Keith Hodgden died November 15, 1997 from complications brought about by Duschene's Muscular Dystrophy. He deserves to be remembered so I'll repeat what I wrote to his parents the following day…
I came to know Keith through an online discussion group for people with disabilities. We meet everyday to talk about anything and everything. It's a place where we can talk about our lives and problems with people who truly understand what we are going through. We keep very close tabs on each other so that we can be there when needed.
Soon after starting our group, Keith began to join us daily. For the longest time, he never said much to anyone, but he was always there. We talked a little about some technical aspects of how the whole group was ran, but nothing real deep.
That all changed about a month into his stay with us. During one of our scheduled weekly online meetings, he told us all of his illness and what the ultimate outcome of it will be. It seemed that he was expecting rejection, but that never happened. When he saw that our friendship was unwavering, he almost immediately came out of his shell and became one of the most active participants in our little group. Even more important, he became one of those most adored people there. This wasn't adoration out of sympathy, it was because he was truly a warm and unique friend, and it was as plain as day.
It is hard for many people to understand how people can be friends with someone they have never met, but I assure you his feelings, and our feelings for him, are genuine. Unlike meeting in person, talking with someone online gives you the time to get to know that person's heart and soul without the prejudices of appearance. We all loved Keith for what was in his heart.
Most of the time online, it was just Keith, myself, and our friend Mimi. We talked about every topic under the sun, from programming, religion, politics, music, romance, jokes, and more. I think Keith and I agreed on everything. We played an online version of the game Battle Ship (we always kicked my butt bad), and I was even writing a game that he and I could play when the discussion was winding down. He sent me all these funny sound effects and while I would be working in my office, he could make my computer play them. It always made me laugh. Even on days when I was feeling down, he would play some sound that would put me in tears with laughter.
When Keith was accidentally banned from the chat rooms because some administrator, for his own reasons banned all of Tulsa, an entire network of people from all over the world jumped in to help Keith. Within hours, special software was written just for Keith (it still bears the name "KeithChat") and administrators from various companies and countries broke rules just to get Keith back online with us. This is how much people were willing to go for him. We loved him that much.
There is only secret we all kept from Keith, and it was because he didn't like us to make a fuss over him. He didn't know it, but he alone set the current agenda and future direction for our group.
This came about during a meeting where everyone present was complaining how bad they had it. All of it was over the most petty things. Keith was mostly silent that whole night. When we were all asked what we would change about ourselves if we were able to, Keith's reply was that he would just like to live a little longer. Those few words re-defined our purpose.
The most notable thing about Keith was that no matter how bad it got, he never once complained. Not about anything. He let us know when he was in pain or had trouble, breathing, but it wasn't a complaint. Except when he and I would have fun ragging on politicians, he never had a bad thing to say about anyone. That's a character trait that is so lacking in people today, but Keith taught it to quite a few of us in his short stay with us.
The loss of Keith has been absolutely devastating to us. I can't even put words to it. But please know that his contribution to this world is so much more that you and I will ever know, and that contribution is going to last longer than any of us.