About Ray

The following was read as part of Emmit Ray Kenney’s funeral earlier today:

It was just another Summer of 1987 day, as far as I knew at the time.  Only much later would I find out how I benefited from a bit of down-home prophecy from one Emmit Ray Kenney.  As I was prone to do that summer, I had gone to the beach.  Strolling towards the water, wearing my swim trunks and too-cool-for-school sunglasses, I’m sure I was feeling good while enjoying those fun and care-free days before my senior year of high school.  I probably did not even notice Ray, and his freckled redheaded daughter Betsey, as I went past them.  But they noticed me, it seems.  I’ve been told that…

Ray said “Look, there goes the man you are going to marry.”  To which Betsey said, “What?” looked up, and then watched me go into the water, leaving my glasses on while doing so.  “Him?  He swims with his sunglasses on, he’s obviously full of himself” was Betsey’s reading a book by its cover reaction.  “No, take it from me, one day you will marry him” Ray responded.  Betsey dismissed his proclamation on the outside, but did take note of it inside, as her Poppy had never made such a declaration before.

I mention this story to you now, as it immediately came to mind for me during some of my last moments with Ray.  It happened this past Wednesday morning.  Ray had a fall, and this time suffered the injury we all feared.  It took us a while to confirm, as Ray’s pain tolerance level is legendary.  The injuries he suffered and recovered from during his WWII service would have killed you or me.  Only Emmit Ray Kenney would want help to stand up, and then to try to walk on a broken hip.  When he could not manage to take a step, Betsey and I had confirmation.  So we carefully got him into our car, and whisked our way to CMH in Bolivar, for medical examination and consultation on what would be the next best actions to take.

Somewhere along the way, I realized Ray was just quietly sitting there.  I would have been screaming my fool head off from the pain.  I asked him how he was doing.  He thought about that for a moment, and replied, very calmly and clearly “I am not having a very good day”.  While I told him I agreed, that today had been pretty rough so far, I instantly relived the tale of Ray’s prediction about me to Betsey.  Yet again, I was impressed by the man named Ray, known as Poppy to his immediate family.  He was in the middle of what had to be a terrible amount of suffering, and that was all the more negative he could be. Just calmly stating the obvious fact, when I would have been cussing a blue streak, or sobbing, or both.

When we brought Ray back home later that Wednesday, he started to simply rest.  After weeks of constantly fighting against sleeping more than an hour or two at time, he was being peaceful.  I got back to Stockton on a late Friday afternoon, and was so weary I allowed myself to take a small nap in the room across from his.  I fell asleep to the sound of his snoring.  I woke up to a world without Ray in it anymore.

I’ve thrown a lot of words your way so far, and as I write this, I can’t imagine myself getting to this point of reading them to you, without having lost it a few times already.  I hate speaking in public, with a passion.  Even so, I simply must publicly thank Ray and his wife Wilma for all they have done for me.  Not only have they always treated me well, thought the best of me even in my worst moments, they’ve lived a great example of Doing the Right Thing.  They adopted their darling 7-year-old granddaughter, and raised her well.  They indulged their teenaged daughter’s wishes to leave the Big City, and move to Stockton, Missouri of all places.  How else would I have ever met the woman I have been blessed to call my wife for over 21 years?

Ray and Wilma made the move that enabled Betsey and I getting to know one another.  Then, Ray lobbied on my behalf with Betsey, when he really did not know me from Adam.  I never did ask Ray why he did this.  And I am glad I did not, as I get to enjoy that mystery for the rest of my days on this Earth.  But thank you, Ray, for making sure I was not dismissed in a glance.

Micah 6:8 states “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?”  (NASB)  Emmit Ray Kenney was, for me, a shining example of what is good, what the LORD requires of us.  He was all about justice, and not just as a cop.  A footnote for “to love kindness” states “or loyalty”, and Ray certainly was loyal, in addition to being kind.  Ray’s walk with God was most certainly very humble.  Our world has been diminished with the loss of Poppy.  Anyone who has ever known Ray knows this loss as well.  As for me, I can only hope to fill some of the gap by doing what is good, what the LORD requires.  If we all fill the gap, our God-given world would be a better place.  And that would make Ray smile.


~ by Neal Cross on September 14, 2010.

2 Responses to “About Ray”

  1. While words cannot express the depth of loss you are experiencing with his passing, it is clear you have a great love and respect for this lovely man. I am confident that he felt this love and would have indeed appreciated the kind words and love. Clearly, he chose well for his daughter.

    May your memories and joys of Ray during your years together comfort your family during this time of sorrow. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  2. Praying for your family, and for time and memories to soften the sharp edges of the hurt soon.

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