Dearly beloved, we gather today to get through this thing called life. (Some of you will enjoy the Prince reference, I know Kyle did.) We also gather to celebrate the life of and grieve the loss of my favorite person. Grief is a part of love and life.
Everyone here sees different aspects of Kyle. Like pieces of a brilliant and complex puzzle, I’d like to honor him by bringing those pieces together and sharing the whole picture with you.
About a year ago (totally making that date up cancer disorganizes your calendar and memory) Kyle started to talk about something somewhat obsessively. (He’s like that. A little OCD. Maybe a lot. ) He kept saying he wanted to: live well, love well and leave well.
I’d like to talk about how he did just that.
Kyle lived well at home. He worked hard to provide for our needs. Kyle also somehow managed to stay connected to his family whether he was traveling (always) or in the same room. He was relaxed at home (he liked to sleep.) and balanced my hyper freak cleanliness thing perfectly. (Cancer ate that. an epic clean up is in the forecast.) He lived well at home by working to be fully present, even when it was hard because of cancer, it’s accompanying drugs, fourth quarter crazy, or any of the other thousand things we’ve faced. Kyle loved to garden and lived well at home by sharing that passion.
Kyle lived well at work. He worked hard. Did the deal. More than that, he cared about the integrity and fit of the products he sold. To Kyle, working was helping others. And he did. He helped every corporation he ever sold software to. He always told me: people buy from people. It was more than money to him. It was about people. He excelled in his lifelong career because he genuinely cared. (Though- the money was nice, too!) He was right. Living well is about people.
Kyle lived well in the church body. Locally and globally. He knew and did his part. Kyle honored Christ and reached out courageously to those around him, wherever he was. Human and funny and fully him. From drama, to counseling to humor and supporting his crazy wife’s calling and dreams. (We are the epitome of a team.) Even as he became less and less mobile Kyle nourished his soul by video and pod casts and was thankful for the technology that kept him connected to church. Kyle Solomon lived well.
Wherever he was, Kyle had the loudest laugh, the loudest clap and yes… especially on the phone – the loudest voice. (Seriously? He did know you don’t have to project into a phone, right? Apparently, not. Although I admit I gave his loudness a run for his money decibel wise.
Kyle -loved well. He’s a true words of affirmation guy. He affirmed people freely and genuinely. Our words and encouragement nourished his spirit as his words, nourished ours. I know our boys will be ok because they know, that they know, their dad loves them and is proud of them. They also know that he knew that they love him and are proud of him. Because- they said it. Ad nauseam at times. Kyle left left nothing unsaid. He loved well and taught us do the same.
Kyle loved well, because Jesus loved him, well- and Kyle loved Jesus well.
Kyle also loved: loud fast cars, our pets, (especially his crazy dog Duncan-no nuts) and making people laugh. He loved music, loud music, terrible karaoke and especially hearing his sons sing, as Matt did a beautiful song as his dad was dying and Noah at his winter concert. Kyle loved learning and enjoying Micheal’s “eclectic” taste in music.
Did I mention Kyle loved his kids? He did! He loved jeopardy and mike and Ike’s with Michael every night. Camping, hunting and fishing together. Hiking. Jetskiing. Gaming and terrible puns.
Kyle loved tv. stupid news channels, and game shows. He loved commercials and cheesy sitcoms. Kyle loved to share those loves with all of us. (Too bad I hate tv. Sorry babe.) Kyle loved bacon and Jesus. As evidenced in his beautiful Tattoo created by our friend CeeJay. An eagle soaring on storm clouds with bacon in it’s talons. Pure Kyle. He also loved: Eating bacon. Grilling. Feeding people bacon. Butmostly? He loved being with his people outdoors. And bacon.
Kyle loved well by being a giver. He delighted to buy gifts and help people. He even accidentally ordered my Mother’s Day gift in advance. (Cancer calendar. Just sayin) Kyle’s gifts for me usually had one goal: tears. He loved to make me sappy cry. So… I was anxious about opening that big Amazon box he left ready on the table for Mother’s Day. It may have been too emotional. “Would it be too expensive. Have to go back?” I worried. Hold that thought.
Kyle also loved: junk food well. So well, in fact that it was annoying when boxes started showing up with stuff I had no room for. Peanut Butter Captain crunch. Pop tarts. Mandarin oranges. If Amazon would have shipped bacon? He’d have ordered it. He loved Lebanese food and top grade sushi, The best steaks. (Especially if grilled by our Mike. BBQ and my mom’s – everything. He loved crap food. In bulk. Which my tiny pantry does not have space for. (Intelligent? Yes. Spatially? Not so much.) Any way, we opened that last Amazon box Sunday after dinner to find: beautiful sea glass earrings, a couple of silly wine glasses for the cottage and: an entire case of pop tarts. A gross.
Those? Not for me. Pop tarts are the cockroaches of pastry. They could make it through a Nuclear attack. But, you may not want to eat them. (Unless they’re all you have at 2 am, when I really want great cookies but have pop tarts. Maybe. I mean Kyle. Not me. Of course.) Yup, you betcha, Kyle loved so well that he got internet shopping busted, one last time.
Kyle has loved his siblings, nieces and nephews, their kids and his parents and extended family every day of his life. Even when he was too sick to visit, he’d call and check on his parents, he researched ancestry so he could talk old times and people with his dad. He followed family posts and messages and always took time for phone calls. Because family matters. Kyle loved his friends that became family. More than words. (Which we all know is a lot. Especially for Kyle.) Kyle loved my parents (yes all of you.) as his own. My step sibs and their kids- as his own. Because my husband, our friend and family member: loved well. Of all the places we’ve been from Mykonos to Venice, Austria to Germany and Hawaii, Kyle loved 3 the most. Traverse city, Longboat Key, Florida and the beautiful little cottage he gifted us a few years ago. Grace cottage. On portage lake where we knee boarded, boated and hung out with family on shortly after we met- 32 years ago. Those three places. Are where his ashes will rest. His favorite places, and ours.
