Tuesday, August 17, 2010

This Journey Called Life

So much has happened since I graduated from High School. I traveled paths noone could have forseen. Have seen things that broke my heart, other things that truly amazed me. And I have met people who truly touched me heart (and soul).

I've heard about, read about and pondered about the term soul mates. I do believe there are people who are meant to meet. That perhaps their souls call to each other. I don't believe we all have one soul mate - that would just be sad. I have found many soul mates over my 50 years. People who I know my life would not be complete had I not met them. People who helped me on this journey we call life.

Through the internet I have found some very special people who have touched me heart and soul. One such person is Keith. Some of you already know who Keith is. Others are just meeting him. He is worth meeting.

Many years ago (1998) I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. (After too many years to mention of wanting to know just what was wrong with me.) One of the things my doctor recommended I do was to go online and find others who suffered with this illness. He said it would help to talk with those who are going through the same struggles I was.

So I went into whats known as the Delphi Community. They have forums for just about any subject you could imagine. It was there I found a support group for people who are dealing with Fibromyalgia. A great group of people who will always hold a special place in my memories.

In 1999 I was no longer able to work, had filed for disability and was really not too happy with my situation. I had graduated from Nursing school in 1996 and loved every minute of doing home health nursing. It was something I had wanted to do for years. So feeling down and at loose ends I decided I needed to do something to cheer me up - and with winter right around the corner and Christmas lurking as well.. I thought what better way to cheer myself up as well as others than to play Santa Clause. So I created a Delphi Santa ID and with the help of two others. (Robert and Stephanie) we started visiting different Delphi forums - wishing them a Merry Christmas and asking what their Christmas wish was. Some were funny, others truly sad and others heartwarming.

I decided one of the things I would do in my Santa roll was to visit all the support forums. I just knew I wasn't the only one needing a little cheer. So this is how I stumbled upon Keith.

Keith managed a forum called Living With Cancer. I stopped by as Santa and Keith and I chatted a bit. I loved the way he ran his forum, the compassion he showed and his nurturing spirit. So later I went back as myself (Known on Delphi as Mimikay or Dreamweaver). And told Keith that Santa had sent me to meet him. Thats how our friendship started. Santa did it. Until the day Keith went into a comma that was always our joke. Santa bought us together, love kept us there.

We talked on the phone often. An expensive habit before I bought my cell phone. At the time we "met" online Keith wasn't able to travel due to his cancer fight. But he only lived 360 miles away. I knew one day we would meet for real instead of in forums and on the phone.

That day came too soon, when I was awakened by a phone call from Keith brother. He said Keith had been rushed to the hospital and wasn't expected to live. That his organs were shutting down. I told his brother to tell Keith to hold on, that I was on my way. Then I proceeded to drive through a blizzard to reach him. I would call the nurse on duty every hour for a progress report and she always said he was still holding his own and waiting for me. When I finally made it to the hospital after what seemed like forever of driving, I stood outside his room - afraid to enter. What if he has taken a turn for the worse, what if he decides he doesn't like me, what if? What if? etc.. The nurse spotted me about then, and gently took my hand. She led me into the room and introduced me to the most amazing person. Keith was barely awake at the time. He just smiled and said that since I was there he could finally rest. He wasn't in the hospital long, they discovered it was a medication causing the troubles and after they were able to get that straightened out he was able to go home.

This was Keith afterall, when he was diagnosed with cancer they gave him 1-3 months to live. Hospice was called in and Keith started walking. He made it to the front porch, then down the drive way and soon was walking all over town. Hospice kicked him out because it was obvious Keith wasn't dying. 2 other times he was kicked out of hospice. He just had that fighting spirit. He lived almost 12 years past his diagnosis. It wasn 't the cancer that killed him though - no it was the damage from the radiation he was given.

With the time Keith had - knowing he wasn't well enough to get out and travel - he settled in a little town called Ponca, Ne. A window in his living room overlooked the town - it was his window to the outside world. To keep his mind sharp and his heart right - he started taking classes. Before he passed away he was a fully ordained minister. And he ran his support group online. He once told me that when he was first diagnosed with cancer he was trluy struggling, and he had gone online to look for a place that others could offer suggestions and support. Something so important to someone who couldn't leave his house. He ran into a group that had a desperate post from a young woman who had posted several month before and noone had responded. He was determined noone else would ever have to go through that in Delphi. Thats how Living With Cancer started. And as long as Keith was alive - no post went unanswered. No cry for help went unheeded. No prayer request went unanswered.

Keith gave all his heart to living. Even as he knew he was dying. For 5 years I knew Keith, for 3 of those years I traveled every month to spend time with him. We were able to get him a motorized wheel chair, a ramp built and electric door put in so he could get out of his apartment. He didn't have long to enjoy them - as his health deteriated - but he was so grateful to those who worked so hard to try and help.

The last several months of his life when I wasn't able to be there with him he was in the nursing home.

I was at home when I got a call from him saying to come. That he was on the way to the hospital and not doing well. I drove the fastest I ever have to get there. As I arrived at the nursing home an ambulance had pulled up to take him to the hospital where a hospice bed was awaiting him. His doctor was there - and in front of Keith stated that this time he wasn't gonna make it. I could have slapped the doctor but held back. Keith took my hand and reminded me that he didn't want to die alone. I swore he wouldn't.

I followed the ambulance and we got him up into his room and situated as comfortably as possible. Since he was fighting severe pneumonia we knew there was little hope of him fighting it off this time. A cot was bought in for me and I was left to make the phone calls to his family. Keith looked at me, mouthed I love you, then went into a coma..

He only had two other visitors the day we were in hospice. One was the nurse who had introduced us. She had heard Keith was back in the hospital. I don't recal her name, can't even remember what she looked like. I do recall her compassionate ways, and her tears as she told Keith goodbye. For almost 24 hours it was just Keith and I. I talked to him non stop. reminded him of things we had talked about, people we knew, reminded him of Santa. And sang his favorite tunes to him. (his poor ears). All the time I had one hand on his heart, feeling his life slow down. The nurses asked if I wanted the minister to stop by. I told them I thought keith would appreciate it. So right before he passed away a minister walked in the room. He said prayers while holding both Keith and my hands. And then stepped back as I took Keiths hand and told him it was OK. That I knew he needed to go and I would be OK. Within minutes he took his last breath. The minister said he had never been at such a peaceful passing.

So I said goodbye to Keith in the same hospital I had said hello to him at. Although there are times I still feel him close, can still hear his whispers and gentle hugs. He isn't here on this earthly plane anymore but am sure his new journey is an exciting one full of laughter and joy.. and painless days and nights.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mel, remember me? DebbieDeb at BCSAF and also at Keiths forum. Your blog certainly brought back memories of Keiths time on earth. You were such a wonderful part of life for him. He still shows as one of my friends on Delphi. I do miss him too.