It’s hard to be in a hospital room with a loved one.
Final moments are labors of love built upon the foundations of devotion. One never resents or regrets this time because of all the love and good times shared with that person, and it's an honor to share that remaining time with this special person.
In the personal memoir "DeForest Kelley: Up Close and Personal: A Harvest of Memories from the Fan Who Knew Him Best," Kristine Smith was in that room with Star Trek legend DeForest Kelley, and in a way that could never be forgotten by her ... or us.
This is a personal memoir about a fan’s experiences with Kelley. From the time when they first met in May 1968, to Kelley’s last days in June 1999, Smith shares the most poignant and intimate moments experienced with both DeForest and Carolyn Kelley as teenage devotee, convention-trekkin’ fan club booster, and eventually personal caregiver and assistant.
We want to know about Deforest Kelley’s personal life — his friendships, his generosity and the way he interacted with his fans. Moreover, we want anecdotes — ones that can only be related by someone who knew him well. Smith provides us with these answers through her recollections.
Let’s face it, as lovers of Trek, we all have our fan stories. But what is distinctive about Smith’s account of her experiences with DeForest Kelley is the level of personal interaction that developed over time. Smith began as a star-struck fan — as most of us are — but then graduated to the point where she and the Kelleys were familiar enough to allow her access into a relationship that fans would dream of: They became friends.
That’s the ultimate dream of every Star Trek fan, isn’t it? To become friends with our Trek heroes? We learn about the growing friendship between Smith and the Kelleys, and through their shared antics and endeavors (the image of DeForest Kelley holding a bronzed plaque of elephant dung is decidedly a fun one for me) just what sort of a man he was. Smith presents to us the image of a cheery, charming, and as fans would imagine him to be, the soul of a Southern gentleman. In this book, Smith gets to share her realization of every fan’s dream with us.
The fun definitely has its place in this collection of reminisces as well — whether polishing a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, sharing animal adventures or even hotel hijinks at Star Trek conventions, Smith and the Kelleys clearly enjoyed their shared moments together. The collection of photos in the memoir also reveal this side of the relationship, sharing moments of shared hilarity and wackiness.
Readers get a vicarious enjoyment of Smith’s experiences in this book. Writing in a plain, yet visceral style, Smith leaves nothing to imagination. It's a pure and amazingly detailed recollection of her memories in explicitly written and, at times, awkward fashion. However, the purpose of this technique is clear: To attach an emotional connection of her time with DeForest Kelley to the reader. In short, her style allows us to experience her memories in a very clear and sympathetic way.
What was it like to get to know this man? Smith’s fan-club experiences, following him to different conventions, writing about him in the fan club newsletters and being invited to the various special events in his life gave her a unique vantage point on DeForest and Carolyn Kelley’s lives. She was present for the many celebrations and special events they were a part of and was able to share with them as friends would. In fact, Smith credits the Kelleys with giving her the impetus to her writing career. This sort of inspiration is special and is a hallmark of special friendship, and that becomes apparently clear.
Readers who have experienced caring for loved ones in a hospital will be able to relate to this memoir as well. Even though the subject of this book is a Star Trek icon, it also is about someone special in another’s life.
Anyone who’s ever cared for a dying family member knows what a labor of love it's to be there for him or her. More commonly it’s a parent, but I’ve been in hospital rooms to care for generations of my family, ahead and behind me. Whether it was my mother approaching the end of her life, or my daughter fighting for hers as she underwent chemotherapy for more than 600 days; the memory of being there, in that hospital room for them is one that is etched permanently into the surface of your being.
We are present in that hospital room with DeForest Kelley. Smith has gathered a collection of whacky, joyful moments and bittersweet, poignant episodes that pay homage to the character of this man, and in his last days, bring him closer to his fans in a moment of final respect and appreciation.
"DeForest Kelley: Up Close and Personal: A Harvest of Memories from the Fan Who Knew Him Best" is available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle format.