October 30, 2010 4:40 pm
"Returning, forever returning, coming home
Belonging, forever belonging, never alone"
(John Denver, "Yellowstone, Coming Home")
Kenny was a cowboy. I know this because of the picture on the front of the memorial card. A young Kenny topped with a cowboy hat, sits on his horse.
Myself, I never saw Kenny wear a cowboy hat. That would have been something to see.
Actually, I only met Kenny a couple years ago. Kenny loved music. He loved to help organize the summer evening performances in the park. He could also sit down at any piano, even old ones in need of a good tune-up, and coax beautiful music from it as his fingers lovingly tumbled over the keys.
Kenny was born in 1969. He left us a week shy of his 41st birthday. My husband, who is a Care Aide at the hospital, was talking to Kenny a couple weeks back. Kenny was shivering cold, no matter how many blankets they piled on him. But still, he wanted to go outside and sleep on the ground. Maybe it was the cowboy in him. Maybe he was just ready to go home.
I suspect the funeral chapel really didn't expect many folks to turn up. As it turned out, the chapel itself was filled to overflowing. So was the adjoining foyer. There was Kenny's dad, Ken Sr., and Kenny's cousin. There were a group of elderly folks from the Friday night street-preaching group. Kenny loved their music. They loved Kenny. There were a few elderly folks who knew Kenny's dad, and were there to support him. There were folks who, I suppose, had met Kenny in the park, or who had listened to his music, when he dropped into churches before services and asked if he could play the piano while folks came in. There were health workers. Social workers. People from the street church where Kenny often dropped in for breakfast. Pastor Peter, Kenny's street pastor. Many of Kenny's street friends. All family.
Kenny's dad and cousin arrived a bit late. So the service hadn't started yet. One of the street guys got out of his chair. Walked right up to the front. Faced the crowd. Eyes glistening, he told of his love for Kenny. How Kenny had been his best friend. "Hallelujahs" and "Amens" came from the elderly folks. Tears started flowing. He rushed down the aisle and out to the foyer.
Another of the guys got up and stumbled to the front. Kenny was his brother, he told us. Kenny took care of everyone on the street. He f-ing loved Kenny. "Yes, he did," many voices responded.
A third street guy came up, faced the group, spoke words of care. Tears were flowing throughout the group. Happy and sad tears, all at once.
Kenny's dad and cousin arrived. Ken Sr. got up and told us about Kenny's younger days. His birth to a 15 year old young woman. Four foster homes in his first year or so of life. And how God brought him to a newly married couple in their forties who asked God for the child He wanted them to have.
He told us many sweet, happy stories, of Kenny's love for music, of his quick mind, and his sometimes mischievous nature. And most of all, of Kenny's love for Jesus right from his earliest years. And quietly, sadly, at the end, he mentioned that Kenny had also had his own personal demons. Wrapped up in drugs and alcohol.