A memory about Keith

by shelbyisrad

A memory: March 2009

I’m in his office trembling. I’m supposed to be sharing my story with a group of 80+ people. Maybe 5 of which know it already, know the extent of the pain I have suffered. He tells me that being really open, telling memories, including lots of details is what people really enjoy in stories. I nod and know I have written my story the best I know how. He squeezes my hand and tells me I’ll be great.

It’s a few minutes before I’m supposed to go onto the stage and share. I am nauseous with fear. He and a few others are praying over me, and when he opens his mouth to speak I feel warmth spreading over me and my nerves are suddenly gone. I open my eyes in surprise and across the circle he is looking at me. He gives me an encouraging smile and I feel confident.

I share my story, the abuse I suffered as a child, but how my heart has been softened. That I had found in my heart the capacity to forgive my abuser That if not for the faith I found, I would be impossibly lost. As I finish, dissolving into tears I walk off stage into the arm’s of my youth pastor, Matt. Keith walks on stage and tears are in his eyes, his voice shakes as he proclaims my strength and courage. He tells me my story will change the world, and I believe him. He’s the first person to say something like this that I truly believe. He asks the band to play How He Loves, and I sing along loudly as tears pour down my cheeks. I never knew how this song would hold so much weight.

That night I’m on the way home and receive a text from Keith. “Please count Debbie and I as parents to you. We love you Shelby, I’d be honored to call you a daughter.” I could feel a shift in my heart, God was putting another piece back together.

Keith and Debbie

When Keith died last year, I and many others were shaken to the core. He had impacted so many lives. Today my heart aches for the sorrow I feel, but even more for the unimaginable grief I know his sons and other family have experienced. I was lucky to know him for four years, and count those years as treasure. He shaped many lives with his love and passion. He raised three awesome sons who I feel lucky to know. I adore his family, and still feel blessed they count me as one of their own. We all miss him greatly, but find comfort in knowing he’s in heaven.