In Memory

Richard Meitin - Class Of 1968

This is what Rich wrote after he stopped using Facebook.  Rich passed away on September 18, 2020.

(August 22, 2020) I'll bet any number of you are wondering what happened to all my Facebook posts.  Well, Facebook seems to have accidentally destroyed them all.  And I have asked everyone where they might have gone, including a Facebook employee, a computer expert, and even an ex-CIA agent (and I'm not kidding).  Having failed in all three endeavors, I've decided to switch to this new venue which is actually designed for this sort of narrative.  I do apologize for any worry I may have caused you.  The entry you're reading now is essentially the most recent part of the story, a story that began with my diagnosis of glioblastoma mid-April of this year.  One of the strangest parts of this experience for me has been not knowing where certain parts of my body are located in space.

Let's start with some good news.  The latest MRI shows improvement in my condition compared to a month ago.  The new medication I'm on (Avastin) has significantly reduced the brain swelling, and the tumor appears to be stable for the moment.  And the fact that the Avastin has reduced swelling means that I'm gradually regaining some of the mobility functioning I previously lost.

Actually, the hardest part for me is relearning all the stuff I used to take for granted, like how to get in and out of a car.  Every single move requires thought and strategy, and after a day of this, I'm completely exhausted.  It's remarkable how often you really need to use your supporting body parts, like let's say your left thumb and index finger, in order to support whatever it is you're really trying to do.

In my oddly checkered professional past, I have worked with many different groups from state government workers to orchestral musicians to college professors to lawyers.  For the most part I have observed that people in similar groups like these do tend to get along well.  But for some reason that I cannot put my finger on, musicians occupy a special category.  For example, in putting together this little blog of mine, I've heard from people I don't think I've spoken to in 10 years.  And yet, we seem to continue to have so much in common dating back to the very first albums we chose to listen to when we were still teenagers.  I'm not sure what accounts for this striking commonality, but there is something unusually comforting about it.  Maybe it's because we all had to drill the same scales and arpeggios.  Or that we did so many of the same things at or about the same time, all the way from trying to figure out what the first chord of Help! is, or to figuring out how to get started on a string quartet.  Anyway, here we all are now, let's say 40 years on, and we're still friends and we're still fans of each other.  And we have even gathered into small groups of talented people who still perform for each other.  Imagine that!  I'll tell you one thing you'll never find is small groups of lawyers or accountants doing the same thing.  It's been said many times before, and mostly because I think it's true, keeping up with your musicianship in one way or another also keeps you young.  If anyone else has ideas about this thing I'm pointing to, I'd love to know your thoughts.

What is the absolute worst thing you can imagine happening to your iPhone?  Well, sometimes I need a little help in the bathroom because of my new physical limitations.  And it was at one of these moments that I watched my iPhone slide out of my shirt pocket and into the toilet bowl at the radiation center.  I thought I was going to have a coronary, but there were already too many things wrong with me and I just didn’t have room for one more.  Fortunately for me, the young man who assists people in the bathroom assured me that everything was A-Okay.  I asked how that could be and he said everything after the iPhone 6 is waterproof. Waterproof from being dumped into a toilet?  Yep!  Turns out he was 100% correct.  It needed a bit of a cleanup, but there’s still something pretty funny about dropping your phone into a toilet bowl, provided nothing terrible actually happens.  So remember kids, anything after the iPhone 6 and you’re still safe.

I have this odd privilege of being able to consider if there are important things or conversations that I would like to complete, and choosing some of the last things that I will experience.  I'm delighted that the last Broadway show I will in all likelihood will see is Hamilton.  The final episode of Six Feet Under is breathtaking and I would like to have the courage to watch it again.  The most impactful art is at times quite painful, and that is certainly true of the masterful ending of that series.  Harder for me is the last piece of music--brutal to contemplate that.  I love different music for so many different reasons.   I feel fortunate that I have been able to take the time to have important conversations with friends.  And with my wife, ours is ongoing and ever evolving.  Conversations don't necessarily have discrete beginnings or endings.  And if there is one of these hanging conversations in your life, perhaps the time to complete it is now.

Gavin, I’m with you that something gentle by Debussy would be a wonderful choice.  Perhaps Clair de Lune?  I was also thinking about Rachmaninoff—the second piano concerto. What are your other finalists? It’s funny given how much I love and grew up with some of the greatest pop music every written, none of it seems like “exit music” to me.  And aren’t we lucky as lucky can be that our lives have afforded us such broad explore that we can talk about Debussy or the Beatles in the same paragraph and have it makes total sense to both of us?

