Here we go! I am in the home stretch of my publishing journey. My book, Big Breath In, will be published and available for purchase by the end of November! It will be available on all the online book retailers––Amazon, Chapters, Barnes & Noble, etc., and on my publisher’s online bookstore. There is still work to do once the book is published to see if brick-and-mortar stores will pick it up, but we will cross that bridge when we get there. All the online purchasing options will be listed on my website when they become available.
I appreciate everyone’s well wishes and support thus far. In the coming days and weeks I will keep you posted on how things are coming along and when exactly the book will be available.
Tomorrow, Oct 2nd, marks six months since Kim passed away. Most days, I still find myself asking, How did this happen? Of course, I know how it happened in time, we lived every day of it together, but how did life turn out this way? I still have a difficult time believing that Kim is gone.
I think a big part of this, and something I am thankful for, is that the memories I have of Kim are primarily of the good times we had. I don’t know if it is due to trauma, or shock, or just the way our brain and memory works, but the difficult memories, the memories of Kim’s final weeks and months, or all the time we spent in the chemo-clinic or recovering from surgery, are not memories that often come to mind. They are there when I think about them, but the good memories come to mind most naturally. Of lazy nights sitting and watching TV together. Of Kim sitting cross-legged on the couch, puzzle board on her lap, while I read in my chair. Camping at Christina Lake or sitting on the beach in Hawaii. Of making dinner and doing the dishes together, Kim still in her work-sweater and dress pants having just come home from work. These are the memories that come most naturally. But it is these memories that make me wonder over and over, how did this happen? How could that vibrant, beautiful, amazing woman be gone? And yet, she is.
This past month has been significant. On the farm, we started and finished corn harvest for another year. We held Kim’s memorial service. And I announced my book project. There have been sparks of joy and excitement, of accomplishment and pride, but the prevailing emotion I find myself experiencing is one of numbness or indifference.
In his book, Lament for a Son, Nicholas Wolterstorff writes, “The passion is cooled, the striving quieted, the longing stilled. My attachment is loosened ... Instead of rowing, I float. The joy that comes my way I savor. But the seeking, the clutching, the aiming, is gone.”
Now this doesn’t mean I don’t laugh, have fun, or get carried away in a good conversation. But once the wake of those moments settle, there is again a sense of emptiness and aimlessness, of "floating."
I am getting by. I have a small circle of close friends who keep tabs on me, as well as my amazing family. COVID does make it worse as I really can’t get out much, but I am not alone in that, and I’ve been able to reconnect with the online CF community.
If you want to do something to mark this six-month anniversary of Kim's passing, then all I ask is you take a moment to reflect on Kim and what she meant to you. Raise a glass of your favorite beverage to the unforgettable person she is.
As was clear from her memorial, Kim touched so many lives and lived such an authentic life. I am so proud to have been her husband.
I miss you, Kim.
“What? You wrote a book?!?!?” This is the response I have been hearing lately as I slowly let slip that I have a book coming out this Fall/Winter (release date TBD). It is something I have been working on since March 2020, and it now seems that its publication is imminent!
Big Breath In is a memoir about growing up with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), experiencing respiratory failure, and then waiting for and receiving my double lung transplant. Throughout the book, I reflect on my tendency to minimize the deadly symptoms of CF and the need to accept the new normals that my limited health placed on my life.
So how did this all start? Well, the seeds of this book were planted a long time ago.
Back in 2009, while waiting for my transplant, I was noticing how unique some aspects of my life were. After all, how many people do you know who are breathing with another person’s lungs? Kim and I had to go through such a steep learning curve as we prepared ourselves for transplant, that I figured maybe others would also want to learn about this. But at that time, I really didn’t have the strength or ability to write (I was never into reading or writing; I barely passed English 12). However, during my wait for transplant, I did a lot of journaling. Also, I started a blog to keep family and friends updated on how I was doing (I have included excerpts from that blog in my book).
After my transplant, especially between 2012–2018, I had the opportunity to do many public speaking engagements about CF, organ donation, and the philosophy of person-centered care. After my presentations, I was often approached by people in the audience encouraging to write a book about my health care journey. However, with many other things in life going on, I still didn’t feel the motivation to do so, but I felt that one day I would.
That day finally came in March 2020, as the COVID19 pandemic began taking hold of our world. With not being able to perform some of my duties as a pastor and needing to think of creative ways to keep in touch with my parishioners, I suddenly felt the motivation and creative impetus to begin writing. And so I did.
I set aside two hours every afternoon to write, and all of a sudden, the stories and memories from my childhood and youth began coming back. I took out old day planners from 2008, old journals from 2009, and reread my blog. The memories of those days, being sick in hospital, the lead up to transplant, and just how fragile my life was, all came rushing back.
Each time I would finish a chapter, I asked Kim to read it. Each time she would encourage me to keep writing. After three months of writing, I had a very rough draft of my manuscript. Little did I know, however, that with the manuscript complete, now the real work began.
Over the summer of 2020, I was engaged in editing, editing, and more editing. I hate editing! Kim would reread everything after I had edited it, providing notes and corrections.
In the fall of 2020, Kim and I told our families that I had this manuscript. It was Kim’s sister-in-law, Sonja, who connected me with a local self-publishing company, FriesenPress. After speaking with Sonja’s contact and weighing the pros and cons of going through the traditional stream of publishing vs. self-publishing, I decided to go with FriesenPress and the self-publishing route. This would allow me to maintain control of the project, which was important as this is my own personal story and my family's story.
Going this route has had its ups and downs, especially with the life-altering events of this past year. There have been parts of the publishing journey that were more difficult than I thought they would be, and others that were much easier. But overall, it has been an empowering experience, and it has allowed this publishing dream to actually become a reality!
I have no clue where this project will lead in the future and if it will open unknown doors, but it has been a great ride thus far. I hope that my book can be an inspiration, or at least a companion, to someone on their own journey in life.
I invite you to stay tuned to this blog and my social media feeds for more info on the book's release. In my next blog post, I will detail what I’d like to do with this blog and the kind of content you can hopefully expect to find here going forward.
George Keulen's Blog
Welcome to my blog, where you will find general ponderings about my life: Of living with cystic fibrosis and a double lung transplant, being an advocate for person-centered care, being a widower, and of course, reflections and news about my book, Big Breath In.