As many of you read in the last blog posted here, Keith died on January 22, 2012, three months after we learned of his stage 4, very advanced, bile duct cancer.  As July 22 looms ahead of me, arriving on the same day of the week (Sunday) as the day he died, I feel moved to begin to share some insights and experiences I am having adjusting to life without Keith.  And of course, I’d love to hear your thoughts and feelings about your own experiences and insights.

I have often thought about all of you who had signed up to hear from Keith through his blogs.  I am amazed and grateful that so few have cancelled, and that you are still connected in this way.  I may not post every week (or I may), but as I go through the days and months to come I will be posting more of these.

I recently scrolled through all of Keith’s blogs in the Archive—nearly three years’ worth!  I just glanced at titles and remembered working with Keith to develop them.  One blog title, posted back in 2009, caught my eye in a startling way because it was about being connected “to those long gone.”  Of course Keith is not “long” gone, but he is gone from this physical realm.

In this particular post Keith talks about his feelings after the death of his Aunt Nannie, the last close family member with whom he had grown up.  His parents and only brother had already died.  Five months later, he got the first copy of his very first book, The Taste of New Wine. He had the painful realization that there was no one in his family of origin alive whom he could tell!  He wrote,

“When I got in bed that night, I lay there in the dark and began to weep for the first time in years. A great wave of loneliness came over me. I realized that all the memories of our home had died with Nannie . . . except mine. I was alone with my past. But the flood of grief was a great release.”

Never before have I connected with those two sentences as I did last night!  During the last six months (and before) I have encountered a number of such painful moments.  Two months ago I visited our dermatologist, whom Keith had seen twice a year, but whom I had not seen in a long time.

It had been six years since my last visit, so the nurse asked me to fill out new paperwork. When I came to the blank for “Emergency Contact,” tears suddenly gushed down my cheeks and I could hardly breathe.  Keith had always been my emergency contact, and in the rush of emotion, no one else came to mind whose name I could write there.  All the memories of how he had cared for me through my own cancer surgery in 1990, through my struggle with an autoimmune disease (now in remission) and several other less serious physical ailments.  I had felt such security knowing that he would be contacted if I had an emergency.

His way of dealing with this deep sense of loss and loneliness is as follows:

“…although in one sense I was alone with my past, in another I was not at all—God had been with me as a small boy with my hopes and dreams and is with me still. In a sense, the Lord and I will always share the memories of the past. In Him not only Nannie but Mother, Dad, and my brother Earle, may in some way that is beyond my understanding still share these memories with me.  And in any case I was not alone that morning with my past.

“I had never seen before this aspect of Christ’s amazing statement, “I am with you always, even until the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20 KJV)—that his presence is really the thread which runs through the memories in a Christian’s life, holding the years together, giving them unity of meaning like a string of pearls. Without his continuing presence with each of us, fear, separation, and death would scatter the Christian family in the wind. And although at times I am still lonely, God’s presence and Christ’s promises help me not to feel so alone when I face my family’s death . . . and my own.”

I’m taking hold of that thread of Christ’s presence in a more conscious way as this six-month-a-versary passes by on the calendar.  As I continue to work on the book we were writing together (Square One) I expect to be flooded with many memories of the past.  I believe that Christ was with us when we made the memories, and is still with me today here on Earth (as I believe he is with Keith in Heaven).  I look forward to completing this book, tears and all, because those memories are so precious to me now.  And even as I deal with writings that we began in the past, I can sense my own evolution into the Andrea that God will use somehow in the coming years.

I’ll close with a prayer/poem that I found on our assistant Jessica Lyon’s[1] computer—a poem that Keith had written and asked her to type for him last May.  It speaks of his desire to allow God to give him a life “that’s more than nearly me.” And that is also my prayer for my own life.

Good Morning Lord

A Song or Meditation

(Written after praying Bill Wilson’s daily prayer)

Good Morning, Lord.

I offer all my life to you

To build with me, and do with me

Whatever is your will.

Unlock the handcuffs of my fear

So I can love with open arms

If that is what you will.

Forgive my grubby sins I hide

And wash me with some healing tears

If that is what you will.

So that a life—that’s more than nearly me—

Will show the world

The power of your love is near

If that is what you will.

–J. Keith Miller

May 9, 2011

[1] Jessica has moved to Colorado with her husband and children, as her husband David has found a wonderful new job there.  I miss her terribly, but am doing okay with learning how to take over what she had been doing.  Thus, I have been poking around on the computer in the office where she worked.

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