Keith & Andrea's Blog

Help from Startling Places

By Andrea Wells Miller | July 21, 2012

As many of you read in the last blog posted here, Keith died on January 22 of this year, 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.

Keith Goes Home

By Keith Miller | January 23, 2012

Dear Friends,

I’m writing to inform you that Keith went to be with Jesus yesterday, Sunday January 22nd 2012, at 3:00 pm.  Keith’s last few weeks here on earth were peaceful.  He was visited by many friends and relatives whom he was always pleased to see.  Andrea was holding Keith, her beloved husband of 33 years, when he drew his last breath.  Keith loved you all so much and I know that he would want you to know.

Thank you for your fellowship, comments, love and prayers through this last part of Keith’s adventure here with us. 

We hope to continue to post Keith’s insights and wisdom here in the future so please check back.  While we grieve the loss of a great man we can rejoice in his everlasting life with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Psalm 23 (The Message)

 1-3 God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing.
   You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
      you find me quiet pools to drink from.
   True to your word,
      you let me catch my breath
      and send me in the right direction.

 4 Even when the way goes through
      Death Valley,
   I’m not afraid
      when you walk at my side.
   Your trusty shepherd’s crook
      makes me feel secure.

 5 You serve me a six-course dinner
      right in front of my enemies.
   You revive my drooping head;
      my cup brims with blessing.

 6 Your beauty and love chase after me
      every day of my life.
   I’m back home in the house of God
      for the rest of my life.

Lord, thank you for Keith and the beautiful life he led.  His transparency and authenticity were a breath of fresh air to so many of us and we are so grateful that we were able to walk through some of this adventure with him.  Please cover Keith’s wife, Andrea, and his entire family with your mighty comfort and peace.  We ask all this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Blessings to you all,

Jessica Lyon

Friend and Assistant

The Worst of Times and the Best of Times

By Keith Miller | January 1, 2012

New Year 2012

My pitiful little self-centered mind is about half taken up with what my uncle called “the big C” (or malignant cancer) which is (though I have only seen evidence of it) pretty well eating away on my vital organs as you read this.

When I say it is the “best of times,” I’m referring to the fact that I’m clearer in my mind about the way I want to live and relate to those I know and love and whom God has put in my life.

This is the first time I could not negotiate any way out of my problem (cancer-ridden state).  But I can still surrender each day—and sometimes each hour—to God and to loving His people—meaning the rest of you.

Although I have lived a larger-than-life life I am excited about the future.  And I’m beginning to learn to share with people about the possibilities in their lives to use the creative potential in them.

Some days I am very sad about the terminal aspects of my illness, but I’m also very thankful for the eighty-four years of amazing life I’ve already been fortunate enough to live.  Getting here on New Year’s Eve of 2011, I’m grateful for God’s resounding message about loving us (and the fact that so many of his people are living lives of self-limiting love) and for the fact that some days I am beginning to see that I can give and receive love from the God Jesus called Father and from his people who wander into our house to speak of love and gratitude to God.

Right now I’m peaceful.  And I have a heart full of love for God, for those of you who are reading this as I wish you a glorious and peaceful new year in 2012.

Love from Andrea and me,

Keith

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – (Phil. 4:7) The Message

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. – Mother Teresa

Christmas Eve

By Keith Miller | January 1, 2012

Keith has written several blogs recently.  Due to a week of confusion they are just now ready to post.  We apologize for the time lag.

December 24, 2011

This morning our friend Trice took me to a meeting of a group of men.  These men have had such an enormous positive influence on my life the last few years that I continue to get up on Saturday mornings and pay whatever price it takes to go and learn more about God.  And I am also learning to become a more authentic man in a world that seems to have cut itself off from the moral and spiritual roots to the extent that, in 1961, my mentor told me the world was turning into a cut-flower society.

This meeting is unique in my experience in that all we do is listen to those who want to share their experience, strength, and hope with each other without contradiction, giving advice, or trying to “straighten each other out”.

