Sunday, December 09, 2012

"But you. . .

. . .you were fantastic."

Arizona north of Phoenix is, as Beloved Pens says, fucking lousy with vistas. Coming up over a series of hills you weren't aware you were climbing, the whole earth opens up to reveal hills the size of small mountains, creekbeds that probably haven't had water in them in years, and is that a mesa out there in the distance?

I trundled along in my speed-governed econo-box, and my mouth dropped open as I topped that last hill on 17. All I could think to say was "Holy. Shit."

Arizona is a weird place. I hadn't been through there in years--the last time was in 1996 or so, and we bypassed Phoenix for Flagstaff--and I had forgotten how you see places in the desert.

The first way is in the details: the grinding sameness of saguaro cactus, which at first is incredible and then just blends in to the sagegrass and the sand. The second way is in a car, where everything moves fast enough that you're taken by surprise by the whole picture when a vista opens right up in front of you. The third way is from a plane. Nothing's human-scale any more; it's a glorious, perspective-less panorama of mountains and dry washes. You wonder, looking at it from the air, if anybody who'd settled the area would've kept going if they'd known what was ahead of them.

I wondered that same thing about Tashi before Kevin's memorial service this weekend. If she'd known what was going to happen, what she'd have to go through, would she have stuck with him? The grinding sameness of the day-to-day chores of dealing with somebody whose brain is altered, when vistas don't open up with the regularity that they do on the highway; what would she have done?

The answer came when Tashi said this: "Even though I only knew him for about a year before the cancer started changing him, he was so amazing that the love he gave me made it worthwhile to stick around."

And, "The cancer never got *him.* He was never his cancer. He was always himself."

Speaking literally, Kevin lost. He died of brain cancer. It won.

Speaking in every way that matters, he won. He owned that cancer, and beat the hell out of it. The proof is in how all of his friends remembered him: a silly, loving, incredible, creative, goofy, loyal man who cared more about other people than he did himself, and loved everybody. Those things that made Kevin Kevin didn't change just because he had a tumor.

I've never laughed so hard at a party in my life, even one where the guest of honor wasn't dead.

Kevin's friends told stories and provided details. Tashi told us what it was like to take care of him when he was sick. The two combined opened up a big, detailed portrait of a person I wish desperately that I'd known. I was honored and lucky to hear all about him, though, and for that I'm grateful.

Tashi said at one point that Kevin was the kind of guy who made other people want to be better people.  I had been thinking that exact same thing just seconds before.

Thank you, Tashi, for introducing me to Kevin. He was fantastic.


bobbie said...

I'm so glad you were able to go ~

Mama D said...

Love this. A touching tribute.

Comrade Physioprof said...

Very touching post.

RehabRN said...

The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.~
Bruce Lee

Sure sounds like Kevin did. And when you think about him, he lives.

I have many friends, long gone, who still live. I know the stories I share bring them to life again.

It is a comfort.

Penny Mitchell said...

I am so, so, so happy you went. Thank you for letting me know him.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry you lost your friend to this horrible, horrible disease.

Just last week one of my friends lost her teenager to a brain tumor. The family held a private service but is gathering the strength necessary to have a public memorial. They just can't do it now. I understand. Their kid was one of my Facebook friends, and reading the news feed coming from that page since week is heartbreaking.

Like your friend, this kid was someone who made you want to be a better person. A good person with a lot to give, but life cut short.

mavis said...

Sorry to hear about your loss.

Jen Griffin said...

"But were fantastic. And do you know what? So was I."
I think of Tashi saying that...and it's true. So glad you could be there. (This is Jen who wrote to you about my Dad who broke his neck between C3 and C4).

James said...

So sorry for your loss :(

Kits said...

Such a beautiful post to read, you're posts are inspiring.