Kim Chatfield Rhoades, 1952-2014.
Darkness. That is my earliest memory. So much darkness. But you know, it takes just a little bit of light to chase the blackness. As I look back, I can count on one hand the earliest sources of brightness in my life. Let me share one.
Kim was my first cousin on my mother’s side. She lived just a few houses down from us in Ashland, Kentucky. I remember how my mom loved Kim and was always glad to see her. So was I. Yet after my parents’ divorce and my father’s abandonment of us, we had little contact with Kim or anyone in Ashland. I thought of her from time to time over the years, wondering how she was and wanting to tell her how she brought some joy to my young heart. Several years ago when I began writing “fatherlyFIRE,” I reconnected with Kim. Our first phone conversation had me smiling…she was so full of life and fun, just as I remembered.
Kim was four years older than me and every bit as mischievous. I got together with her and her husband Ron a couple of times over dinner in the last few years. She and I laughed as we remembered our little attempt at having a Kool-Aid stand at my house. Being skilled entrepreneurs (I must have been all of six or seven), we decided to offer our customers more than the standard sugar water. Into my house we went. We found a box of fudge in the fridge. Perfect! We chopped it up and offered fudge for sale. We were good. Except for one thing. That fudge happened to belong to my abusive alcoholic father, a gift from one of his many female “friends.” He came home and was not pleased, but he was rarely pleased. He scared us both and sent Kim home. I’ve blocked any memory of what happened to me after that, but whatever it was, it was absolutely worth it! I’m sure my mother appreciated our decision to sell his fudge.
Kim also shared with me her memory of what really amounted to the abrupt disappearance of my mom, brother, sister, and me. Kim told me she just came over one day…with a present, a book, for me. And we were gone. Just gone, without a trace. To California at that time I think. We both came close to tears as she told me that story and I remembered flashes of the craziness of that time. She cared about me.
Kim died last Sunday morning at her home in Ashland, Kentucky. Suddenly, without warning, according to her husband Ron. Kim was just 61. Ron called on Tuesday to let me know. It’s hard to explain the sorrow I felt, the sense of loss, the amplified feeling of being alone. Kim and I didn’t have much contact, even after we reconnected. But I knew she was there and she cared. My family…a rare thing. And the times we did get together were rich, sharing pictures and memories. Good memories. How precious those are to me. Her funeral is today, Thursday. How I wish I could go.
I thought of Kim just a few weeks ago as I visited my son Jonathan, daughter-in-law Torrie, and grandson Jared in Knoxville. I drove past the exit to Ashland and thought about stopping by. I didn’t. That is a mistake I will try harder to avoid in the future. Those I love need to know it by my words and my actions. There are no time guarantees.
Goodbye, Kim. I’m so glad I had the chance to tell you how you brought light into my young life, how you made me smile then and as an adult. Thank you, Kim. I will pray for Ron and your family, that God will grant peace. I know they know how blessed they were with you in their lives.
There is one less bright light in my life today. My resolve is to never miss an opportunity to let all the others know how much I appreciate them and the difference they make in my life.
“Pain…is to strengthen us, for what has wounded us most deeply is often what has made us who we are. Our pain is often what has developed us, strengthened us, allowed us the ability to grow.”
– James Emery White – Pastor, Mecklenberg Church, North Carolina.