"A Man For All Seasons"
Apologies to Sir Thomas More for borrowing his title. This is a blog I thought about writing multiple times, but hoped I never had to actually write. I woke up countless nights crying, dreaming about this day and always grateful it was only that, a dream
Yesterday, I lost my best friend to Cancer. After a 14 year battle, Keith Bernacki gave this round to the disease. It was a fight until the very end in many ways. I write this to share pictures and stories and invite other friends to respond posting their own accounts of special memories with Keith. Whether those be at sports competions or other venues. I know there are plenty and I will share some of my own along the way. I want this tribute to be a celebration of his life and what his friendship meant.
Here is a letter that I created for Keith, coupled with pictures from years past.
I have crafted a brief note describing the importance of our relationship and what it is about you that impresses me. I will focus on your strength, athleticism, modesty, integrity and responsibility.
I am sure you realize the effect your actions have on others. In fact I think you appreciate it to such a degree that you take ownership of it, understanding that others draw strength from you. You have been asked to shoulder such a burden with very few periods of respite. Your cross is crippling, but you accept it and push on.
I don’t think I have ever told you, but when I am at the gym and I feel I cannot lift one more rep, running and I cannot go on, or feeling down about my own physical ailments I think about how you would react in the same situation and it keeps me going, at least for a bit more.
You were always the top athlete. I felt above average but always stood in your shadow. I have never meet anyone who can excel at such a variety of sports, it can be frustrating, but soon I learned to accept that you are up there and I needed to stop trying to be better and just play to the highest level I can and appreciate the time together.
There are so many memories I have that revolve around sports.
Getting you to start a ping pong game as soon as we got downstairs so I could try to squeeze a couple wins out before you get in the zone, playing basketball in the driveway, hoping to launch a few threes instead of getting inside shots swapped. Even in tennis I can remember you beating me 6-3 when I was on Varsity and you were on JV and how much it pissed me off. I won’t even talk about golf or soccer. Regardless, I eventually learned to just enjoy the time and not get frustrated by the score.
Along with the athleticism came a surprising amount of modesty and humbleness. Unless you were intentionally trying to get me going, you never bragged about your skills, but rather focused on other’s game and encouraged what they did well. This carried over into all aspects of your life, not focusing on your issues but on what has been going on in our lives.
I would often be less than stellar in my relationships with family, friends and women, but you rarely took that path. I have finally gotten to that level of self respect and integrity but it took me a long time, while you always possessed it.
Finally I wanted to touch on your sense of responsibility. I have mentioned it a bit throughout; your ability to shoulder a burden without complaint or whining. It was never someone else’s fault, just something that happened and a, "what do we do now" type attitude. You obviously did not want to get sick, but you were not going to let it define you or your goals. I see people every day that suffer from the depression that comes along with cancer, heart trouble, even simple ailments easily preventable, and they act as if their life has been shattered, which it has, but you never let the public see that side of you. I have no doubt that all of these attributes I have mentioned are intertwined and have worked together to allow you to persevere in the face of difficult odds.
I often jump at the chance to tell an old classmate or friend that I am still friends with you. I am proud you consider me a friend because of the level of respect you have acquired in our community.
(Keith With Hood, reminds me of Picture of Will)
PS. as I have told you, the reason there is an RN after my name these days is a direct result of you, and there has been no other accomplishment thus far that I have been more proud of. I will always remember you in the way that I treat others.
I heard a song once and it immediatly made me think of something Keith might be thinking. I have pasted the lyrics below and a link to listen if desired:
Cause friends they come and go
People change, as does everything
I wanted to grow old
I just want to grow old
Slide up next to me
I'm just a human being
I will take the blame
But just the same
This is not me
I'm better than this
Don't leave me so cold
I'm buried beneath the stones
I just want to hold on
I know I'm worth your love
I don't think
There's such a thing
It's my fault now
Having caught a sickness in my bones
How it pains to leave you here
With the kids on your own
Just don't let me go
Help me see myself
Cause I can no longer tell
Looking out from the inside
Of the bottom of a well
But no one hears before I disappear
Whisper in my ear
Give me something to echo
In my unknown future's ear
But not much longer
I also Wanted to Share with you some stories written about Keith. I have copied them to a Word Document and linked them below.
All the best,