The Long Goodbye 


In the final hour of the last day of November in the year 2012, we lost a dear friend to cancer. In a corner ICU room, six heart-broken friends witnessed a life dissipate, as the oxygen mask was raised and the life support system was switched off. A best friend of my wife, Kei left behind a loving husband and a six-year old daughter. 

The following week, my wife Dee was asked to present a eulogy at Kei's memorial service. I helped Dee to compose a speach on her behalf. It wasn't such a daunting task. Dee used to go on lunch and dinner dates with Kei, and upon returning home, would enthusiastically share her stories with me about her experiences and discussions with her close friend. I thought that by briefly touching on some of those recollections, mixed in with a little sincere emotion, and a few cliched phrases, I may have Dee's speech ready.

After a few draft versions, the script was at its final rendering. A short history of an intimate comradeship to be told in five minutes. The following is an excerpt from the eulogy.

"I met Kei at a language class. We introduced each other in what seemed like an english 101 exercise. That was over fourteen years ago, and we have since been best friends. 

"Neither of us knew that we would be living in Canada for long. So therefore we tried to make the most of our lunch and dinner dates. Living in Toronto quickly grew on us. So did our lunch dates and casual walks along Queen Street West. I never thought I'd find someone as compatible as Kei when it came to sharing conversation over muffins and tea. We had a couple of other very close friends in our early years, but with Kei, it was always for the long haul. 

"A much adored third member from our language class, by the name of Audry, completed our sisterhood. Together we spoke about our families, discussed the latest fashion trends, and traded cultural beliefs. From the serious, to the trivial. From hard facts, to gossip. Girl time had never been more engaging. 

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"Kei introduced us to her loving husband. Arlo, a man of amazing talent and knowledge, yet humble and gracious in his ways. Along with my husband, the four of us shared moments; some spectacular, some bizzare, always memorable. Swinging our hips to salsa, and frisbee golf would fall under that second category. 

"Then came Minnie. Kei's family circle became complete with the arrival of their bundle of joy. Pretty like her mom, energetic like her dad. With Minnie, we saw the transformation of Kei from the outgoing woman, to the loving mother that we're familiar with.

"Besides being the wonderful wife and mother we all know she was, I would like to highlight some other characteristics of Kei's that come to mind:

"Kei was very talented. She would impress us with her snowboarding skills as my husband and I practiced on the bunny slopes. When I gathered enough courage to go up the chairlifts, Kei would hold my hand to guide me while I walked down the slopes while I carried my skis and pole. 

"In the summer, we cycled together through the Niagara region. My husband and I found ourselves lagging behind and panting for breath. They were always a hard act to follow. Yet Arlo and Kei were always there to lend a helping hand, or at least, to kindly mend some bruised egos. 

"Kei was very strong-willed and focused. She would finished whatever she started. Whether it be completing her accounting course or mastering her yoga skills. 

"Have you ever seen our friend do the 'feathered peacock pose'? With her forearms on the floor, Kei would raise her body and feet to the sky. Believe me, she did it well! 

"Being so focused takes discipline, and we all saw this first hand as she strictly followed her vegetarian diet to improve her health. Kei's discipline and passion for learning was inspiration for me to pursue education and take life by the horns. 

"Kei is generous. She shared gifts, shared stories, shared laughter, and most of all she shared her love. We were all touched by her love. Nothing holds a candle to what Kei does best; at being a faithful friend. 

"It is all of these admirable traits that made it difficult to come to terms when Kei announced her illness and abbreviated life expectacy. She was fortunate to have members from the church and her faith in god to give her strength throughout her ordeal. I would like to personally thank Kei's friends from the congregation for all the support that provided comfort in her life. And while on the subject of spirituality, I would also personally like to thank God for bringing Kei into our lives. 

"Our last adventure with Kei, Arlo, and Minnie, was our camping trip to Sandbanks. That was back in 2010. My husband who had not seen Kei for some time was somewhat alarmed by her physical change, and worried about her well-being. Kei was quieter, less active, and noticeably more sensitive to her surroundings. Still, despite her ailment, Kei's sweet smile and grace would never disappoint. Such was her thoughtfulness to please others.

"Weekend visits to the coffee shop will now be a different affair. I may be accustomed to the aromas of the coffee beans, the muffins may have their similar sweetness, and even the shop decor may have its familiar settings, but to sit at the coffee shop without our dear Kei will never be the same. Yet, I am happy to say that I had been given the greatest gift of all from Kei; the gift of friendship."

With a softly spoken "Thank you", Dee concluded her presentation. Not a sound could be heard when she stepped off the podium. It's not everyday that my wife delivers a speach, let alone talk in front of a house full of worshippers, and I was proud of what she accomplished. Well paced and with good pronunciation. The only flaw was the sudden pause in completing her last sentence, but Dee was able to keep her emotions in check and finish.

Such was the closure to the relationship. Our relationship with Kei. Our ties however with Arlo and Minnie will forever be maintained so long as we continue to walk this earth. Beyond that, I expect a reunion of sorts with Kei over tea and muffins is in the works.

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December 2012


© Prakoso Sastrowardoyo 2012