Ten years ago my wife Laura and I welcomed our first child into this world. Kenneth “Kenny” James Butts was born at approximately 8:30 in the morning on July 31, 2002. Kenny unexpectedly died on August 2, 2002 and there has not been a day since that I have not missed my son. The picture to the left was his first formal picture taken at the hospital, which he peacefully slept through. Rather than focusing on his death, for this post I want to focus on his life since there is so much to celebrate about it. In the following two posts, I want to discuss the horror of losing a son and then how I discovered hope in the midst of suffering.
About the life of Kenny…
As I said, Kenny was born in the morning. Laura and I were living in Searcy, Arkansas at the time. It was on a Wednesday morning and Laura gave birth to him through a cesarian delivery in an operating room, so we were on a lower level then the maternity ward. The nurses let me hold Kenny and show him to Laura. We both shed tears of joy, for we both were captivated by this bundle of joy with a love that goes beyond description (if you’re a parent, you understand). We named Kenny after both of his Grandpas, Kenneth Butts and James Martin.
I was allowed to carry Kenny upstairs to the maternity ward where I proudly introduced him to “Grandpa Jim” and “Grandma Jan” Martin. Realizing how crowded and stressful the maternity room can be after a new baby is born, Kenny’s “Grandma Mary” (my mother) had not planned on coming down until the following week. So I called my mom on the phone and remember being nearly incapable of saying anything due to the joyous emotion that had overcome me (that was a great feeling). Over the next two days, many friends from Harding University, Covenant Fellowship Church, and our Wednesday Evening Bible Study Group stopped by. Even though we were tired (especially Laura who was recovering from surgery), I am so glad that we allowed all of these friends to share in the joy of our son’s life.
There are many great memories too.
- Kenny taught me my first lesson about changing diapers on little boys – keep ’em covered up or else you get the front of your shirt peed on, which happened to me.
- On the second day of Kenny’s life I read to him from God’s word. This was the passage I read to him: “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these'” (Matthew 19:14). I wanted my son to know that from the day of his birth, he was welcome to be in the presence of Jesus.
- When we brought Kenny home, I also had the opportunity to sit down and bond with him as father and son should…we watched the Chicago Cubs baseball game together. The truth is, I wanted to indoctrinate Kenny into which baseball team he would root for.
- We also have pictures of Kenny sleeping peacefully on his mother’s shoulder after getting his belly filled. Again, the word “beautiful” comes to mind but that is a beauty that words can’t begin to capture.
Like all children, Kenny brought great joy to us. He will always be our child, our first child. Before Kenny was ever born, our prayer for him was simple. We prayed that he would grow up to love and serve God. We didn’t have any particular vocation or geographical location in mind. Whether he became a pediatrician, plumber, or preacher and whether he lived a mile down the road or half way around the globe, that did not matter. We just wanted to raise Kenny to love and serve God.
While Kenny never got the opportunity to grow up and be an adult, Laura and I praise God that he forever loves and serves God. We only had three days with him but those three days are still better than nothing at all.
Below is a video with the song and lyrics to Mark Schultz’s song Remember Me. The song was played at Kenny’s memorial service and I share it with you. When I listen to the song, I remember not just the life that Kenny lived but the life he now lives safely in heaven with Jesus.
Kenny: I do remember and I’ll never forget. I love you always, your dad!
See also part 2 and 3 of this “Remembering Kenny” trilogy: