I had another dream about him last night. Even after all these years he still haunts me. Not that I mind, it reminds me that I cared about him and care about those he left behind.
Keith was my cousin, but I didn’t meet him until his early teens when his Dad married my Aunt. It was my first experience with a blended family. Two sisters and three brothers now occupied my Aunt’s hallways when before there had only been the girls. Those early years of visiting my Aunt’s (and new Uncle) home was filled with a ton of activity and excitement. Of the three new cousins, Keith was outgoing, but not overly so like his younger brother. But he could also be shy and sensitive, but not as introverted and awkward as his older brother. He was like the perfect blend of my other two cousins; he was well liked and very talented.
The first time I ever envied him was after he was chosen to appear in a local TV ad for a very popular candy company. In the ad, Keith was shown walking with a pretty blond-haired girl, walking and talking as the shared a tasty treat. The ad aired during the broadcast of a local sporting event, and I was instantly jealous that my new cousin was on TV. I grew even more envious when I learned he had been paid hundreds of dollars to appear in the commercial. He was so lucky….I was so boring and broke.
As we grew older and went to college, I only ever saw Keith at the holidays when we would gather to feast on my Uncle’s cooking. At these events, I’d catch up with Keith about college and other small talk. But I sort of lost touch with him other than these few family get-togethers. One year, he was trying to earn some extra cash by selling Ginsu knives. I remember my family being gracious and even a few sales were made. Keith was always so good natured and humble. I thought he had the world at his feet. But I was wrong….
I really was unaware of Keith’s inner struggles. I had just seen him at my cousin’s wedding. He was handsome and looked sharp in his suit. He was quiet, but spoke of his job and plans for a hiking trip with his brothers. We laughed across the table at the wedding reception and had a generally good time in each other’s company. I had no idea he was struggling.
Later that summer, my folks called to ask me to keep Keith in my prayers. He had lost or quit his job (we never really found out) and moved back to my Aunt’s to live, at age 34. My folks also said that Keith was struggling with depression and that my Aunt and Uncle were very worried for him.
I immediately began to pray for Keith. I prayed that he would come to know Jesus and that the demons of depression would be bound from his life. I prayed for him every day and even considered going over to visit him now that he was back in the area. But I never got the chance.
A few weeks later, my Aunt was home early from work and decided to check on Keith. He had been staying in their basement converted apartment, while he tried to find new work and sort out his struggle with depression.
She called out for Keith at the top of the stairs…but no answer. She decided to go down and check on him. Opening the door to his room, she saw what no earthly mother should ever have to see. She saw Keith hanging from the ceiling; lifeless, dead, gone. The darkness of depression had won. My prayers had failed.
Keith had taken his own life by hanging himself in my Aunt’s basement.
It’s been almost 20 years since my cousin’s death, and I still can’t tell you why he chose suicide over life.
Was it the loss of identity because of his job? Was it because he was gay (something I didn’t know until after his death)? Did he have AIDS? Did he get fired for being gay? Was he just a mentally depressed person by genetics? Why didn’t my prayers of protection and binding work? Why would God allow this? Why did God allow my Aunt to find him? Why didn’t God do something? Why, Why, Why!!!!????
In the dream, we were all sitting around my Aunt’s kitchen table. I think we were playing cards at the beach house, like we used to when we were all kids. But this time we were all grown up.
We all seemed to be having a good time when Keith’s face appeared around the corner of the kitchen doorway. It startled me a bit, because I remembered that Keith was dead. But for a brief moment, he appeared around the corner and was being pushed towards the door in a wheelchair, by a man no one knew. As he was wheeled through the kitchen, Keith turned his head slightly and acknowledged us with a slight nod. A nod that was knowing, knowing that this might be our last goodbye. We all nodded back in deathly silence, acknowledging his injury and his movement towards the door.
Maybe there was nothing that could have been said to stop him. Maybe he felt like a cripple with no hope of ever rising to walk again. Maybe the mystery man was death, a welcome friend at this point in Keith’s life….I just don’t know.
He then turned his head, the mystery man escorted him out of the house…and then he was gone.
And I awoke.