Man, that Gordon Keith can write

I’ve underline the parts that for some reason, really jumped out and connected with me.  I like how he introduced a thought, and then came back to it.

As for the whole writing your own obituary exercise, I’ve never set pen to paper or finger to keyboard, but I’ve gone through rough drafts through my head and often stop because it just saddens me.  So, here it goes:

Keith W. Geeding, a business analyst and occasional adjunct college instructor, died MM/DD/YYYY at the age of XX of _________.   A product of Mineral Wells, TX, he later earned a BBA at Hardin-Simmons University and an MBA at the University of Dallas.  Keith loved his family, his dogs, The TICKET, U2, and blogged in his spare time.  He was known for being a tad sensitive, and despite never excelling at anything and or feeling accepted by others, he had a strong work ethic and tried to make anyone around him happy, living by his personal credo of “find a need, and fill it.”  Keith had the unique talent of remembering the oddest and most peculiar memories when gathered among friends, yet could never find his car keys.   A lot of his life was spent in the Baptist, Bible, and Presbyterian church, where he served as a deacon.  His faith could probably be best described from a song of his favorite band, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”.

Gordon Keith: What Kidd Kraddick taught me

There was a time when you didn’t know what radio people looked like. There were no TV simulcasts or station websites. If you wanted to match a body with your favorite voice, you’d have to shuffle off to a cracked grocery store parking lot where a stringy-haired DJ was handing out 8-by-10 glossies beside a wrapped van. Sometimes the events were bigger and had a smear of well-attended glamour, but more often than not they were just the low-rent handshaking of local office-holders.

I was 12 years old in the mid-1980s, fresh from another state and tossed into a new school. On the first day of class, a wise-cracking boy made fun of my pants and caused a rip in my heart so severe and silly I’ve spent an entire adulthood trying to repair it. He teased me about the lines on my pants in front of a locker room of braying boys, and the thing I remember most is not the sting of his jabs but the humiliating muteness with which I endured them.

When you are in the special hell of junior high, you grab whatever floats by that gives you hope. Kidd Kraddick at night was an electric hope. He was quick and funny and sounded like his life always hit the post. His voice was like the popping fizz on top of sugary drinks. All pep and tickle. I knew in my heart there wasn’t a popular girl that Kidd Kraddick was afraid to talk to or a jock he was scared to confront. So I studied him.

When I finally met Kidd in person 12 years later, he seemed like a titan crammed into a crooked body, hunched and fidgety. He swayed when he talked. He had a lot of nervous energy, and I didn’t understand it. How could this man appear unsettled about anything? He was immortal. 

We sat in the back room of Campisi’s Restaurant sharing a well-used cigarette lighter and testing each other’s clock speed and powers of observation. He was lightning fast, and I was happy to realize he could do the shock-jock humor I overvalued at the time. He wanted me to leave my radio job and come work for him. But I didn’t know if I wanted to do his kind of radio. He was softer, more family friendly, and I was still punching at shadows. I made fun of other people’s pants now. So I didn’t take the job. But I studied him.

When I heard Kidd had died, it felt unbelievable and understandable. If anyone burned the candle at both ends, it was Kidd. That man went all the time. He could seemingly live on diet sodas, energy drinks and the euphoria of sleep deprivation. Many of us are like that. We go all the time, and our world feels like it demands it. But no one wants to leave the party with unused time, and 53 is young. I don’t care what my 24-year-old self says. Despite good work, sometimes big hearts give out.

We often make the mistake of thinking we aren’t going to die for the silliest of reasons: We’ve never died before. It’s one of the strange byproducts of learned experience. So we push our bodies and luck. In the end, we kill the greatest gift we have — our life — to give to others. To many, it seems natural to care for the ones you love, but selfish to care for yourself. Maybe it’s a more digestible act of love for a weary working woman to take care of her child’s mother, even if she can’t stomach taking care of herself.

One exercise that therapists and advice columnists suggest people do is to write their own obituaries. It’s actually a meaningful exercise, to see how your current life looks in the final assessment. It will bring your shortcomings into relief, and you’ll always realize it’s later than you think.

Kidd Kraddick’s life became so much bigger than an old black-and-white parking lot glossy. He entertained millions and burned brightly. His obituary will be forever filled with superlatives and the sentiments of strangers. Most of us will never get an obit so grand, but we will have one, whether it’s published or not. And I know that I’m not satisfied with my current draft.

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