As a friend wrote on her Facebook page, the world got a little dimmer this weekend. Kelly Keigwin passed away on Friday, just over a week shy of her 52nd birthday. She impacted all she knew, and in a positive way. A caring person, who fought for what she believed in, and the closest thing to a sister I would ever have.
Kelly's long battle with cancer is over, but not without a fight. If one doctor or hospital couldn't help her, she'd try another. If there was a new clinical trial to sign up for, she would be first in line. Kelly was a fighter, not just for her own life, but against injustice and prejudice wherever she saw it. She got married on the first day that gay marriage was legal in Washington state. She loved animals, adopted a vegan lifestyle, and would protest animal cruelty or mistreatment. If there should be a stop sign at the end of her street, she would fight for that, too. All of that, though, was so that her world, and the entire world, would be a better place.
I'm three years older than Kelly, which means I've known her my entire life. My earliest memory is of her brother Kevin (my age) showing off his infant sister in their driveway. Memories can be fuzzy and deceptive, but she had to have been a few months old. Kevin won't remember this, and I can't verify it, but I remember him being proud. He had me kiss her little hand and feel her arm because her skin was so soft.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time at the Keigwins, who lived just three houses up the street. Kevin and I were real close, so chances were good if he wasn't at my house, I was at his. I'm an only child, so visits up there taught me a lot about having a sibling. Brothers and sisters don't always get along, and I don't remember necessarily taking sides, but Kelly would tell me in later years that I often defended her. One thing I do remember, and I think it even made me laugh at the time, was how siblings would patch things up in a hurry, especially when it came to dealing with parents. I didn't get to experience the “I won't tell mom you did this, if you don't tell dad I did that,” that comes with childhood.
When we were teenagers, she and I went to a Duran Duran concert together, just the two of us. That was a great night. Another memory, from her late teens (I may have been 21 or 22). Mr. and Mrs. Keigwin went out for New Year's Eve. Both Kevin and Kelly decided to invite friends over, each having a small party. Both were annoyed that the other was there, and had friends around, but as the night went on, the parties merged as one. Let's just say that both groups ended up having a lot of fun, especially by the time midnight came.
As adults, I didn't get to see Kelly that often. She moved to the Portland area while I was either in northern California, Idaho (briefly), or Utah. She didn't come home for Christmas every year,so when she did it was a rare treat to see her. She would almost always visit my mom, though, whenever she was in town. Just a couple of months ago, on Mother's Day weekend, Kelly and her wife Sam were visiting in Palmdale while I was there, but they were leaving as I showed up, and I didn't know they were there. I didn't see her then. I wish I had.
I got a text last week from Sam saying that things had taken a drastic turn for the worse, and if you wanted to say goodbye, you better do it now. Sam offered to arrange a phone call or Face Time. After seeing some updates, it looked like she was going to be around for a little bit longer. I thought I'd go up there this weekend, or, if things were a little better, drive up there next weekend for her birthday. I never did talk to her. Boy I wish I had.
I hate myself for that, but I think Kelly knew how I felt about her. At her wedding, and on other occasions, when she would introduce me to her friends or other people she knew, she would joking refer to me as her 'brother from another mother'. I don't think she was aware how much I loved that, because it made me feel special—something Kelly had a way of doing with almost everyone she came in contact with.
Kelly and Sam made history when they became the first lesbian couple to get a marriage license in Clark County, Washington, but both are probably more well known around town as artists. Kelly was into photography for awhile, and she gave me a few of her photos as Christmas presents. She later got into ceramics, and I have a few cups and bowls that she and Sam did, most of them with animals on them, but all of them portraying love on some level.
Kelly put a lot of love into her work, her marriage, her life, and her world. She also got a lot in return, which is why losing her is so maddening and disheartening. She had a lot to give, and if you were willing to listen, you'd get a lot out of what she was all about. Her light burned so bright and so strong. It should not have dimmed so soon.Rest in peace, Kelly. I love you.
I'm so sick of death. Kelly grew up on my street, so that means three people who lived on Desert View Drive in Palmdale passed away this year (my mom, and neighbor Bruce Hickert). Just this month alone, I lost Kelly and my cousin Cameron Boyce, and a man who I call high school football games with lost his infant granddaughter who was born with heart problems, and lost her short life after multiple surgeries. I won't get religious on you, because people get mad when you do that, but let's just say life is so unfair. I know many people have much tougher and tragic lives than I do, but that doesn't make it easier, and it doesn't make it right.
Kelly (right) and Sam's wedding picture from 2012. I'm so glad I was there.
Little Kelly eating spaghetti (taken from brother Kevin's Facebook page).