Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spring starts...

Note:  For those looking for Esme Kenney's eulogy, it can be found below, or in the archives dated March 11th.  

Today I went out and did a touch of birding for the first time since my sister's death on March 7th.  In truth, I largely forced myself to do it; I am still in a difficult place where it is hard to take pleasure in much of anything, and hard to look forward to the future.  But I think it is important that at some point I take an active stand for myself and my spirits; there is some selfishness in this but I think Esme would want to see a smile on my face again.

The last couple of days, Sunday and Monday, were exceptionally tough.  I do not fully understand why.  It feels like part of me is coming out of shock, and I am losing shelter to find myself in the middle of something very heavy with no end in sight.  As horrifying as the first couple of weeks were, I had some intellectual understanding that I would come out of it eventually, but this weekend I had glimpses of the possibility that I wouldn't.  Which is scary.  And the understanding that maybe I would need outside help, even beyond the very close and supportive family I have.  I have never really felt that way before.  

Also, it rained both Sunday and Monday, and I had been used to reclaiming some basic connection with reality and a modest infusion of well-being from taking in some sun on a daily basis.  Last night I had a spot of music (Beethoven) with my string quartet which pulled me back somewhat so that I went to sleep in a better place.  And this morning, seeing the sun shining, I made the effort to get out in it first thing, with a walk at Hammond Pond, my favorite park in Newton, and a place I may see very little of in the future, as I move to Ipswich this weekend.  

Hammond Pond really doesn't come into its own until mid and high Spring, with copious carpets of ground cover, decidedly varied woodlands and wonderful patches of skunk cabbage in the marshy spots.  But there were a few birds frisking about, nothing noteworthy but it was good to hear their song, see their escalating activity and a few signs of nest-building from robins and goldfinches.  Common mergansers prowled the pond, a large community of mallards waded and swam through the marsh, downy woodpeckers rapped and golden-crowned kinglets hovered, all to the ever-present symphony of the red-winged blackbirds.

I feel better today, though still a long way from chipper.  Love to all.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Esme Kenney, 1996 - 2009

The following is the eulogy for my sister Esme who was taken from us Saturday, March 7th, 2009.

13 years ago we had the amazing experience of welcoming into the world a new baby girl. I remember the first I held her in my arms, I wondered about this new little being in the world--who she was, and who she would become.

Who was Esme Kenney?

When Esme was 3 years old, she already knew the make and model of the cars of every single member of her family and friends. When I would drive over to see her, as I got my welcome hug, she was usually looking over my shoulder to check and see what kind of car I was driving.

This interest extended into boats, when our family would take our annual summer trips to Canada. Her ability to identify boats was so good, that at the age of 6, after hearing a tinny rumble off in the distance over the lake, she would announce with supreme confidence “Here comes Bob in the 25.” And she was always spot on. And then she would run down to the dock, a welcoming committee you could always count on.

Her biggest dream in Canada was to drive the boat like the big kids. When she finally was granted her boating license, it became difficult to pry the steering arm out of her hands, but if we insisted, she would relent cheerfully – she was a generous soul. And if your boating skills were rudimentary, she would be happy to teach you.

She loved learning and exploring, and her school and friends were immensely important to her. In addition to becoming an expert in the fine art of making scrambled eggs and blueberry pancakes, she shared with us important lessons that she had been taught in school. Once she was asked what she had learned in Kindergarten that year, and she replied, very solemnly, “I learned not to bite and scratch.”

She loved the water, going snorkeling, and had even for the first time last summer successfully gotten up on water skis. She was scared of Daddy Longlegs, but very little else. Animals were her friends, from the baby chicks she raised to her beloved dogs.

Esme was a born artist. Those of you who know her parents wouldn’t be surprised to know that she was blessed with a lifetime’s worth of creativity.

She was a cellist, a guitarist, and a singer. She loved Bach, the Beach Boys, and High School Musical. She grew up surrounded by music and books. We were always reading to her, even as a little baby. Often after the story was over, she could be found outside walking in circles retelling the stories to herself in a million different imaginative ways. Sometimes we were pulled into the story, and played the ugly stepsister to her Cinderella or scullery boy in her royal castle in the sky. As she started to choose her own books to read, her favorites ranged from the Little House Books, to The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Twilight.

It’s apparent, from the number of people here, and the messages from all who came in contact with her. that Esme was a tremendously gifted people person. The bond she forged with the people in her life was truly amazing. I always knew that I had a very special bond with Esme, because we had such a great friendship, and loved to talk to each other and hang out. However I have a feeling that most of us thought that, that we all knew that we were important to her and that she liked being with us. And that was truly a gift, this gift of making us feel special and loved, and it came from the deepest, richest, most essential part of her soul. She loved people. Meeting them, talking to them, learning about them, and sharing with them about herself and her interests. I loved to check in with her with a chat or a phone call, and hear about everything she was up to, what she just did together with friends or family, and how much fun it had been. And it was always fun! She brought a spark to the air around her and if you were hanging out with Esme you were having fun and you were just happy to be around her and share that gift.

