Monday, March 31, 2014


My beloved husband, friend, partner and co-conspirator Kevin Brooks died 74 hours ago. It's only just starting to sink in. He won't be walking in the door and hugging me. He won't be calling me to see if I need anything as he comes home from work. He won't be playing with me, making silly faces again. He won't be.

What else is there to say. I am a wound now, little else. I know given time I will heal into something that vaguely resembles what I was before, but not the same. That knowledge doesn't help.

I can't imagine a world without him. I can't imagine a life without him. (I know, it will come, but that knowledge doesn't help). I can't imagine not touching him again, not feeling his hand on my cheek, not talking with him and watching the world together.

I can't.

I try to comfort myself with all the usual platitudes (good life... time together better than none... etc...) and they don't help. I either feel empty or I'm sobbing. I've smiled and laughed some (I am surrounded by people taking good care of me) but every breath feels like a lie.

A friend who was widowed a few years ago said this to me: Losing a parent is awful, but you don't get to choose them. You choose your spouse so losing them is even worse. Having not yet lost a parent I can't speak to this, but I do know that I honestly can't imagine a worse pain.

I know, it's breath by breath. Each breath is one I wish I could give him.

(c)2014 Laura S. Packer

p.s. Here is the obit I wrote for him. It's inadequate. Nothing can capture him.

Kevin Michael Brooks, 55, Kansas City, Missouri, moved onto his next adventure on March 28, 2014 surrounded by his family and friends. While pancreatic cancer may have removed his body from the earth, those who love him are sure he is still laughing, loving and learning somewhere else.

Kevin’s life is not defined by his illness. He was a man who adored his children, Stephan, Cara, Kristoff and Vered Brooks. He was a dedicated partner, problem-solver, lover and supporter to his wife, Laura Packer. He was a son who made his mother, Carolyn Brooks, proud every day. He was a brother, a cousin, an uncle and a nephew who inspired his entire family. He remained a helper to his first wife and the mother of his children, Marian King. His smile made everyone who met him know they were loved, whether they were old friends or new acquaintances. And his storytelling performances made his audiences laugh, cry and rejoice in the world.

Kevin was a graduate of Drexel, Stanford and MIT universities. He worked for Apple Computers, Motorola and Hallmark Cards as a designer, finding new ways to help people connect through technology. His innovative thinking and drive for connection led his Apple, Motorola and Hallmark colleagues to think in ways they had never imagined. His passion for education, innovation and creativity were exceeded only by his generosity with his fellow students and co-workers.

Kevin was born in Philadelphia, PA and made home wherever he lived including the Bay Area in California, Boston and Kansas City.

A terrific example of Kevin’s spirit can be found in his annual Christmas celebration. Every year he and his family would bake bread together, so it could be given as gifts and shared. They called it “diversity challah” and it represented all of the different facets of his life. Whole wheat and white challah doughs were braided together, baked and shared on Christmas, encompassing different races, religions and forms of celebration. On Christmas day Kevin and Laura would open their home and invite everyone they knew to come and celebrate, regardless of religion. Bread would be broken, food would be shared, stories would be told. Old friends and strangers would mingle and find joy together. Throughout it all, Kevin would smile, hug, laugh and welcome. His spirit was limitless.

His spirit remains limitless. While cancer may have ended his life here, he remains in our hearts. Every time those who know and love him bake bread, ride a bike, tell a story, invent something new, collaborate on a project, notice technical details of a film, drink a Long Island iced tea, laugh until they cry, juggle, swim, ride a roller coaster, eat barbecue, dance or embrace each other, he is there. We will love and remember him always.

In lieu of flowers donations can be made to his site, where the funds will assist in medical bills and other expenses; his family will also make donations in his name to appropriate charities. Memorial services will be held in Kansas City and Boston at a later date. Details will be posted on his page.

We are grateful for the gift of his life.

Creative Commons License

Friday, March 28, 2014

Kevin M. Brooks, Adventurer

Hi everyone,

It is with immense sorrow and overwhelming gratitude that I tell you that Kevin Brooks has moved onto his next adventure. Prior to his death, Kevin had many sweet hours holding hands, hugging and kissing those who love him.

His passage was peaceful. He was surrounded by family and close friends who sang him into the next world. His last words were to tell me he loves me.

I cannot tell you how sad I am.
I cannot tell you how grateful I am for the time we had together.
I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your support through this.

This cancer was too aggressive and cruel.

I am mute with grief.

HIs kids and I all appreciate your support. If you know any of his children, then you know how lucky I am to have them in my life. Please reach out to them.

Please remember Kevin as a friend, a father, a scholar, a thought leader, a storyteller, a dancer, a dreamer, a husband, a juggler, a kindhearted man, a bread baker, a wonderful man. The cancer is only a very small part of his story.

I will be sitting shiva in our KC home Saturday through Friday from 4-8pm. If you are local and want to come by, please do.