To my surprise, I woke up this morning at the age of 70!  Not feeling particularly different but actually significantly on the inside. It reminded me that to the extent that my wife and I want to make sure we get to do a few special things while we still have the time, we need to get out the pencil and pad and start trying to calendar these things.  Nothing would piss me off more than sharing common ambitions with my wife and not doing them simply from the laziness of not getting out a pencil and making a mark on a calendar.

I have received so many heartwarming comments and well wishes, and will share more about them at a later time.  For now, please know that I love what you have all said, done and written.

Thank you for all the heartfelt birthday wishes.  It makes me think more about birthdays in general.  They can be complicated.

When I was still teaching in Minnesota, I received a small sum of money from my mom, not as a birthday present, but I decided to spend it on myself as if it were, just for the fun of it.  The thing I most clearly remember is that I literally couldn’t think of a thing that I wanted.  I looked around my home and I was happy with what I had.  And I was happy with my life, especially with the friendships. So what does it mean to look around you and say I have everything I need?  Does it mean I should fold my arms and be content?  Should I be more generous with my time?  Give away things I don’t need?  I still don’t know what it means, but I’m glad that I was feeling that contentment, and it’s helpful to think back to that moment given the situation I currently find myself in.

Occasionally someone asks me whether or not I feel cheated, like my life has been cut short.  Usually I respond that given the way my pals and I behaved when we were teenage boys, it’s astonishing that any of us are still alive.  Rather than feeling like I’ve been ripped off or shortchanged, I feel like I’ve gotten an undue extension at least 3 or 4 times.

What is left of us once we depart?  Certainly there are memories, which to me always seem gauzy and distant.  And then there are little splashes of brighter memories that remind me of stars in the night sky.  Then there are the things that we leave behind more deliberately: songs, stories, poems we have written.  Sometimes for others and sometimes as art for the sake of art.  Things we wish to be remembered by.  The small but beautiful fabrications of a life.  Expressions of love and affection and appreciation.  I have always been grateful that my life seems to have been filled of and by friends worth remembering.

Something I have said many times that applies here as well is that I have been blessed with enough talent to be able to appreciate the fabulous talents I’ve been surrounded by. I don’t think I could necessarily match any of these talents myself, although I certainly have my moments. However, I know that I understand how their talents work, why they are so good and why it gives everyone such joy to experience their expression.  The fact that I may never create something of genius caliber does not disturb me.  I feel grateful that I have enough talent as a musician to be able to fully appreciate the genius of exceptional musicians.

We all have a pretty good idea of how other writers make us feel, because after all, we’re reading what they have to say.  But what I don’t often see is any musings of how other writers feel.  How does it feel to be sending one-way messages out into the world from Facebook or Caring Bridge?  I once asked a book agent (since all her clients were authors) what it feels like to be an author.  She surprised me by saying for the most part it’s pretty lonely.  That got me to wondering, do composers feel the same way? Or perhaps just certain kinds of composers?  For instance, song writers are generally partnerships so perhaps that’s not so lonely. I wonder if painters ever suffer from loneliness.  Or are there ways to collaborate in the other arts that I just don’t understand.  Personally, I’d feel lonely without a writing partner. I like the energy of the collaboration. In fact, that’s largely what has kept me going here is the feedback and energy that comes from you reading and answering my posts.  Sometimes I wonder why anyone would care about my musings at all.  Are you curious because perhaps one day some of these experiences might apply to your own life?  Are you curious because it might give you insight into another person in your life? As for me, it just keeps me going. I’m plugged into a large network that keeps the juices flowing.  But if you have different motivations for hanging around with me, I’d be most curious to hear what they are.  And regardless, I’m grateful you are.

(September 16, 2020) This is Gayna, Rich’s Pink Angel, posting for him.  He is still with us, but with a broken heart I must tell you it won’t be for long.  He had a brief hospital stay over the weekend that revealed multiple blood clots in his lungs that cannot be treated with blood thinners because of a small bleed in his brain.  Together we made the decision for him to come home and begin hospice care.  He has always been clear that the quality of his life takes priority.  And sadly, there is nothing to be done to allow him to continue to live a life he would want to live.

Rich wrote the following entry some time ago, and planned to send it as soon as he was home from the hospital.  But the day after he returned home, he took a terrible turn for the worst, so I’m posting for him as I know he would want.  And I simply cannot express how his interactions with you all have carried him through this dark time.  I have cried countless times as I lose my beloved, and have also cried countless times with gratitude as I have read what you have written, have witnessed the generosity in word and deed, and have felt the outpouring of love and concern that you have all shown in so many ways.  The kindness of others is what has kept me upright, and has truly kept Rich filled with life.  I’m sending all of you my love and gratitude.

