Thursday, December 2, 2010

Words about Kieran

As the process of putting Kieran's Song together unfolds, I invite you to contribute potential song texts (in the "comments" section below this post).  In particular, texts on themes of freedom, expansion, limitlessness, joy and love would be suitable.  Related to this, I thought it might be of interest to people to read the tributes that were spoken by Kieran's sister and Kieran's aunt at the service celebrating his life.

Words from Kieran’s sister, Siobhan:
Kieran gave a new definition to one in a million.  I think that’s how many people viewed him.  I’ve never met anyone quite like him and I’m sure no one else has either.  He had his ups and downs like everybody, but when he was up, you couldn’t get him down.  To get on his bad side you would’ve had to do something pretty bad because he was accepting and extremely kind to everyone.  Kieran never made fun of people (other than me) or talked badly behind backs.

When we were little, Kieran and I were really close.  We spent almost every moment together and had to share a bedroom until I was eight and he was ten.  My friends were his friends and his friends were my friends.  Every picture of us in our photo albums we’re together.  I was born when Kieran was two and as the story goes, he was pretty excited the first time he saw me.  By age three he had mastered the spelling of my name, which as many of you know is not the easiest feat.  He and I would always gang up on the babysitters.  Or if we were cooking something up I was allowed to be his sous-chef.  We were best friends.

Then began our pre-teen/teenage stage where it’s not cool to be friends with your brother or sister.  I started to try and boss him around and we would fight, but he was still always there for me. I remember when he was only a head taller than me and just big for his age.  Who knew he would become more than a foot taller than me and be big for the human race?  Kieran was good at reaching out to people but his height made it easy for others to reach out to him.  I can’t tell you how many people have struck up a conversation with us asking how tall he was.

Strangely enough, my 7 3” brother had an interest in basketball.  Who would’ve thought?  We used to go out in the driveway and he would give me pointers and I would give him some too.  He would beat me at scoring from the end of the driveway but I had him at Bump.  Most days when it wasn’t snowing the neighbours would all be hearing him pounding the ball against the pavement or dunking it in the net.  His other passion was music.  All types of music.  Kieran would listen to basically anything and it made him happy.  Some days he would sit at the piano and play, without reading music, just improvising.  It was the most beautiful thing.  I don’t know if he knew what he was doing, but it sounded perfectly amazing.

Somehow I always brought up Kieran while talking to people.  I bragged about his height and shoe size and that my brother was taller than everyone anybody had ever met.  He was incredibly special and I felt so proud that everyone knew who he was and that I could claim him as mine.

Words from Kieran’s Aunt Susan:
I saw Kieran in hospital the night before his surgery. He seemed calm and as ready as one can be for a serious operation. At one point I said “Kieran, you’re my superhero,” and I don’t think I completely understood what I meant by that, until now.

The Wikipedia definition of a superhero says, “A superhero is a type of ... character possessing ‘extraordinary or superhuman powers’ ... dedicated to protecting the public, and has some visual characteristic ... that makes [him] identifiable.”

Well, I think we can all agree that Kieran had a visual characteristic that made him identifiable. In January 2009, Kieran, Siobhan and I enjoyed a little holiday in Florida and one day was set aside for a visit to Universal Studios. At breakfast in the morning we decided “Okay, let’s take bets on how many times people we see at Universal Studios today are going to ask Kieran if he plays basketball.” (or make other references to his height)

Sure enough, we counted several comments like that throughout the day. One of the last references to his height was the funniest. As we made our way through the crowds to get out of the park, there were some costumed people walking on stilts. One of them pointed to Kieran and said “Hey, there’s one of us!” at which point Kieran took the comment in stride -- literally -- by mimicking the way the people on stilts were walking as if to say yes, he was indeed one of them. It was a perfect moment.
But the other, more important part of being a superhero is the part about possessing extraordinary powers, dedicated to protecting the public. Now in Kieran’s case, to the outside observer, his superhuman powers might not have been readily obvious. He couldn’t scale the sides of buildings, fly through the air, or make himself invisible.

The extraordinary power Kieran did have was really the most important power anyone could have. That power was one of love, and all its derivatives: empathy, sensitivity, generosity and forgiveness. I’m sure many of you are reflecting now on your own stories and memories of something Kieran did or said that was kind, generous, helpful or funny.

This is not just a fancy way of saying Kieran was a nice guy. This is so much more than celebrating the life of a nice guy. Remember that one more aspect of being a superhero is that there are ever-present villains, and Kieran certainly had his. Fear, frustration and self-doubt were constantly challenging Kieran in ways that would make the average ‘nice guy’ wither in bitterness and despair. But from a young age it seemed Kieran instinctively understood the truth in this Buddha quote, “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.” He fought his villains with an uncanny wisdom and love, and his powers grew stronger every day.

When someone dies at a ripe old age, we console ourselves by saying that they lived a long life. With Kieran leaving us at age 18, we feel robbed of a life that has ended far too soon. I can only think that that means that his job here was done. His job was done, but his mission must continue. So it is up to us here today to ensure that his mission of love continues in earnest. Make a joke to initiate a new friendship. Put aside ego and pride, in order to forgive. See through anger and frustration to put love where it seems like love just don’t belong.

For everything that you were, Kieran, and continue to be in our hearts, thank you.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Exciting news

I just had a phone conversation with the composer I hope to engage to write this piece.  I won't spill the beans quite yet, until a few more details are worked out, but can I just say that I am VERY excited about this project!  I will soon announce the big news!  Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Celebrating Kieran

A huge community of people has been affected by Kieran Stroobandt's passing last month at the age of 18.  Kieran apparently connected with many people through his generous and gregarious spirit and warm-hearted friendliness.  We as his family have been greatly supported by all the outpouring of love, concern and compassion that continues to flow. 

One of Kieran's most important communities for the past nine years, since he was nine years old, has been the St. Mary's Children's Choir.  He sang in the Brio, Presto and Festival Youth Singers divisions and made good lasting friendships there.  His vocal and musical training was in large measure credit to this experience.  The great importance of this community to Kieran's life was shown just two days before his passing, when he insisted on visiting the Festival Youth Singers rehearsal within days of returning home after major heart surgery.  He was absolutely insistent on putting in an appearance that night, and was greatly cheered to be with his choir colleagues. 

Upon his passing, donations to the St. Mary's Children's Choir have been collected and will continue to be accepted as a celebration of Kieran's life.  The donations will be used to commission a composer to write a piece of music for the choir to perform in his memory.  This composition will be a beautiful tribute to this extraordinary young man, and it is our hope that it will provide the choir with great opportunities for musical growth and audiences with much enjoyment.  Some very exciting developments are underway and the composer will be announced soon.

If you are just learning of this project now, and wish to be a part of it, please stay updated on its progress through the regular updates on this page.  At the top of the page is a link to the SMCC website on which there is a "donate" button.  Donations can be made specifically to honour Kieran through this project (please mark as such) or for general purposes for the choir. 

Gratefully yours,
Sandra Mogensen