A Turtle’s Tribute:
Our Brother, Keith, knew of our love and our continued thoughts and prayers right up to the end. His Mom said they were listening to TCC music as he made his transition, so we were there with him. The following came from Will Handy (former and future TCC singing member and Keith’s roommate).
“Keith died this morning around 5:30 California time, or 7:30 Texas time (Monday, June 30, 2003).
Darlene (Keith’s Mom) called me sounding quite composed, even relieved. She said that, as death approached, “It was just amazing, Will. He had the biggest smile on his face – I don’t think I’ve ever seen him smile like that before.” Then he took on an expression of “amazement and awe,” and he died.
Darlene said he seemed to be going toward something wonderful and to be simply elated to be on his way. It was clear that this brought her a great deal of comfort. So it looks like Keith fought as hard as anyone could possibly ask, then took his leave joyously. I find myself sad to lose him and simultaneously glad that he’s been released. For as long as I knew him, he said he didn’t want to linger in a debilitated state.
Submitted by Donna & Dave Christman:
God saw you getting tired; a cure was not to be. He put his arms around you and whispered come with me.
I’m taking you to heaven where streets are made of gold. There will be a beautiful kingdom, before your eyes unfold. You will see your loved ones who times ago have passed, and they will come to greet you, to your heavenly home at last. You will be so happy that God has called you home, the only sadness in your heart, is that you had to leave your beloved alone. Someday you’ll come back to get her, and you will not be alone, you will whisper, honey, come take my hand, for I am taking you home.
To our beloved Keith and Irven (Keith’s father). Written for Darelene. Mother and wife. We lost Irven on April 11, 2002, then lost our precious, precious Keith on June 20, 2003. We will love them always, and always remembr them.
Keith’s beloved aunt Betty…..
A memorial service was held on August 1, 2003 at the White Rock Community Church.
From Chris Forman: Keith was one of those types of persons who every time he saw you he always had a smile and would give me a kiss and a hug. He always had a kind word or something funny to say. I learned from his Memorial last Friday how many people were touched by knowing Keith. I shall miss him dearly and know that he will be listening to every Chorale concert from a better place. God Bless you Keith.
The following came from Donna Christman Keith’s Cousin 8/15/2003:
“This year, I lost my very best friend, my cousin, and my life will never be the same. I will miss talking with Keith everyday. I will miss his beautiful smile and beautiful voice saying, HI SWEETIE! I was very blessed to be beside Keith when the Lord called him home.
After a long, difficult and hard battle, Keith went into a coma on the evening of June 27th. His mother, brother, aunt Betty, myself and several family members and friends were beside him every hour. In the early morning hours of June 30th, we were awakened by his long time friend Lori, saying Keith had come out of his coma and was trying to communicate with everyone. We all ran to his bedside (which was at this mothers home) and it was true. He tried his hardest to talk but couldn’t. He was following our every move with his eyes. We knew at that time, Keith was preparing to go home.
Keith’s breathing became different that morning, and as his mother, brother and I set beside him holding his hands, his eyes opened wide with a look of ABSOLUTE AMAZEMENT!! (I have never seen a look like this before). He stares upward for a few seconds and then the biggest smile came to his face. It was the most beautiful smile I have ever seen from Keith, and a few seconds later we all felt his spirit leave his precious body.
Even after his spirit left, his heart kept beating for a couple minutes longer. It was the hardest, yet the most incredible thing I have ever witnessed in my life. There was no doubt in my mind, and in the minds of everyone there, that we had just witnessed Keith seeing our Lord. It is something that I will think about everyday and cherish for the rest of my life. Everyday I wake up finding it hard to believe that Keith is gone. But through Keith I have met some of the greatest guys (his friends) who have become my friends through him. You know, over many years I have heard from different people, their beliefs on who will go to heaven and who won’t for lifestyles.
I am here to tell you, that I will argue with anyone, who states something like that to me again. Myself, along with Keith’s mom, brother, aunt Betty and friends, did in fact, witness Keith leave this earth and be greeted by our Lord, and what a precious memory we all will have for the rest of our lives.
I just want to thank the Turtle Creek Chorale and all of Keith’s friends for being there for all of us during this most difficult time, knowing that you were grieving just as we were. How lucky Keith was to have such wonderful support from such wonderful people. I still plan on attending Chorale concerts in Keith’s memory and will be very saddened to see a poinsettia on stage for him this year.
