The time since learning of Keith's death has been a very difficult time for all of us. So many questions that we'd like to have answered that will never be answered. Although each of us will find a different way of dealing with Keith's death, I found it helpful when a mutual friend of ours posed to me the question: "How would Keith want us to feel about his death?" This question reminded me of a conversation Keith and I had last fall that I wanted to share with you.
One weekend in November Keith and I were out drinking with two other friends of his when his friend and I got into a conversation about hunting ducks and how one felt after shooting a duck. As a non-hunter I could only imagine that it was a hard thing to do and one would feel a variety of emotions. To my surprise the guy with whom I was speaking told me that he felt nothing. I found this hard to believe and turned to Keith for a second opinion. Keith thought about the question a moment and looking at his eyes I could see him reflecting on the situation. He smiled a bit sadly and said that it made him feel "a little sad." I didn't probe further at the time, but his response struck me and was something I've thought of again since learning of Keith's death.
When Keith mentioned that he felt sad I'm sure that he felt sad because the duck was a beautiful living creature that died too soon, before it was ready, before all the possibilities of its life were live out. This would have touched Keith. But in the same breath Keith didn't just say "sad", but rather "a little sad." And I think that he phrased it in this way as he knew that the death of the bird was not meaningless - Keith would eat the duck and by so doing it would give him sustenance and become part of him. He would also remember the experience of being in the outdoors and hunting with his friends and by so doing the duck's life would add to his. In such a sense the bird's death was meaningful and added to Keith's life.
As all of us can relate I found that my time with Keith has added so much to my own life. Our times together were invariably fun, sometimes a bit crazy, but always provided laughs and good memories. Keith was and is someone who I will always look up to as a role model about how to live life exploring new interests and accomplishing the goals you set out for yourself. If Keith wanted to give sky diving a try, he went out and did it. When Keith wanted to lose 20 pounds, he didn't just put it on his list of New Year's resolutions, he went ahead and did it.
And when I think again about the question "How would Keith want us to feel about his own death" I think his answer might be "a little sad." Sad of course that he is gone, but only a little sad because we remember the good times we had and know that he is still with us and will continue to be a part of our lives. His life was meaningful and adds to the richness of ours.