Good day and welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude gets expressed to start the week off on a positive note, which for today is for my dear friend Keith Genest who recently passed away.
Twenty-one years ago, at the young age of 26, I found myself one evening venturing into a bar in downtown Washington D.C. with a few sober friends, solely to listen to some music and hang out on a random weekend evening. There I’d meet a towering heavyset individual at the door, a bouncer named Keith, whom I had to even look slightly up to at his 6’7” stature. It didn’t take long for Keith and I to connect, with his sense of humor, his light-hearted nature, and his kindness and generosity pouring out right from the start.
A week later, Keith and I were out on a date where I’d really begin to get to know a wonderfully warm-hearted individual, who most certainly wasn’t afraid to show his emotions and often wore them on his sleeve. After it became clear to me that he and I were better meant to be the best of friends, I soon got to know one of Keith’s most positive traits, that being someone I could trust with anything.
Keith was indeed a loyal friend, someone I could spill my heart out to and have a shoulder to cry on if need be. Someone who didn’t judge me, even when I lived deep in addictions for much of our friendship, especially early on. No matter how many painful job losses and changes I went through, no matter how many partners I cycled through, no matter how crazy my selfish behaviors got due to my addictive lifestyle, Keith remained a constant, always there to show me how much he loved and cared about me.
When I suggested he join a spiritual men’s group I believed might help him on his own spiritual path, that being the ManKind Project (MKP), Keith didn’t bat an eye and quickly signed up. Soon we were not only the best of friends, but also brothers as well, and I had much joy in watching Keith soar within MKP where he dedicated substantial personal time to a program that helped broken kids find a healthier way into adulthood.
When I eventually moved away from Washington D.C., Keith continued to support me in all my endeavors like coming to visit me at the remote bed and breakfast I owned for a spell. You see, that’s just the type of guy Keith was, someone who stuck by your side through thick and thin, always doing his best to be there for you, supporting new ventures and achievements, and offering heartfelt consolation when needed.
After moving to the Boston, Massachusetts vicinity for a number of years, Keith made sure to never lose touch with me and was far better than I in maintaining contact. In no time at all on any given phone conversation, Keith would have me laughing or vice versa, and it was as if no time had passed. I spent a number of years travelling back and forth from Massachusetts to the Washington, D.C. area to connect with my friends like Keith. About every six months or so, I’d visit and stay at either his place or a mutual friend, where we’d get together for a big game night, which Keith always loved. His big, booming voice, and his infectious laughter, was such a blessing to those fun evenings.
I always hated saying goodbye to him after those brief visits, but I knew he was only a phone call or Skype chat away, which quite often we did. When I moved to Toledo to be with my current partner Chris, God blessed my life by having an employment change bring Keith to Chicago, a mere 3 ½ hours or so from me. I spent several weekends with Keith during his few years there and got to know a city I didn’t ultimately know through his eyes. On one such visit, he took me to Michael Jordan’s restaurant for my birthday, a place I had frequently dreamed about going to, which turned out to be quite the memorable evening.
I must say that even during the last bit of my addictive lifestyle years, when my selfishness and self-centeredness hit an all-time high, when I took everyone and everything for granted, Keith was one of the rare people in my life who still remained by my side. Crying with me when I ached due to all my body pain, laughing with me at my stupid jokes, and doing his best to lift my spirits on so many down days to help keep me going, honestly, it’s hard to imagine a life now where Keith isn’t going to be an active part of it.
When Keith’s health began to go rapidly downhill about two years ago, it was really hard to see, as he was one of the main strongholds in my life on so many levels. As his body size began to shrink and his uplifting demeanor go by the wayside, I still saw the same friend I made two decades prior doing his best to remain my close friend. Keith would move to the Kansas City area not too long after where his sister would take care of him to his very last breath. And from what I can tell, it seems like loyalty and unconditional love runs deep in their blood. My last call to Keith was quite the emotional one, both for him and for me. While I didn’t know it was going to be our last, he made sure to tell me how much he loved me and how he always considered me to be his best friend.
Keith Genest was truly a beautiful soul who brought happiness and love into so many lives, especially mine. Fiercely loyal, funny, charming, strong, and yet deeply in touch with his feminine side, Keith will permanently remain a part of my heart and someone I will always be grateful for. I pray and live with hope now that God may have him become one of my guardian angels, because if there’s anyone I could ever trust and rely on getting me through the worst of the worst and the scariest of scary, it’s Keith. I love you Keith and pray you are finally experiencing the peace and love I know you absolutely deserve and I know I’ll see you again one day when God says it’s my turn to come home…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson