Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Last Gifts- "Holding Watch" for a Dying Friend

Note 2/12: Dennis Keen died peacefully on Monday, February 7th, surrounded by loved ones. His memorial service was held on Thursday, February 10th, where hundreds of friends, family, colleagues, and students remembered this man of faith and integrity. I will miss him forever.

My heart is broken. I am losing my dear friend Dennis Keen to cancer. I have been his friend for 23 years.

Every morning I saw him at school as he was one of the "early birds". I have watched him battle this horrible disease with courage, stamina, resilience and GUTS! I am, beyond, what any words could ever describe, proud of him. He has been a warrior against this disease. He did chemo every week for close to 2 1/2 years.

And I am learning some powerful life lessons.

I am choosing, as my dear Mom called it, to "hold watch" for my friend.

I am not ignoring this part of his life because it is SO hard to watch him deteriorate.
I am holding his hand and kissing his bald head and telling him how much he matters to me (and to so many others).
I am making meals, baskets, cards and being "present" in this part of his journey.

And it isn't easy.

I am NOT pretending that this will have a pretty outcome here on earth. It won't.

Most of all I am so cognizant of what it means to have such a dear friend leave your life.
I am "holding watch" with other friends of his...crying, hugging, whispering his name to God as he inch-by-inch goes Home.

I have loved having the chance to reminisce with Dennis, laugh, and share stories.

One of the fun moments in this part of the journey with Dennis came after I had visited him at the hospital and realized he was in too much pain to sit up. I wanted him to remember, as he looked to the ceiling of his bedroom at home, how dearly loved he was.

So I decided to create a "quilt-like" ceiling card (to go on the ceiling over his bed). His friends at school could take a square of colored card stock and write him a message of hope and love. I used my scrap booking supplies to make repeat cards, cards that would have a theme and tie the quilt together. I used powerful tape to hold all of the squares together on the back side.

The card started on a table in the faculty lounge in Old Main. I left extra squares and a pen so others could share their love for Dennis and his wife Virginia, who also works at SCC.

The card grew and grew.


As expected, some of the messages came from his inner circle of friends at SCC.

Other unexpected messages came from maintenance people who had heard that Dennis Keen, who always spoke to them and showed gratitude to them, was terminally ill.

When I delivered the card it was five feet tall and 14 feet long!

Message after message celebrated the large and small kindnesses that Dennis did every day!

Today I am headed to see Dennis and deliver a meal. I don't know how many visits I'll have left with him
Each one is a reminder that life is fragile and such a GIFT!
Each visit reminds me to live every day as if it was my last.
Each visit is a reminder to tell those I love that I love them.

Yes, I am "Holding Watch" for my dear friend and while it is hard, it is a great honor to be there.

God Bless!
Love Linda


jessithompson said...

I love you and thank you for being an amazing role model for me about life, love, and friendship.

Our Family said...

I am so sorry that your friend, Dennis passed away. I know that he had a special place in your heart. You were a good friend to him and his wife "gerginia."

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