One thing associated with Asperger’s and Autism is that change is a harder thing for people diagnosed with Aspergers and Autism to deal with change. Most people don’t like change, but they have the ability to suck it up, deal with it, and adjust. For me, the process of accepting and dealing with change takes a bit longer. This especially applies when it comes to losing a loved one.
You ever hear those stories about people who wake up with a bad feeling in the middle of the night? Well, two years ago, I was having trouble sleeping because I knew that my friend, Rev. James Keon, CSB (Congregation of St. Basil) had left the hospital recently. He had some accidents on-campus that led to him deciding on returning to his hometown in Canada. But two years ago, I couldn’t sleep. I decide to open my Facebook and learned that Fr. Keon passed away.
Fr. Keon was one of my first friends that I made during my early days at the University of St. Thomas. I first met him in the cafeteria, a place that he often hung out at. I saw a book that belonged to a priest on the counter and wasn’t sure who I could give the book to. Remembering that all the priests lived together, I saw Fr. Keon and asked him to return the book to the priest it actually belonged to. Then, after buying lunch for my mother, Fr. Keon waited with me until my mother came around to pick me up from school, since back then I was a commuter.
Fr. Keon became the grandfather I never had. I knew that I could always sit with him in the cafeteria. Sometimes, I would see him celebrating Daily Mass and other times, we would attend lectures and plays together. Sometimes, my friends would come and sit with me while other times, it would just be the two of us. Fr. Keon was one of the many things that made the university wonderful for me. I could talk to him about anything and he would make a joke or give me advice. And even when I learned that he was going to be leaving the university, I imagined myself writing e-mails or letters to him.
I didn’t get much sleep the night I found out about Fr. Keon’s passing. The next morning, I couldn’t understand how everyone could go about their day so easily. Was I the only one who was missing him? I hated the pain I felt and how the cafeteria looked so empty without him, even when it was filled with students. I hated that future students would have no clue about the kindhearted priest who would sit somewhere in the cafeteria and spend time with students. I found time to cry and wanted to push away all thoughts of Fr. Keon in order to avoid the pain I was feeling. But eventually, that distance overwhelmed me.
Eventually, I went to counseling and talked about my grief to them as well as some of my friends who also missed him. Later on, there was a memorial service that also helped me to deal with things better. I wasn’t the only one who missed him. As a priest and a teacher, Fr. Keon made friends with so many people throughout his lifetime and they all had wonderful stories about him. One story in particular stood out: an alumni gave a testimony about Fr. Keon spending dinner with her and her female friends. She pointed out that Fr. Keon was a huge flirt. It was part of his sense of humor and I remembered how he often jokingly flirted with my friends. Everyone in the chapel was laughing and later on, there was a dinner where I heard even more stories. To top it all off, one of my friends made a video of him that I still keep bookmarked on my internet browser. Originally, it was supposed to be a profile of him for a video contest. Now it serves as my memorial video.
At the end of the shorter version of the video, there is a clip of him at his birthday party with everyone singing to him. I gave Fr. Keon a big hug, smiled at the camera, and left to go get my lunch or sit down somewhere.
When I see him again in Heaven, I plan on giving him another hug and the best smile I could ever give a friend.