Since I have often been reticent to show my real feelings with men, this place has been a real spiritual oasis in the midst of a desert of conventional thinking.

This morning I shared with this group the reality that I had had to stop three times in getting ready to go to the meeting because I had pooped in my pants and had to clean up three times before I could come.  But after telling these men about this experience of shame as a very proud man, I felt spiritually cleansed somehow.  And I thanked these men I’ve come to love so much for all their help and support in dealing with the progress of the aggressive terminal cancer with which I have been diagnosed.

At the end of the meeting, a dear friend handed me this page which I am including in the blog.  It is a reading from the book, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.

The principal reason why prayers are not answered is because in our hearts we limit the power of God.  The Bible constantly tells us that the people got into trouble because they limited the Holy One.  When you say, “There is no way out of my difficulty,” what can it possibly mean except that you cannot see a way out?  When you say, “It is too late now,” what can that possibly mean except that it is too late for you?

When you pray you are turning to the power of God, and surely you will admit that God is omnipotent, and therefore nothing can be too difficult or too late, or too soon for Him.  You will surely admit that Infinite Wisdom knows at least more than you do, to put the thing rather mildly.  Well, Infinite Wisdom takes action when we pray and so our own limitations do not matter—unless we think they do.

Children often find themselves completely overcome by a difficulty that a grown-up person easily solves.  What to the child seems an impossibility is quite easy to his father, and so even our greatest difficulties are simple to God.

Infinite Wisdom knows a beautiful and joyous solution to any dilemma.  Do not limit the power of God for good in your life.

“…Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem?  Or have I no power to deliver? …  (Isaiah 50:2)

I thanked the members of the group for the enormous gift of their acceptance of my reality on this journey, which without them would be the loneliest passage of my life.  Then I went home with a song of gratitude in my heart for this band of powerful, loving, and compassionate men whose presence and acceptance are as close to a community of wisdom and holiness as I can imagine.

Tonight, hours after the meeting was over, there was a knock on our front door and, to my amazement, I saw (and heard) a group of these very unlikely Gentle Giants and some of their women friends and relatives singing CHRISTMAS CAROLS!!!

I don’t think Andrea and I have ever been so moved by the Spirit of God on Christmas Eve!

Merry Christmas to you all!

With much love,

Keith Miller

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him. (Luke 2:13, The Message)

I Love You, Daddy

By Keith Miller | December 2, 2011

This post is really different for me to write.  It is about the process of making the transition from a life of faith in the God Jesus called, “Father,” to the end of that life in the process we call “dying”.

As I am writing this draft, Andrea and I are now in the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and have received the news that the cancer is in so many crucial areas of my body (liver, pancreas, lymph nodes) that finding a “cure” is not one of my options. 

For almost ten days I couldn’t eat or drink anything without gagging and throwing up.  Not only that, some bile came up into my throat due to a blockage in my upper intestine so everything I tried to swallow tasted like feces. I Finally contacted my doctor about my concern and was immediately sent to ER, put on a stomach pump to relieve the pressure from trapped fluids in my stomach, IV’s for hydration, and put on the schedule for an endoscopy to try to correct the problem. 

In the meantime my three daughters arrived and along with my wife, Andrea, we had a “love-in.”

During all this time I have continued my practice of walking through my days and nights thanking God for all the advantages and blessings that have given me the freedom to love people and help them become what God created them (particularly) to be, and to spend time writing and playing with Andrea, and other members of what has become our new “extended family.” and others on our ‘team.’

One of the main blessings on my continual gratitude list had been my health.  So when that was failing, I became grateful for the clinic I was able to get to, and for my friends who began to step up and help us get in to see these remarkable medical specialists.