Thanks to all of you for being such good friends to Keith and his family. May God bless all of you with Love, Happiness, and Good Health….”
Received June 17, 2004:
Today is your birthday and what a void we all feel. Several of your friends are gathering this evening in honor of your birthday. Cards will be signed and attached to helium filled balloons and released to the heavens for you to read. We love you so very much and there isn’t a day that goes by, that your family doesn’t talk about you and remember the precious time that you graced our lives. Happy Birthday sweet son, loving friend, beautiful nephew and cousin. We miss and love you so very, very much……. I love you, Donna
October 8, 2005 E-Mail – I am just sending my love to one of the most precious men in the world. I love you so very much, and there is not a day that goes by that you are not on my mind. I know that you are in Heaven rejoicing with our Lord, uncle Irv, Grandma and Roy.
Mandi had her baby on August 24th. When I keep him, and I am holding him, he looks up the the ceiling and smiles big, and I know that it is you Keith, that he is looking at. I love you and miss you so much….. Donna
April 4, 2006 E-Mail
My sweet, precious Keith,
Today you are on my mind, which means to me, you are beside me. I miss you so very much, and the void in my life has yet to be filled, will it ever? I love you my sweet cousin and I look forward to the day when I enter Heaven and see your smiling face. God Bless You.. Your Favorite Cousin : ) Donna
July 16, 2005 – E-Mail:
I spent your birthday with your mother and brother this year and you were very much missed. This was the first year since you have been gone that I have not visited your grave. I do not know what it was that kept me away, I just couldn’t go. It did not mean
that you were not on my mind. As I have stated in all my postings, I miss you so very much. Your mom is having such a difficult time, but I know that the Lord will guide her through this. I know that her knowing she will see not only you but uncle Irv, is
keeping her going. She is such a precious person in my life and I will be so lost when she enters Heaven. Try to visit her, Keith, she needs you too so badly. I love and miss you so much. Happy belated birthday my precious Keith…. Donna
GOD BLESS ALL YOUR BROTHER’S IN THE CHORAL…..
From Walt Ricketts:
I am sending you my memories of Keith for anyone who cares to read it. If you can, please send this to his mother. I would appreciate it. If you can’t, I plan on going to Visalia to visit his grave at his birthday and will try and contact her then. And I apologize for the length of this memorial. That is how much I cared for Keith.
I met Keith in late 1983. He was a student at Point Loma Nazarene College, the college I had graduated from a few years earlier. I was a member of the Mission Valley Nazarene Church choir, when on one Wednesday night rehearsal, Keith was there. We hit it off right away. And it was right away that I knew that Keith was something special.
We continued to be friends until I moved to Northern California in August of 1984. But during that time, I learned so much from Keith. I learned that he didn’t hide who and what he was from anyone who was
interested. Only certain people knew the “true” Keith during the time he was in college, because to go to a Christian college and be gay at the same time, was a certain “death sentence”. I knew during that time that Keith was struggling very hard with that kind of concept.
We spent some time together (as much as he could afford while in college), which meant the world to me. I was even there for him when he had a motorcycle accident that broke his foot, and kept him on crutches for some time. Even though we were together and friends for less than a year, I had learned more about life and being gay from Keith in that short time than I had in my entire life. He showed me that there was a genuine life to be lived being gay and that you should not be ashamed for it.
We lost contact after I moved to Northern California, but around 1998-99. I could not get him out of my mind, so I contacted his mother and got his address in Dallas. I wrote him a letter and he called me
just as soon as he received the letter. It was so great to hear his voice again. It was during that phone conversation that he told me he was HIV positive. Though I played it down during that phone call, when I hung up the phone, I broke down in tears. I could not believe that someone as great, kind, and caring as Keith, could be “dealt” that kind of hand. Thinking back, I was still learning from this precious man. He told me that he had met a man and was hoping that a relationship would build. While I wanted so much for Keith to be happy, a part of me was jealous that it was not me, because I still had deep feelings for him. I still “loved” him very much. But beyond that, the thing that struck me the most was when he told me that he knew, beyond any doubt, that he was where the Lord wanted him to be and was happy with it. Keith never had much in the form of money or material things, but that NEVER bothered him. Keith always searched for something deeper, and I know always searched for that “one true love”. I longed to be what he was right then. I longed to have my friend back in my life. But it was not to be.
