Rex and Connie Kennemer lost their only child, Todd Kennemer 25, to suicide, after a fierce bout of mental illness. The Kennemers have dedicated their lives to working within the mental health community and the faith community to reduce stigma and to educate in the arenas of mental health and suicide prevention.
Barb Harris is my dearest friend from church and has been for over a decade. When we received the dreadful news of Todd’s death, Barb was one of the first friends on the scene. She spent my first night without Todd on the floor beside the couch where I attempted to block out reality through the numb night hours. I still remember reaching down to make sure she was still there. Barb hardly knew Todd but she loved him dearly as only a mother could. She had passionately prayed for him through the season of his illness. Todd’s gravestone has the imprint of a butterfly alongside a scripture reference, 2 Corinthians 5:17. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!” The butterfly portrays Todd’s freedom from pain and suffering, his metamorphosis into the life he was called to live.
One day a few years ago Barb was in her garden when a butterfly landed on one of her plants. Moving silently and slowly, Barb gently coaxed it to rest on her finger. Much to her surprise and delight, the beautiful insect did not resist. She carried her tiny traveler into the house where she placed it on the strings of her guitar. It settled instantly as if the instrument were a friendly flower. Time seemed to stop as Barb quietly grabbed her camera and took this amazing picture. Immediately she thought of Todd and his guitar: Alive, beautiful and free. When she finished this surreal “photo shoot”, the butterfly landed on her finger once more and returned to the garden where it took flight. She caught her breath as the truth of the verse resonated in her soul: A new creation…the old is gone, the new is come.