be thankful that you chose to enjoy yourself on another good day in your life. It will make you a better person.
© 2010 by Dick Loehr