My Tribute to Kethan | St. Andrew’s Memorial Service

On July 14, I had the privilege of giving one of three tributes/eulogies to a truly special little boy, Kethan. My tribute can be found here. I have included the text below, since it is a bit difficult to hear:

I will never forget the day that brought Kethan into my life. As many of you know, our former head of school, Lucy Nazro, always hosted a reception for each of the grades at the start of every new school year. I remember exactly where I was standing on the deck at the back of her house when I met two of the most amazing people in the world. Sumi and Lokesh. Their son, Kethan, was starting first grade just like our daughter Kyla. When I heard he was fighting cancer just like my wife was fighting a recurrence of her breast cancer, something stirred inside of me.

When I met him, his smile and his glow and his warmth reached into my heart and quite simply, changed me. I know that that smile and that that glow are exactly what has brought all of us into this chapel together today to celebrate Kethan. Of course, if you’ve spent time with Kethan, you have spent time with his mom and dad, so it is clear where his quiet spirit, smile, and courage emanate. There is so much I could say about how Kethan has transformed my life, but I am simply going to share a few special stories.

The first came not long after meeting Kethan. His fight inspired me to fight, and I needed to find something to do. I chose that bike over there and a little over four years ago rode it one hundred miles around Lake Tahoe for the first time in early June. Before heading out for this ride with Team in Training, Kethan’s classmates were gathered for their daily service in the former chapel. If you think this chapel isn’t big enough to hold all of us let me tell you that one certainly wouldn’t handle the crowd that has gathered for Kethan today. On that day in 2010, I had my head shaved to honor Kethan. I have to tell you there have been many times over the past few year that Kethan has pointed out to me, “Mr. Thompson you do know I have more hair than you do now.” I have a picture of the two bald guys sitting together on those chapel steps on my desk in my office to this day. My next story with Kethan is also Tahoe related. One year after my first ride, Kethan and his family, as well as my family, all came out for the ride in Lake Tahoe. From eating pizza together with the whole Austin team at Lake Tahoe pizza to having lunch at the Sunnyside Café, I will not forget that trip, especially having him there to cheer me along the way and meet me at the finish line. As you might expect, his smile and his glow affected everybody on the Austin cycling team. We each had a picture of him, captured that weekend, on our saddles, riding with us. As we reached the end of the ride, we each held out our photo of Kethan in front of us at the finish line so that Kethan, our hero, would come across the finish first.

Like Tim Burton said in his note on their flowers, the moment you meet Kethan you are changed. That is true of everyone at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, too. There is a letter from the CEO of LLS, John Walter, sitting in the library which y’all can read at the reception following the service. The Society is also graciously hosting the reception because like everyone here they have been changed by Kethan, too. Kethan has another friend here, Jennifer, that flew in from LA. Jennifer is a very important part of the last few months of this story. She helped connect the dots at her company, Pfizer, in late January to get compassionate use of Inotuzumab for Kethan to fight his leukemia. When Kethan was out visiting Tim Burton before the Oscars because of the success of Inotuzumab, Sumi, Lokesh and Kethan met her and her family for dinner.

Like me, like you, like Tim, she was changed immediately. She is now preparing to run a marathon for Team Kethan. I guess she doesn’t like bikes. My last story to share occurred on the day that LLS filmed Kethan’s story here at St. Andrews. By the way, his story has been viewed over 1500 times already, 1500 more people that have been changed by his quiet spirit, courage, strength and, of course, his smile. Many parts of that story were filmed right here in the chapel, however, the story that I’m about to share happened in the fifth grade wing. It wasn’t captured on film but will be captured forever in the hearts of Kethan’s classmates. When Kethan entered the hallway, the spontaneous eruptions of joy and the shrieks of Kethan up and down the hallway were simply magical. His classmates were transformed just like all of us.

As I say my last goodbyes, my reflections wouldn’t be complete without a reference to Alice in Wonderland, Kethan’s favorite Tim Burton film. In Alice, there is a character, Abselom, a caterpillar, who is wise like Kethan. Abselom, late in the movie is hanging upside in a chrysalis, changing from caterpillar to butterfly. Alice asks, “are you dying?” and he responds, “No. This is not the end. This is a transformation.” Kethan, my little brother, you transformed all of us. I’m going to miss you and I will never stop fighting the jaberwocky and may none of us ever lose our muchness.