That spirit was so infectious - Esme got so fired up, so enthusiastic, about everything she did in life. Esme taught us not to take life for granted. Even the very simplest things were cause for pleasure, such as riding the subway in Boston or programming her father’s mobile phone. She just loved to do stuff, get involved, go visiting, get people going on some activity like a singalong or a board game. Her enthusiasm carried over to the people around her, we could all benefit from trying to live life with more of Esme’s spark.

Esme’s life was full of love, friendships, family and freedom. She was playful, imaginative, and deeply engaged with the people she was surrounded by. She was a family girl, and her family was most important to her.

But Esme taught us that everyone is many things to many people. She was a daughter and granddaughter, a sister, a neice, a cousin, and an aunt, but she was also a friend, a student, a young woman. As her family, we’ve always known how special Esme was from the day she was born, but even so it has been wonderful, and so healing, to hear so many stories from her friends from school about how giving, funny, spirited and kind she was. From how she met Sam and became good friends after he spilled milk on her, how she was always willing to sit with and befriend the lonely kid sitting by himself, how she stuck up for kids being bullied in the hallways, how she made friends all over the school, boys, girls, older kids, younger kids, even teachers. She was better friends with many adults than many adults are with each other.

I know that everybody who knew Esme, even for just a few minutes, could think of 10, 100 or even a 1,000 other things that she was, but the thing we miss the most now that Esme is not here, is not who she was but the ongoing person who Esme was becoming, every year, every day, every second. We were all so excited to see Esme grow and explore herself and the world around her, to see the new amazing woman this girl who we all knew and loved would become. She would have knocked us out.

And this is why her loss is so devastating – it’s not just a loss of what was, but a loss of what could become. A loss of incredible potential. This has left an enormous hole in our hearts. We want her back so badly. We want her back, to see her again, to watch her grow, to grow with her, to see the unique paths this unique person would take.

Faced with such a senseless crime and losing someone you loved so much, it is easy to feel that your world has lost its meaning and to focus on the anger and despair. However, it is important to remember that the sum of a person’s life cannot be measured from their final moments. There are none of us who would trade the 13 years that we had with Esme, that Esme had with herself and the world around her, just so that we could avoid feeling the way we do now. They were great years, and Esme’s joyful spirit was freely given to everyone she met, such that we all became better people for knowing her. Though it was short, we are endlessly grateful for the time and love we shared with Esme.

The outpouring of grief, love, friendship, support, of memories and well-wishes in these days has been phenomenal and inspiring. We all know how special she was to her friends and family but we have nonetheless been heartened by how many friends she had, how special she was to them, how shocked and grieved they are and the extent that they have now come forward to offer their condolences, their grief and their support in this extremely difficult time. It seems that everybody who knew her was touched by her gift and now is deeply saddened by her passing. And though it is very difficult, our memories and the spirit of Esme that we all share have inspired us to a celebration of her life and spirit, with musical tributes, art, poetry, thoughts and remembrances. This is what life is, what love is, and never let anybody ever tell you that there is no real goodness in the world: we have Esme’s life and the love of the people around her as proof of that. Hold that, keep it, treasure it, remember it, think on it every day of your life and bring that spirit to everything you do and the world becomes a better and better place in return.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Scenes from Austin

Our helmsman, Joe.
Kirsten, holding on.
Me again, in my new green sunglasses.
Brian, our master of ceremonies during the sailing excursion.
Skies at the Austin Kite Festival.  
Kirsten, John and Josie.

Well, I've now left Texas behind me, but not before a couple of adventurous days in Austin visiting with my friend Kirsten and her family.  She just about wore me out, but we had a great time, seeing local (and awesome) band the Gourds, going sailing on Lake Travis in gusts up to 45 mph, biking along Lady Bird Lake to the Austin Kite Festival, where as nice as the kites were the highlight was the chicken sandwich from kebobalicious (something like that), visiting with other college friends Brian, Anne-Marie and Margot and their families and children, and finally topping it all off with a Pretenders show (Chrissie Hynde does rock, definitely).  

Austin is almost criminally groovy, and winter seems an ideal time to visit there, not to mention the rest of Texas.  There seems to be tons going on, and the weather seems hard to beat, even for someone born and bred in the snow belt and finds the first snow of each season a pretty special time (the last snow is something else entirely, but at least Spring is around the corner by that point).  There's a million bands, everybody is biking, hiking or jogging around town, and good Tex-mex food graces every block.  

Now I'm back in Cincinnati to visit with family and get a few hometown chores done and get a couple 5-ways at Skyline before setting my sights back on Boston and my big transition to farm life up in Ipswich.    I need some boots.