Finally- Kyle left well. We all know He did not want to leave us. He fought. He researched. He battled. He argued. He called doctors for opinions. He ordered random cancer killer stuff online. (FYI? Didn’t work.) But, in the end, he was ready to be done being Sick. He was as ready as his body was. As much as we all hate it, I think we are ready too. For him to be well.
About his leaving: he went out the way he lived. Weirdly. Those who know me, know I think I know everything. I was pretty sure he was still not ready to go on Wednesday night (He had said as much the day before.) when I found him at home. I was also: not ready. By Wednesday night, Kyle, Dr Reichert his oncologist and I, spent a long time trying to figure out what he wanted, not what I thought he should want. Not so easy as he was intubated, and unable to talk. He was Frustrated. So were we. It was a medical episode of the three stooges.
First we tried nodding for answers. No go. Totally confusing and resulted in un-convincing answers. (I was not taking that tube out unless I was sure he understood what it would mean. He could go, or might be able to talk for a few. ) After nodding failed, I asked him if he remembered sign language from school and told him we could try the Helen Keller bit. Which went as badly as that idea sounds. Me, holding his hand, him randomly holding up fingers. (Not that finger. We didn’t drive him that far. But close.) Then we tried pen and paper. Let’s just say that when he could move, see and write his handwriting was barely better than mine. We could finally make out: water and h20 h20 h20…. exasperated he held up his hand and either did the chicken dance or made it pretty clear he wanted to talk.
The kids were there when I told him he could take out the tube whenever he was ready. Big mistake. He immediately reached up to: do what I said. Take out the tube. By himself. For the first time in 32 years. He listened. Something I’m sure Dr Reichert will never forget (way to finish off his fellowship) and may need some time to recover from since he flew over to stop Kyle from listening to his clueless wife.
Once the doctor safely and properly removed the ventilator, we were pretty sure he would talk a bit, then go. Not so much. From Wednesday to Friday night he held court and stage. He loved every person that came into that room. With words, hugs, laughs and smiles. He did his business. He asked for family and friends to take care of his family. (Awkwardly. Trust me.) We watched jeopardy together. (He lost.) When Noah said he sounded like Darth Vader Kyle said: “Noah, I am your father. ” Friday night around sunset, people started saying their goodbyes and leaving. We prayed. We had some beautiful worship together.. Kyle asked to face the light. (The windows) we turned his bed and he said it was beautiful (Either those are really gorgeous walls at u of m, or Kyle was seeing more than we were.) I settled in for what I thought would be the longest, hardest night of my life.
And that’s when all the cares of his body, sickness and fear fell away and my husband was back. Nope. Not dead yet. But back. Purely lucid. Clearly aware. Responsive. Joking. Asking if there was a plug to pull because he was ready. Apologizing fo taking too long. Then he started talking to: everyone and someone. About all Of us and to all of us. He bragged on his kids. He kept telling me he loves me. He mentioned so many by name that I can’t list them. She’s a good mom. He’s a good guy. I love him. I love her. Scruffy beard. He even talked about ge’s bill of materials. (He’s working on fixing GE from heaven, I’m convinced.)
I kept asking if he was ok. Do you need meds? He kept saying: I’m doing great. I’m having a great time. Yup. You betcha. And he/ unbelievably was. I can’t pretend to understand what was happening in that room. Honestly? It was weird and not clinically right. (Was he ever?) He talked and laughed so much that I finally took xanax and put my headphones on so I could get some sleep.
When I woke up? He was still talking. “I love you. ” He answered me every time I talked to him. He was fully aware of who was in the room. He asked. Is Rob there? Yup. Sandy? Yup. And he just kept laughing. Bibbobbidy boo. Which made us laugh. Till everything hurt.
Things physically got ugly and brutal. (Death? Sucks. There’s a reason Jesus came to defeat it.) Even when his body was experiencing that brutality, his mind, while lucid, was oddly (or peacefully) oblivious to it. Thank god.
Those who’ve been present with someone as they die, know the usual progression. The death rattle. Loss of consciousness, The slowed irregular r breathing that makes you hold your own breath and wonder if it’s your loved ones last. 100% normal.
Which: since know Kyle was not -he did not follow that pattern. Instead, he kept talking and responding and laughing. I said I love him, played a couple of favorite songs for him. I’m a good Christian so I think I prayed… then, He took two of the most normal and peaceful breaths I’d heard in days, and he was with Jesus.
Which is where he is now. And while we may be in pain from the loss of his physical presence, we can’t help but rejoice that the sickness is dead. Cancer? Is dead. Kyle is cracking jokes with Jesus. Laughing. As he should be.
As we continue to grieve, and get through this thing called life, please share your Kyle stories. We all have them. And if you think about Kyle, I challenge you to follow his example. Something learned at the feet of Christ:
Live well. Love well. And when it’s time? Leave well. It matters. If we all did the same? This would be a better world.
Puff? I don’t know the rules. But, babe? I’m pretty sure God will get this message to you: Yes ,your jokes are funny. And all these people will testify to hearing me say it. Thank you for the gift of your life. We love you.
In lieu of flowers there is an educational fund being set up for Kyle’s sons, or, donations can be made to the University of Michigan Cancer Center.
For those interested in making donations to Kyle Solomon’s sons educational fund you can do so in one of three ways:
1. Go to any Flagstar Bank branch and make a deposit into the “Kyle Solomon Memorial Fund”
2. Checks made out to “Kyle Solomon Memorial Fund” can be mailed to our home address, (message if you need the address)
3. Send a donation via paypal to