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In Memoriam: Kevin J. Wolff

This is a special blogpost meant to honor our supporter and friend, Kevin Wolff.

We've just added a page about Kevin, the Endowment he created for us, and a little bit about the man -- you can read all that here.

This post will be more about honoring Kevin, the person and friend, that I knew.

Tim (L) and Kevin (R) In Thailand. With monkeys.

I met Kevin and his husband Tim in 2013 at their home in Santa Fe. From then, it was a slow progression to becoming friends.

He seemed to have some mild agoraphobia, preferring to stay at home, puttering around with his domestic projects, and doting on his plants, two pitbulls, and cat. But he was bright, full of intelligence, and a voracious consumer of all sorts of information, particularly related to advancements in health. He was a nurse by training, and we'd spend long evenings over dinner talking about various conditions, novel treatments, and his experiences working in hospice. Those were fun and insightful.

Kevin was also incredibly interested in ancestry -- both his own and others'. He had his DNA analyzed because he was curious, and was intrigued to learn of the broad genetic legacy that was his. It was hard not to be caught up in excitement when Kevin talked about new information he had learned about his genes.

He was voluble, interested in other people, and while never willing to cede discussions when he thought he was right, he was always interested in picking the brains of everyone he ran into, acting (and believing) that everyone could tell him something new, interesting, and worth knowing.

We spent several conversations talking about my work at Youth Heartline, what we did, how we went about doing it. In bits and pieces - because if he was anything, he was intensely private - he shared glimpses of his life growing up that shed insight into his profound belief that he was called to make a positive difference in the world. Not in a trumpeting fanfare kind of way, but in the grassroots, local, personal and individual kind of way. I think he thought of it as a sign of a life well-lived.

It was an instantly recognizable sound: ungraceful, stuttering, and clipped, yet for all of that, an unguarded sound of joy and delight.

Not for the first time, I am reminded of the movie "Household Saints" starring Lili Taylor, Tracey Ullman, and Vincent D'Onofrio. In it, Taylor's character is moved by the Holy Spirit to diligently accomplish small, domestic tasks and through this spiritual undertaking, become a saint. I am reminded that if we believe that the universe to be unfathomably vast, we are each equally insignificant, and through that shared unimportance, we are equally important and at the center of all things. Similarly, Kevin was the smallest person, and yet also the biggest. I've been chewing on that paradox regularly since his death.

Towards the end of his life, Kevin seemed much better in handling what I had read as agoraphobia but likely was a challenging cocktail of stress and anxiety. I got to see more of him, he suggested meeting up outside of his home more often. He was more often on time. He seemed much better. All the more tragic his untimely death.

One of the last things that we did together was play a raucous game of Cards Against Humanity. I think of that often and wonder if I'll ever be able to play that game again without at least a twinge of sadness and regret -- it was, to date, the first and only time I've played. But although a pall comes over me when I think on that memory, the clearest thing I can remember is of Kevin's laugh.

His laugh was an instantly recognizable sound: ungraceful, stuttering, and clipped. Yet for all of that, it was an unguarded sound of joy and delight. It was like the laughter of a deaf child who had not yet been told their bright peals of laughter sounded strange: it was unselfconscious, indulgent, happy, and the best sound in the world. And I'm glad I got to hear it. Kevin laughed a lot during the time that I knew him. I only wish I could've heard it more. That I could hear it now.

It's impossible to talk about Kevin's passing without thinking of Tim, his surviving husband. Kevin was a generous but complicated person, and wholly loved by Tim, himself a wonderful man. All who knew Kevin have had varying levels of difficulty in reimagining their lives without him in it - but surely no person must have so monumental a task as a surviving spouse.

It says so much about Tim that Kevin is remembered so fondly, for all that was good in Kevin was embraced, supported, and nurtured by Tim. And the darker complexities were no less embraced, loved, and soothed. For me, there is no greater honor in Kevin's name than to love Tim that much more, to understand that he, too, is cherished, amazing, and valued.

So to Kevin, I miss you and love you. To Tim, I'm so sorry, I love you, and thank you for being my family.

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