Happy Birthday sweet friend. Keri would of been 41 today. I am sure she is dancing with David Bowie teaching him how to hula hoop.
This is one of my favorite photos of Keri and I taken by my friend Scott Witter on her birthday in 2012 as part of his portrait series on fans of the band The Cure. Although Keri and I had grown up going to the same Catholic grade school she was a year older then me and we never had the chance to connect until I was put in an 11th grade history class in my 10th grade year. So, I took my history backwards. No one seemed to care. I think it was all part of a bigger plan. One day we had to draw papers to write, out of a hat, and I happen to get the coolest one. The Punk Rock Phenomenon. A few of my other classmates were very envious, including Keri, and it was that day that we discovered that we both loved The Cure and we have been besties ever since.
I moved to CA in 1999 and Keri moved out here a few years after me. At age 30 she developed breast cancer and had a double mastectomy as well as chemo. That was really hard on her as well as getting implants but she beat it and came out a stronger person. 5 years later she got lymph cancer, had some removed, and later found out she had bone cancer. She refused to do radiation or chemo again and instead treated it with juicing, eating organic and doing all sorts of natural cleansing of her system which I believe kept her alive a lot longer. Through all of this I saw the beauty and strength of my friend and I supported all of her decisions.
Over the last couple of years Keri’s health began to slowly decline and she was in pain a lot. She got Hospice care and my husband and I stepped in to help her more and more. Her friend Ron started coming down from Seattle for weeks at a time to help out and keep her company as well. All along I assured her that if anything were to happen that I would find good homes for her cats and things but I had never thought of what that would actually be like.
Keri was such a strong person and such a fighter that even as she began to lose more and more weight and sleep a lot more I wasn’t expecting her to pass when she did. We were planning Xmas Eve dinner for her, Ron and my in-laws and she was really looking forward to it. The Sunday before Xmas she took a turn for the worse and by Monday night she was on oxygen and pretty much unconscious. Ron came down and we were all by her side all week. She hung on until Xmas Eve morning and passed around 8:45am. When she took her last breath I heard a bunch of birds begin to chirp outside of her apartment which I had never heard before. It was beautiful and comforting. Keri had chosen to donate her body to Science Care and they promptly came and wrapped her in a black sheet with gold moons all over it (which she would of loved) and respectfully took her away. The 3 of us were left standing in front of her apartment looking at each other in disbelief. It was all so surreal.
The next few weeks were spent in a fog cleaning out her apartment, notifying friends, taking care of her cats while trying to find homes for them (her friend Amy stepped up and is temporarily housing all 4…we still need homes for the sisters Black and Sabbath) and closing out accounts. I have never been in this situation before. It was totally overwhelming especially while trying to grieve. I am so thankful for the strength and love of my husband and my family and friends.
Going through all of this has greatly changed my perspective on life, whats important to me, and how little “stuff” means after your dead. I have been completely drained and have only had the energy to put into work, yoga and spending quality time with friends. Work feels good and familiar, meaningful and purposeful. Yoga has given me peace and mental clarity and seeing friends gives me a charge of positive energy and love.
Science Care cremated what they didn’t use and sent me her ashes. They tried to deliver them Friday but I wasn’t home and I had to go pick them up at the Post Office first thing Monday morning. I hadn’t thought about how this might feel. My only concern was actually getting her out of the DT Long Beach Post Office as they have lost packages of mine before. When they finally located the box and handed it to me there was a big sticker on it that said CREMATED. My stomach sank. I carried the box over to the mailing station as I had some other things to do and placed it on top thinking how surreal it was that my best friend was in there. Then I took it to my car and placed it on the passenger seat where she used to sit. Nothing could of prepared me for this. When I got home I opened the box to find a big, black plastic box inside and a little crystal pyramid with a nice saying on it. The ashes are a lot heavier then I expected. She probably only weighed about 80lbs when she passed. I couldn’t bear to look at them any longer and packed them back up in the box and put it in the closet next to my bed until Ron can come back down and we can form a plan to scatter them in one of her favorite places like Joshua Tree of Big Sur.
I am not sure how many days, if any, I have not randomly burst into tears since Keri passed on Xmas Eve. I know she is in a better place and is not suffering anymore and that makes me happy but the last month has been the hardest I have ever been through in my life. She was such a beautiful soul and touched so many peoples lives. I am grateful for our friendship and loved her like a sister. Maybe one day I will have the energy write about all the wonderful things she did and all of our crazy, fun times together. In the meantime I will leave you with a few words Ron, Wade and I put together to honor her.
Kerilyn Marie Hendrickson
January 30,1975 – December 24, 2015
Keri passed away peacefully on Christmas Eve in her home with friends. She is deeply missed. She fought 3 types of cancer (breast, lymph and bone) over the last 10 years. She is survived by her four cats Pico, Black, Sabbath, and Wednesday (who are in need of a new home.) Keri touched our hearts with her kindness, humility and humor. She was a magical soul. She LOVED dancing, was an expert hula hooper, a taxidermy enthusiast, a punk rock hair/fashion model, musician, lover of music and quite possibly Lou Barlow’s biggest fan. She was strong, intelligent, independent and free spirited. Keri was a personal chef, developed raw vegan recipes for Mother’s Market, learned to cook exotic meats and developed recipes for Cafe La Rhonde in Florida, ran her own housekeeping business, obtained her motorcycle license at the age of 36 and graduated from IIN while she was battling cancer in order to help others as a health coach. Most of all Keri was a true friend.
In accordance with her wishes her body was donated to science. There will not be a service held because she disliked the idea of a memorial. You are invited to share photos, stories or messages here on her wall. Keri’s spirit lives on in all of us. We love you Keri!