But all this unexpected serious information and experience began to depress me and affect my positive attitude and practices.  When I got to my lowest point, a visiting friend took me to a meeting in the hospital area.  Simply being honest and sharing my fear and my experience, strength and hope got me through a very difficult time, and prompted me to write the e-mail getting honest with my physicians about my inability to eat or drink.

All this, and my family’s arrival, interrupted my description of the inner process of dying.  With the family and a few friends here filling my life with love, my faith was concrete, my loving listening and gratitude were intact, and my awareness of God’s healing presence intact somehow.

The night before the family was to leave I began to pray alone in the dark hospital room.  I asked myself what I believe about a “life after this one.”  I realized with a shock that I really hadn’t spent a lot of time learning about “heaven.”  Fear suddenly gripped me.  I calmed myself by surrendering my entire life, death, and future to God.   And then I became aware of what I have come to believe happens when some believers die.

My conscious focus during the past few years had been on learning to live and share the self-limiting love I have experienced from God in the present “Reign of God” that Jesus announced, described and inaugurated throughout his entire life and work.  I’ve done this because it is what I saw Jesus doing. 

When he did speak to his disciples about how they and their lives would be evaluated in the last analysis, he referred mostly to how well they had replicated the LIFE of self-limiting love he had given them.  And for me that included the way Jesus had referred and deferred to his loving Father as “Daddy” in a continuous dialogue.

But then, in that dark night alone, I suddenly thought, “What’s going to happen to me and my relationship to God that has come to fill and inform my entire life?”  And I almost panicked.  Compared to what I had already received and experienced in this life with the Father as Daddy, the pictures Christians had developed about Heaven seemed pale and insignificant.  I had moments of thinking maybe I should stop and do a crash course on “Heaven” with someone I knew.  And finally, I once again surrendered my life and my entire future to God and went to sleep.

The next morning I just happened to talk to a Christian who’s spent a lot of time studying about Heaven.  I suddenly remembered Jesus and what he did in his own life as it was drawing to an end.  He simply trusted his Heavenly Daddy, did and said what he could determine was what God wanted Him, Jesus, to say and do.  And at the last of his life, in the Garden of Gethsemane, with nothing in hand to assure him in advance that what he had to do would turn out for him personally as he hoped things would, Jesus decided to take the first steps alone—even if all his own followers deserted him.

I saw that for me—if I am really to follow Jesus, I am going to have to step up to the doorway of death that I am facing right now—the end of all I know of life and human experience.  I must stand before that doorway with the same faith of a small child as Jesus did, doing what he thought his daddy was asking him to do–regardless of whether his own followers (and in my case what other Christians) may think.  Although I am in the midst of my family and those of you who are a part of life’s family too, I am all alone. 

All I can think of to say as I approach that door is, “Daddy who is in Heaven, it’s me, John Keith.  All l I have to give you is the life of love that you have given me!  All the rest of the material possessions and public attention that came about as a result of the life I built for you as a Christian—all that has gone somehow.  All that is left is this little boy who loves you as his Daddy.  And I’m knocking, wanting to come in and let you continue—in whatever way—to teach me about how you made us to be when you created us way back in the beginning in the garden.  But if this is not your plan, or whatever you have for me (or don’t have), whatever happens (or doesn’t happen) I’m knocking on this huge Dark Door of Death, wanting to come in and say ‘Thank you,’ and ‘I love you, Daddy.’*

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  John 14:1-3

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  Matthew 7:10-12

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 7:20-22

And prayers come with these words for all of you who have become so dear to me.

(Note: Since writing this post Keith has come back to Austin.  He will begin chemotherapy next week.  Your prayers are appreciated during this time and we are certainly grateful for the kind words and prayers you have offered thus far.  Thank you.)

 


* This account is not “the way” any Christian (or others) “should” think about approaching God at the time of his or her own death.  But this was my honest experience the other night as I was realizing that my own life—as I have lived it—is coming to an end.  Not being an expert of any kind, this is just part of my own “experience, strength and hope.”  I miss you all and love you very much!   –John Keith

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