There will undoubtedly be memorial services here and in the Boston area. I will post on caringbridge as I have figured out more.

For now, I thank you all for your support. Please be in touch.

March 28, 2014

(c)2014 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The poems that feed us

I am reading a lot of poetry these days. It is carrying me through the long bedside nights and the days peppered with questions and new worries.

I'd like to share some of the more meaningful poems with you.
So I'll start here.

For Kevin, from me and e.e. cummings.

since feeling is first

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;

wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

(c)2014 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Monday, March 10, 2014


The cancer journey is a hard one. (Yes, it's a platitude, but it's no less true.) It strips away everything it can take.

It strips away the future.
It strips away strength.
It strips away faith.

I have been struggling to retain faith in something, hope in something, as Kevin walks this hard path. I keep coming back to physics.

When I was younger I loved reading popular science books, and especially books about physics. I retained some of it and find that now it gives me hope. If my interpretations are wrong please keep it to yourself, let me find comfort where I may.

  • The butterfly effect. Tiny actions may have incalculable results. Leading to -
  • The observer effect. We change things by observing them. We may even change things by thinking about them. The mere fact that hundreds if not thousands of people are thinking about and praying for Kevin may still have an unexpected, amazing effect. Even if it doesn't, all of that good energy will change those who are holding him in their hearts and ensure that he is always here in some fashion or another. Which brings me to another other law of physics I love.
  • Energy can be neither created nor destroyed, it can only be converted into another form. All of the energy that went into making the stars, the earth, each and every one of us, is still present. The energy that existed in the forms of those long dead is still here. Every bit. So when we lose someone their energy still exists, just in a different form. Maybe they are now part of an ocean wave or a bit of light headed off to explore new worlds. But their basic components, at the most basic level, still exist.
More than these, I remember the law of physics I learned when I was a young teen, from those masters Lennon and McCartney. This one gives me the most hope of all.
  • And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.  Which means, no matter what, Kevin is here now in a far greater form than his body and will always be here. You will remain, too. And me. The love is not lost or destroyed, it can only grow. The more we love, the more we are.
And that's really all I need to remember, to help me retain the future, strength and faith.

(c)2014 Laura S. Packer

p.s. Yes, I have read the wonderful NPR column by Aaron Freeman. I found it after I started pondering physics. If you haven't read it, you should. Creative Commons License

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The look

I have it. I know I do. And I recognize others who have it, especially here in the hospital. It's the look. The set of someone's face that says they are going through something hard. A look of peculiar distance and immediacy all at once.

I don't always know when I look this way and I know I can't tell you what it looks like on me, but I can see other people's reaction to me and I think Oh, yeah, I guess I have the look. When I look in the mirror all I see is tired, but I guess there's something else there. Or maybe tired, this tired, is enough.

I know it's there because people meet my eyes and then look away, but can't stop glancing back.

I know it's there because of unexpected kindness, like the lady in the cafeteria who gave me more fries than even a fifth grader could eat. "Here you go honey, you look like you could use a smile."

I know it's there because when I see someone else who has it, we smile at each other a tiny bit, a mutual acknowledgement that we are both in our own hells, not the same but neighboring, and it's nice to smile at your neighbors. Even if you don't want to smile at all.

I don't know what else to tell you about it but for this: When you see someone with the look, be kind. Don't stare, don't run away. It might be in a hospital, but I've seen it in the supermarket and at the gym, everywhere I have been. We all will wear this face at some point in our lives, so let it be a signpost for compassion and respect. It isn't a comfortable expression to wear but sometimes it's the best you can do.

(c)2014 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Asking for help

Sometimes the world gives you light in darkness. I have been overwhelmed by kindness as Kevin and I travel the pancreatic cancer road together. I am so grateful for all of it, from the cards to the prayers to the help offered over and over again.

I cry with pain and gratitude each time. I hate that we need this, but am so grateful it is here. Help helps.

One of the most challenging parts of this adventure for both of us is that we need more help than ever before. Whether it's help around the house, getting places or something else, we both have a greater need than we have had since we were tiny children.

Some friends recognized this need and have put together a fund raising page for us. They asked our permission and launched a youcaring site, so we can raise money to pursue treatment for Kevin that isn't covered by insurance (nothing too far fetched, but things like vitamin C infusions, Chinese medicine, acupuncture, massage, etc). They wanted to ensure that money wouldn't be a barrier to his care, to his kids visiting or to my health through this journey.

It was very hard, saying yes to this, until they reminded us that there are so many people who love us and so many people who want to help, this gives everyone a way to contribute directly to helping Kevin.

If you'd like to donate we would be humbled and grateful. If you don't want to donate, that's okay too. If you can help spread the word please do. Efforts like this rely on letting people know they have a chance to help.

Here is the link. Anything you donate will be used to help him. I promise, no sneaky luxury trips to the Azores or donations to dubious causes.

Thanks. We love you all.

(c)2014 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License
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