Hi, it's Sheila.
As jury selection begins in the trial of suspected serial killer Anthony Kirkland, I can't help thinking about the families of the women he's accused of murdering, especially their mothers.
Kirkland is accused of killing Esme Kenney, Kimya Rolison, Casonya Crawford, and Mary Jo Newton.
Esme was a 13-year old student at the School for Creative and Performing Arts. She was killed a year ago while jogging near her home.
I met her mother, Lisa Siders Kenney, last month when I interviewed her for a Faith Works story. The minister at the Kenneys' church, St. John Unitarian Universalist in Clifton, had told me the Kenney's are an inspiration to her and to many in the Cincinnati community, and Rev. Denise Tracy told me about the many ways they have given to others in Esme's memory. I was nervous about talking with Lisa because I didn't want to ask a question or say anything that would add to her pain after losing her only child. She was so gracious and kind, that she made me feel at ease when I met her. She was open about her grief, and she shared with me how important it is for her and her husband Tom to keep Esme in their lives, by observing her birthday, making a place for her memory in their holiday celebrations, and just finding ways to keep sharing Esme's goodness with others. Lisa is not a Cincinnati native, but she told me the community has embraced her family and held them up. "I didn't grow up in Cincinnati. It's my adopted city, and I think it's just full of amazing people. I really have been overwhelmed with the giving and the support we've had here."
Their church, in particular, has helped them survive the worst thing that could ever happen to a parent by coming up with ways of giving the Kenney's moments of hope. In January, St. John's hosted a choral concert to celebrate what would have been Esme's fourteenth birthday, and on March 7 will hold a Quaker service for the Kenney's. Rev. Tracy says, "A Quaker service is simply a service where what happens come from those who attend. People can be silent, read, or sing as the spirit moves."
The service begins at 6:30 p.m. and ends at 8:00 p.m. People may come for a few minutes or stay the whole time.
Rev. Tracy says, "We want to provide a sacred space for community support so that in the midst of the trial and on the anniversary of Esme's death, concerned people can offer and receive solace. Lisa and Tom and I will be there, and we will receive whoever arrives and be together with them." She sums up the church community's compassion like this: "A human being hurt another human being, and I think our congregation saw their responsibility to show how much you can love in the face of that."
I encourage you to watch my Faith Works inteview with Lisa Kenney. You can find it under Faith Works here on the website.