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Since you left us…

Photos of me and Keith, on the left by Flint Journal reporter in early 2000s;
on the right in 2011 at daughter’s wedding.

It’s been 8 years since you left us, 8 years since you departed this earth. It’s been 8 years since my heart broke so hard I never thought I could recover, and 8 years since feeling the pain of saying goodbye begin to fade, and 8 years of learning to love and grow and embrace love once again. 

Keith, it’s been 8 years since I promised to go on, to keep this dream space that sometimes brought with it nightmares of cruelty by outside forces, and 8 years that I look back and see how much it has changed due to that tenacious hold on the dream.

It’s been 8 years since the sharp pain of your departure, Keith, and of my growing recognition of the many blessings that followed. It’s been 8 years since I promised to complete my educational goals, and 8 years of learning that, with the support of loved ones, family and friends, I must believe that I will always end up where I am most needed as long as I don’t give up. 

It’s been 8 years since our small family grew even smaller, and 8 years of watching it grow exponentially, even as old ones have left us, and young ones have been born to us. It’s been 8 years since you departed only 54 years young, and 8 years older that I have become. 

It’s been 8 years of knowing that you are never far from me in spirit, because when I call out I am embraced by a feeling of deep love and support. And it’s been 8 years of wisdom I’ve gained since you left this earth, knowing that life is fleeting, and it is best to celebrate each morning as I wake to live another day, and each evening as I lay my head upon the pillow knowing I am surrounded by love in both spirit and earthly worlds. 

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[Dear Reader – I know it’s been awhile since I wrote. Thank you for your patience. During this past year, I started a temporary new role at the college which has kept me very busy. This was made even more so by the pandemic which shut us down for in-person classes in March. And the year in this new role was also deeply challenged by the loss of my colleague, supervisor, mentor from cancer. • To top it off, my 81-yr-old dad who was living with me also passed away from pancreatic cancer. Although in his case it was mercifully quick, it was so very heartbreaking to see him go through it as I tried my best to support him. Family also made a difference, being there for his last week as we prepared our goodbyes. • So now, as things begin to stabilize, I find myself awakened on this 8th anniversary of another deep loss, and I count my blessings even as the world is in turmoil around me. – mjf]

For those of us who were conscious and attentive during the fateful events of 9/11/2001, it is hard to fathom that there is nearly an entire generation who have grown up without the emotional connection to the tragedies of that day. For them, there is no “before” and “after” 9/11. But for the rest of us, myself included, much of life is measured in those terms.

I find it happens with life-changing events. We measure life “before” and life “after – the death of a loved one, a major life move like moving overseas – and back again, before children and after their arrival. These are all very personal ways of looking at our individual lives, how we break down time into consumable bits.

But when it comes to the events of 9/11, this is not just personal, this is one that we share. We remember what it was like to go to an airport and travel by air before 9/11. And we know what has changed. TSA didn’t exist before and we didn’t worry about bringing a bottle of water through the boarding checkpoints (since there were no high-tech security checkpoints back then).

Before 9/11, we didn’t concern ourselves with what books we purchased or checked out of a library. But post-9/11, with the advent of the Patriot Act, under Section 215, a library could be subpoenaed to provide details of what books someone checked out in the name of national security.

Yesterday, on the college campus where I work, I sat among administrators, staff, and a few faculty, to honor the 18th anniversary of nation-changing event. Like the annual ministrations of Yom HaShoah, a day of remembrance of the Holocaust, we shared the same message – we shall not forget. But we’re not just remembering the horrific events of that day. We remember the heroes, the selfless demonstrations of human connections, the sharing of kindness, love, and support to our fellow citizens, regardless of color, creed, religion, age, gender, or nationality. We were all just humans that day who needed each other for the silent support of kindness.

Remnant of one of the twin towers on campusAs we sat there facing a remnant of one of the structural members of one of the two World Trade Center towers, a large American flag hanging from the extension ladder of a city fire truck, we listened. With us were new cadets being trained as police officers, and our own college police department.

And as we heard the words being spoken, the sound of sirens started. A tingling went up my spine, a memory connecting viscerally to my reaction from the original moment that brought us here. The sirens got louder and I realized it was a true emergency, perhaps another life-changing event for someone in the community. As the sirens reached their peak and began to quiet as they passed by our campus, I thought of how apt their occurrence was. Marking that moment in time when life is measured as before… and after, forever branded in our hearts and minds.

From a new post at Looking Glass Design:

In between my work commitments, I managed to squeeze in life. Creative people often have to “work” harder to squeeze in that time to reflect, experience, explore, love, and grow in ways that don’t happen without some intentional nurturing. Heck, everyone needs to do this, regardless of whether you’re a “creative” person or not.

Read more of my new post at Looking Glass Design.

Building anew.

Written on Tuesday, 7/31/18

I try to focus on the work at hand as we prepare the old house for sale. Even though lots of memories are evoked as we go, and Steven tackles the difficult challenges of finishing Keith’s unfinished house projects, going through collections of “stuff” inside the house, the workshop, the basement, and all around outside, I feel incredibly blessed. Although it’s taken longer, Steve’s workmanship shows and I know it’s a matter of pride – and love – in his mind, and I am forever grateful to this wonderful man who has taken on so much. To live in the shadow of Keith’s spirit can be a challenge. But today I think I found a sign that Keith was pleased.

Dane and I moved a very large 10-drawer flat file into the garage today. Drawer by drawer. Most were empty already but several were full and it was kind of a pain. But we got all the drawers moved and prepared to move the cabinet that held them. I looked back to the empty steel cabinet and there was some stuff still there, curled up against the back. A few pieces of Stassia’s, a few pieces of mine. But there was this one big piece still curled up against the back wall. I pulled it out and there it was – an impromptu angel made from overspray from a project Keith did many years ago. And in the corner, he’d painted his initials “KF” to ensure there was no doubt. Among the last pieces of family “art” to get moved out of the house. Finding it today felt like a special sign, a message of love from the spirit of Keith.

 

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Spraypaint art made by Keith when he was working with Stassia on a costume. He liked the angel he recognized and signed it in the corner. I’d completely forgotten about this until my daughter reminded me.

Friday, 7/27/18

Woke up at 4:52 am to a blazing light shining upon me. It was a huge full moon low on the horizon so that its light reached inside my bedroom. I smiled and said Happy 60th Birthday, Keith! We miss you here on this life’s plane. Hope you’re enjoying all our shenanigans from your view on the other side. ❤️

Keith taking his solo pilot flight test, upstate NY. Instructor decided we should all go to dinner in Keene, NH.

Postscript: When I awoke later in the morning daylight, I looked out the window and saw the trees and wondered how I could have seen the moon so clearly earlier. And yet, there it had been! When he passed, it was a huge blue moon (a second full moon in the month) and I always associate the strong light of the full moon as his embrace from beyond.

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