I wrote Keith a couple of times after the phone call, but never received a response. I took that as a sign that he did not have time for past friends, so I stopped all contacts. That really tore me up because I wanted so much to be friends again with a person I admired more than anyone. Not a romantic relationship, but just a true friendship. I told myself that this was the way Keith was and that it was nothing personal against me, and I wished him a good life. I thought many times since then to try and contact him, but wanted more to give him his privacy. Now, I think back at that telephone conversation and Keith telling me that he had lost all his friends when he “truly” came out. I had hoped ever since then, that he did not think the same of me, because nothing was further from the truth. I now know today, that Keith knows what really happened and how I feel. My only regret is that I did not “insist” on staying in contact with him and not going out to Dallas to see him. I know, that this will now “haunt” me for the rest of my life. I never stopped thinking of Keith, but knew I should not try entering his life again. But today (1/20/07), something prompted me to try and locate him. And I did so, eventually through the Turtle Creek website. Needless to say, I was completely devastated to find out he had passed away 3 1/2 years ago. So many feelings came back to me when I saw his name in the memorial, that I broke down in tears. I then realized how much I still REALLY loved him and how much I had missed him. I read the e-mails in the website about Keith, and found myself just sitting there, staring at his picture, and falling in love with him all over again.
I know that Keith lived a positive life full of joy and happiness, no matter what that life dealt him. And I know that he loved the Lord more than anything in his life. Which is why I was not surprised reading the e-mails from his family and friends about his last minutes on this Earth. Now, the only thing I am jealous about, is that he got to Heaven before me. I now plan to go to his grave site in Visalia this year on his birthday (though I may not be able to wait that long). But until then, I will talk to him everyday, knowing that he “knows” how I feel about him, knowing that he once told me he loved me, and that I cannot wait to see him again. Tonight, I will ask him to come to me in my dreams, to let me know that he is doing great, and that he knows how I feel about him. I fell in love with Keith in 1984, am still in love with him to this day, and will always be in love with him.
Anyone who has any info on Keith whether in words and/or pictures, please send them to me via my e-mail address. That gift would make me happy beyond words.
Keith, I will miss you more than anything in my life and will love you forever!
From Keith’s Mother on July 27, 2007:
my dear son,
You have been gone 4 years now and it could have been yesterday, the pain is so intense, I miss your smile and your every day phone calls.but I know where you are and your life lives on thought my memories of happier times.You were forever teasing me.or playing a joke on me. and I knew you were going to get me on April fools day and I would fall for it anyway. I think God for you and I couldn’t have had a better son. I went to your grave the other day and found a red rose on it and knew someone else missed you too. Some of your friends still called me. Bruce and I have became good friend. and David calls and says hello. I liked all of your friends and think they are great. I hear the turtle creek choral singing as I am writing this letter and feel very sad that your not there now. but I am happy you were a part of them. And especially a part of my life.
your Mom Darlene
for any one who would like to contact Darlene her email is mdarlen5@aol
From Donna on July 27, 2007:
This is for Walt, or any of Keith’s friends who wish to get in touch with myself or Darlene (Keith’s mother) via e-mail. My e-mail address is email@example.com I am Donna Christman Keith’s (favorite) cousin. : ) His mother Darlene’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org We both (especially aunt Darlene) would love to hear from anyone who loved Keith. The choral and friends were such an important part of Keith’s life, and through Keith they became important to us. I hope this year I can gather enough strength to attend the Christmas program, it is still so very hard to do. I want to attend and see the beautiful Red Poinsettia in our precious Keith’s honor. God bless all of Keith’s friends and we look forward to hearing from you. I love you Keith……………. : ) : ) : )
From Donna on July 27, 2007:
My sweet Keith,
Today I decided to write to you and read the most beautiful and heart wrenching letter from your friend Walt. It just goes to show that you touched the lifes of so many people, it is no wonder that God needed you to come home. I went to your grave this year while in California and I cannot believe that it has been over three years since you left us. I still hurt like it was yesterday and cannot think of you still, without crying. I love and miss you so much. Dave and I are going to finish your car soon. I have it in the hangar covered and waiting to be finished in your honor. Please come to visit, I would love to see you if only in my dreams. I love you very much. Donna