Well folks, I am losing my battle with this nasty beast inside me.  But I wanted you to know that, even though that is a dark and scary pathway, I could not be happier with the way that you have all lit the path for me, so it’s not so damn dark and scary. The reaction I’ve gotten to my little blog, I think, has been the most heartening experience I’ve ever had. My heart is full. I can’t think of any way I could have done this without your love and support.

Please take care of each other and be cognizant that we are all we’ve got. So, take nothing for granted, especially relationships. And keep up the good work.

If you’ve never done so, I highly recommend you get familiar with some really basic Buddhist thought. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what to do to lead a somewhat more spiritual life. I’m not particularly spiritual but I was always on the lookout for something that would connect me with myself, my loved ones and the universe just a little bit better, and Buddhism is really amazing. It’s super simple. The focus is compassion, a deep acceptance that everything changes, and there’s nothing you can do about it. And if you try to cling too hard to the things that you want to possess – since that’s not the nature of things (things change!), all you do is make yourself miserable. You have to learn how to not make yourself miserable by accepting the non-Western concept that things change, always. Westerners don’t like that much. They want to have their cake and eat it too. Sorry, that’s not the way that works.

I’ll tell you, a really great marriage makes for a great centerpiece at the banquet table of life. It’s worth working on. I would have been in deep, deep trouble working my way through this disease if I did not have the Pink Angel by my side. It’s unimaginable what this would have been like without her. Not to mention all the great stuff we did!

Let me say something in favor of being vulnerable. Open up, share yourself. A lot of people regard that as being weak. It is anything but. It’s the first sign of strength. And when you open up, it gives permission to others to open up, and then all of a sudden you’ve got a real connection. So, yeah, be open, be vulnerable. I’ve tested this also in many classrooms and it’s like magic, okay? So, trust me on this one.

I cannot thank you enough for all your responses. It took away the loneliness of being away, in a room, just being sick. It completely wiped out that sense of loneliness and isolation and I felt like I was being floated up to heaven on these wonderful silky, fluffy mattresses, stacked one on top of each other – just lifting me ever higher, and ever higher. So I just can’t thank you enough, I’m completely floored that this actually seemed to mean something to different people for different reasons, I never expected that. I expected my usual buddies to show up, but instead it was this aggregation of people that I never expected. I can’t think of a more gratifying way to go out. Seriously. I can’t thank you enough for helping me make this transition in a way that was so filled with heart. Amazing.

Thank you for your music! Thank you for your laughter, thank you for your guidance…oh my God…thank you for the wonderful meals that we have spent together, and thank you for your encouragement. And thank you for responding to me here! It completely changed this experience, which otherwise, was a little grim. You changed it, all the way from grim to gratifying. All the way from grim to…kind of joyful, actually.

So, I salute you for that.

I hope I won’t miss you. I hope I can kind of hang out somewhere in the walls, or wherever. And I’ll do my best to look after you.

Oh, and please look in on Gayna every once in a while, alright? I appreciate it.

I’ll be watching.

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11/29/20 12:15 AM #1    

Robin Brown (1968)

I am shocked to see this. Rich always had a Smile and a kind word. I always looked forward to see him. He is a Guardian Angel for All of Us Now.

11/29/20 11:06 AM #2    

Dorothy Feldkamp (Stephens) (1968)

So very shocked about Richard's passing.  May he rest in eternal peace.

11/30/20 01:28 PM #3    

Steve Ross (1968)

Rich and I were the best of friends right up until his death. I miss him as much as any family member I've ever lost. He was a brilliant, curious, accomplished guy who touched many along his way in the music business, as a professor and just about anybody who had the good fortune of knowing him, or just having a conversation with him along the way. If you care to see what he'd writen near the end, go to the "Caring Bridge" and look him up. Life lessons well worth knowing.   

12/01/20 07:01 AM #4    

Lewis Karrh (1968)

Having just read Richard's Caring Bridge post and comments from his old friends, I am smiling with tears in my eyes. What a thoughtful and inspirational guy, and I only hope to face the end with that kind of bravery and kindness. Without doubt he will be missed...

12/01/20 06:52 PM #5    

Ginger Crosby (Grimm) (1968)

Oh my goodness, what heart touching writing by Richard.  I cried and cried as I read it to my husband.  I was not aware of Rich;s illness, nor up to date on any of his life, but he was a memorable friend in high school  through English class and in band and orchestra.  He was a mullti- talented person +50 years ago!  His writing is worthy of being published and I hope it is shared with many.  I'm glad he ws blessed with such a rich life and to have his pinl angel, Gayna.  May he be at peace with our heavenly Father.



12/02/20 11:41 AM #6    

Ruth Rodgers (Travis) (1968)

I am so sad to hear about Richard’s passing. He was such a wonderful guy, a friend to so many. He touched so many of us with his wit and humor. I’m sure he’s entertaining the angels!

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