Keith Schroeder passed away early Saturday evening after a short battle with illness. He is survived by his wife, two daughters, parents, and brother.
Keith complained of a headache Wednesday. He used over the counter medications with no improvement. On Thursday he visited his doctor who prescribed stronger pain killers. It was determined the headache was due to the change of seasons and allergies. The medication improved Keith’s condition until Saturday morning when the pain returned and was unbearable. He was rushed to the hospital over concern an aneurism was about to burst.
Prior to surgery Keith spent time with his wife and daughters comforting them. He seemed to know the end was near. He talked about how much he loved the girls in his life and how happy they made him. “I am so proud of you girls,” he said as he held their hands. To his wife he said, “I am the luckiest man alive. You gave my life meaning and hope. Without you I was nothing; with you I am everything.”
Keith grew up on a farm and had fond memories of working with animals and later doing the same on his own small farm. He was happiest when with his family walking his land and watching his animals play.
After high school Keith went to work in his father’s business until he was injured inhaling silo gas. His serious farming days over, he focused on his other passions: numbers and writing. He loved business, investing, and working the tax code. Over the years he ran several businesses, none more successful than his accounting practice. His office was his home. He loved working with clients and employees helping them realize their dreams.
The office was also his greatest regret. He said to his wife, “I know you wanted to travel more. I wish I would have felt the same.” Keith worked long hours in his practice and more recently on two fiction and an accounting blog. He enjoyed communicating whether it be writing or speaking before a group. His greatest thrill was making a difference in someone’s life. There was limited time for travel and he preferred to spend his free time on his farm. It is where he felt most comfortable.
“Remember the lessons I taught you, girls,” he said speaking to his children. “The world is an awesome place filled with good and evil. Do not allow the evil to corrupt you; savor the good.” To his wife, “I wish I were a better husband and father. Everything interested me and distracted me from you. I gave all I have; you deserved better. I never wanted children because I thought I would be an awful dad. I tried with all my might to be a good person and failed all too often.” “I love you all,” he said to his family, “because you accepted me, flaws and all. I will miss you.”
Keith loved sharing stories. The last thing he said before going into surgery was, “Remember the Star Trek episode where Natasha Yar is killed? She left a video to be played after she died. I always liked that idea. There is no video of me, an oversight I wish I could change. Yar's last words always stuck with me, ‘No goodbyes, just good memories.’”
Two hours later the doctor informed the family of the bad news. A good man, a father, husband, son, brother, friend, left us Saturday night. He touched us in a thousand ways. We will always remember him for his undying passion to excel. He cared deeply. For all his flaws he touched every one of us in ways that will follow us to our last day. He taught us to never fear death, to cherish life as long as it lasted. He said our philosophy of life was worthless if it failed us at the end. It never failed the man we admired, regardless the scars. May his words continue to speak to people for a long time to come.
Visitation will be held Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. at the funeral home followed by interment.
How do you feel? Is there a lump in your throat? The above obituary is an exercise we should all undertake (no pun intended, I am all serious today). Practicing Stoics understand death is only a natural part of living. I am not afraid of death or the dying process. Whether it happens fast or slow is of no concern to me. What I am interested in is how I live life now.
One Stoic practice is negative visualization where you imagine the worst that can happen, really feel it, and then realize, when finished with the visualization, it isn’t that bad so there is nothing to fear. The worst isn't that bad! Death is the ultimate fear for many people. The obituary above is only a visualization. (It was a lot more intense, but I kept a few things private.) I sat back, closed my eyes, and wondered what I would feel if I was facing death right now, today. I wanted to look back from my deathbed and see what I was proudest of and what I wish I would have done differently. The things I wish I would have done I can now do now that my eyes are opened! By looking back on life in this manner I can see where I will want to make changes and then make them while I still can.
Contemplating your own death is hard, I understand. We all know it will happen. You can do the same exercise of yourself as a very old person reflecting on a long life. What were your regrets? What made you happy? Really dig into it. It’s okay to cry. When I soul search it moves me emotionally. I think it is an indication you are doing it right. I caught myself smiling at times and in tears at others. Then I wrote the above abridged version for you, my friends.
Your obituary will be much longer, as was mine. Writing it down makes a difference. By writing it down it becomes real, alive. The reason we put ourselves through this emotional exercise is to learn what really gives us joy. In the hustle and bustle of life we can forget to stop and think about who we are and where we are. Even retired people get too caught up in their life, forgetting to breathe deeply and focusing inward.
Writing your own obituary takes time and should be repeated at least annually. You evolve as I do. I am not the same person I was in high school, or before I was married or in the early days of my business. I changed. My business changed. I am ever grateful Mrs. Accountant changed with me in a way where we could walk the road of life together. It takes sacrifice. I’m okay with that. You have to decide what you are willing to sacrifice to live the life you want, to live right.
My children sometimes read this blog. Not often, but sometimes. When I informed the household of my intentions to publish my obituary they wanted to hear it. Regardless of age, we all want to know how to live a good life. Don’t wait until you die to find out how.