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.

12 comments | Add One

  1. James Ochoa - 07/21/2012 at 9:11 pm

    What a beautiful way to honor the many memories of Keith and your life with him. Thank you for being so personal, this helps me to honor the many memories I carry of him with me daily as well. My prayers for continued healing are with you as you reflect Sunday and as we all cry out in our grief of missing Keith.

  2. Duke Cain - 07/21/2012 at 11:03 pm

    Andrea, dearest friend!
    What a wonderful present you’ve given us by posting your reflections of the past six months (it has felt so much longer than six months since Keith’s passing away.)
    God put me in Austin the day you two got news of his cancer, and again on other crucial times during his illness. A surprising spiritual lesson came mid-air when I flew to visit you in January. Somewhere over Shreveport I discovered that it was Job who said “I know that my redeemer liveth” – early on in the story of his trials. I immediately thought of Keith, and had the chance to share and reflect on that with him (like me, he thought one of the New Testament writers had written it.) But being close to Keith always brought surprises.
    I miss his quick and perfectly timed sense of humor; our stay-up-until 2:00 am talks that always drove you and anyone in earshot off to bed or work; the hour long phone conversations. I still can’t bring myself to delete his FaceBook link, or phone numbers.
    On the other hand, I always laugh about the things I don’t miss so much– like sitting in the passenger seat while he careened through Austin traffic, driving hapless others off the road, or sitting in Jackson talking to him on his cell phone while he was driving (and I was imagining the scene – every time his connection dropped I was convinced he’d crashed into someone.) Keith was a rare “force of nature” character – a light so bright he could overwhelm anyone near him.
    I miss seeing you. And I’m so happy that you’re finding your own very considerable voice – I can’t wait to read the book you’re perfecting for Keith. I know we’re all in for a treat from a remarkably talented lady!
    Susan and I send our love,

  3. Bob Ayres - 07/22/2012 at 11:14 am

    Dead Andrea:

    How very special this morning has been, your sharing your feelings and all that Keith meant to you and so many many of us. He is missed by so many. Both of your lives have touched me deeply and the memories are very special. I believe you are walking constantly with the Father and His spirit will continue to guide and comfort you as you comtinue

  4. Barbara - 07/22/2012 at 1:29 pm

    Sobriety has come hard for me. I am thankful for Keith’s role.

    Blessings, Barbara

  5. RJ - 07/22/2012 at 7:12 pm

    Hello Andrea,

    Thank you picking up the torch and providing an up-date as you continue to live life one moment at a time.

    Keith is missed tremendously in the rooms of the fellowship of the spirit and in my heart.

    I continue to think about JK and his words and his willingness to share his life and his death in an honest and profound way.

    It is encouraging that you will continue the work in restarting to complete “Square One”.

    In moments of one on one with Keith he shared many times of his desire to complete his last piece of work with you.

    The good news that “Square One” is only the beginning for many who continue to live the life of spiritual growth and desire to be in His will and the power to carry it out.

    In writing this Sunday evening it reminds me of the letter Carl Jung wrote to Bill Wilson in January 1961 which was only five months before Dr. Jung passed.

    Here is a segment of the letter from Carl Jung, “You see, Alcohol in Latin is “Spiritus” and you use the same word for the highest religious experience as well as for the most depraving poison. The helpful formula therefore is: “spiritus contra spiritum”.

    Dr. Jung also quoted Psalms 42:1
    “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God”

    The passage reminds me of John Keith Miller and his journey here on earth. It was a blessing to know him and the times shared inside and outside the rooms of the fellowship.

    Andrea, you are a gift to many and I along with countless others look forward to your continued walk and insightful writings.

    With daily prayers of hope and peace of mind for you,

    Tu hermano en Christo,

    Ruben J. Garcia

  6. Charles Lovett - 07/23/2012 at 5:00 am

    Thank you so much for sharing. I’ve been wanting so much to hear from someone in Keith’s family on earth. I receive so much comfort from Keith’s sharing here and in the books written by him. My aquiantance with Keith came at a very trying time in my life and helped me to a closer journey with the Master. I will forever be grateful for his and your openness with your journies with God and our Savior, Jesus.
    In Christ,

  7. Sarah Ramos - 07/23/2012 at 10:22 am

    I was really touched by what you shared, Andrea. Thank you. My dad died a few weeks ago and what you shared truly “spoke to my condition” as the Quakers say.

    Gilbert and I continue to remember you in prayer in your loss of Keith.

  8. Nancee Donovan - 08/6/2012 at 5:01 pm

    Dear Andrea,
    I hope you got my last e-mail about my meeting Keith when he came to First Pres. in Colo. Spgs. to speak to our S.S.class as we were studying his book, A HUNGER FOR HEALING.

    Today I was reading last year’s daily devotional in the GUIDEPOST’s book for Aug. 6 and it was written by Keith! I was so surprised. (My cousin gives me her “last year’s” books so I read the entries on the correct dates, but the day is different.) It was as if he were speaking to me from Heaven. The scripture verse was John 14:18 (RSV) Page 247, Daily Guideposts 2011. What a message! The prayer at the end: “Lord, thank You for sending the Light to guide us all the way home to You. KEITH MILLER”

    Now, isn’t that a great blessing for today???

  9. Keith Miller - 08/7/2012 at 12:46 pm

    Dear Nancee, yes, I did get your earlier e-mail. Thank you. The timlessness and “eyes-wide-open” of Keith’s writing brings me surprising messages even now. Your experience with the 2011 Guideposts devotional is wonderful. Thank you for sharing it.

  10. Duane Herron - 09/19/2012 at 7:08 am

    I picked up again an old copy of “A Second Touch” for $1 at our church’s annual basement sale. As I started to read the words again, my memory went back to a meeting in Boston’s Tremont Temple and the meeting of New England Association of Evangelicals. Keith Miller was one of a kind in some ways. He definitely spoke to my experience of living. Keith’s gifted ministry for us all shall be remembered with gratitude.

  11. Heather Kopp at - 05/20/2013 at 7:32 am

    Andrea, I don’t know if you’ll see this, but I just wanted to say thank you for keeping this blog up. I recently pulled back out A Hunger for Healing and it’s so amazing. Keith’s work laid so much groundwork in the area of addiction and Christianity–where they overlap–and I feel so indebted to him. I wish I had gotten the chance to meet him. This morning I am praying for you for some reason, God knows. Best and blessings, Heather Kopp

  12. John Thomsen - 08/11/2013 at 3:18 pm

    Andrea, my father passed on Aug 19, 2011. after a while I was the only one that was interested in some of my Dad’s books, particularly by Christian authors. The Edge of Adventure (May 1996 printing) was one of those books and I am thoroughly enjoying (and crying through) it. Although a Christian for 18+ years, I didn’t realize how many in the church “fake-it” and how many relational mistakes I’ve made. “Square One” of the book you’re working on sounds like something I would have a lot in common with. Dad divorced Mom when I was little and “square one” seems to come around alot from a little boy that never had the training up he should have. I thank you for supporting your husband and staying with him. Thanks for keeping this forum up and running…

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