Our loss is Heaven's gain

On May 31st  2011, I lost a good friend.

Rhonda Kenner passed away this past week after a valiant struggle. Rhonda was a co-worker of mine for the better portion of 25 years between a couple of different radio stations, most recently here at B97.5. She was a very good person. She was relentless. She was strong. She was good hearted. She was always in a "Life is Good" shirt of some sort. If she liked something you said or did she would give you a "thumbs up" sign. If she really liked it you would get the "two thumbs up" sign. Those were tougher to get. She was a believer in God and she was completely confident in her path after this world. She cared about people and she cared about their path after their worldly journey has ended. Regardless of any beliefs you may or may not hold yourself of the afterlife, you have to admire those that care enough about us to want us to be with them after this life is over. Rhonda walked this walk every day. I truly admire her for that.

Rhonda would be the first to tell you she wasn't perfect. She would deflect the accolades and say that she's just one person doing what they can to make a little difference. But, she really was far more than that. 

Rhonda had a very tough childhood. She shared with me and select others her stories of things that happened to her that made my blood boil when I learned of them. I get angry even now just thinking about the cruelness of some people and how they can do to others the things they do. My friend deserved, as does every child, a much better childhood than she lived. I'm not writing this to blame anyone for anything. Rhonda would chastise me for doing that and in her memory, I won't. She used her experiences to help others. She threw her entire heart into Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center. It was one of her main passions. She emailed me often asking me if there was anything B97.5 could do to help out. Did I mention that Rhonda was relentless?

I spent the better part of a day at the hospital the Saturday before Rhonda passed. It was amazing to watch the number of people from all walks of life arrive to spend a few minutes with Rhonda. The crowd was so large that I left her room and hallway and just sat in the waiting room and watched most of the day. I just wanted to be nearby for my friend and clearly dozens of others felt exactly the same. On Saturday, she was alert and able to communicate and that was a good day. I'm truly glad she had a time where she could see how many people's lives she had touched and that they could tell her they love her. She deserved that very much. I can assure you that were the situation reversed she would have been there for them and for me. I told her that I loved her. I got a "thumbs up" back at me. ALS had long ago taken her ability to speak.

As her health deteriorated over the weekend I was torn between praying for her recovery from the pneumonia and praying for her only path of escape from the ever increasing bonds of her illness. Even though the verdict is in, I'm still struggling internally with that dilemma. I will be forever grateful that I did get one last chance to see my friend less than an hour before she beat ALS. (I phrase it that way because it could never beat her.) It wasn't a pretty site to witness with tubes and monitors everywhere and Rhonda struggling to breathe. But, in many ways, it was indicative of how her life began, with childhood struggles I can't comprehend even today. The irony of that struck me while I stood there saying my farewell. There was something almost calming about that. As if she was saying, "My childhood didn't break me and dying won't either." Did I mention she was strong?

I was honored to be a pall bearer for Rhonda. I have no doubt that there were dozens of far more deserving people in her life than me that could have been asked. But, it is something I will remember the remainder of my life.

I will also remember my good friend, Rhonda Kenner, for her "Life is Good" attitude and her unrelenting passion to show others the path to heaven through her everyday walk. It was said in her service that, "She witnessed to more people in the past year without being able to speak a word than most people do in a lifetime." I have no doubt that is true. THAT was Rhonda Kenner.

Rest in Peace my friend.

Two thumbs up for a life well lived.

I would ask that in her honor you make a donation to:

Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center c/o
Donna Koester/Executive Director
P.O. Box 4536
Sevierville, TN 37864