Three times today I was annoyed at my kids for leaving the bathroom light on. Each time when I went to hit the switch to turn it off, I discovered it wasn’t on to begin with. The sun is finally shining after weeks of cold and ugly gray skies. I had gotten so accustomed to the gray that I had forgotten about brighter days when the sun streams through windows and casts light on every nook and cranny of my house, even the bathroom.
Although the sun is finally out after a long hiatus, gray clouds hang over my head today. Four children lost their mother this week after she was shot and killed by her sometimes boyfriend. Her three-week-old baby dropped from her arms as she fell to her death. For the past week, my thoughts have never strayed far from the family of Esme Kenney, a thirteen-year-old who went out for a jog on the first sunny spring-like day of 2009 when she met a nightmare named Anthony Kirkland. He (allegedly) murdered her. His trial began last week.
Just like Marcus Fiesel’s photo, I vividly remember seeing Esme’s picture flash across the TV news on the night of March 7, 2009. On the cusp of becoming a woman, she seemed childlike yet kind and wise beyond her years. There was a gentleness and sensitivity that radiated from her photo. My family and I prayed for her and her family that night. Two days later I went to mid-day mass to pray for her family as they digested the most horrible news anyone could receive about a precious child so loved.
Esme’s parents, Tom and Lisa Siders-Kenney, have every right to slam the door on life and live in hatred and excruciating pain. They must experience those days. Instead, just two weeks after Esme's death, Tom and Lisa issued a statement urging kindness. Read it here.
Something stronger than death is emerging in the countless good things that have been accomplished in the year since Esme died. The myriad of good deeds stretches across the globe but is held together by common themes of hope, courage, and tremendous love. A full list detailing the impact of Esme’s tragic death can be found here. It is amazing and powerful.
I’ve learned important truths while watching the story of Esme’s lasting impact on our world unfold over the past year. I’ve witnessed how an unspeakable act of violence can become the fertile ground of new growth, if passionate and courageous gardeners like Tom and Lisa tend it and a flock of loving family, friends, and strangers lend a hand. Tom and Lisa are teaching us that anything is possible when we work together. They are showing us the power of choosing life over death. They are reshaping our world with goodness and love.
Today is the first anniversary of Esme’s death. Tomorrow Esme’s mom will stand in a courtroom and testify against the man who took the life of her beloved girl. The gray clouds hanging over my head today pale in comparison to the darkness that must be raging in the hearts of Esme’s family. Even so, I pray that the light of Esme’s life radiates around them, envelopes them, and caresses them with her love and her presence. Her light, like the sun, is undeniable and brilliant. Even though it is sometimes hard to see and feel, it is always here.