Her music, stopped

Usually when I hear of a young girl being the victim of an act of random violence I say to myself something like:  “how sad that her life is cut short — I’m sorry for her family.”   And then I move on.  One such report was on local TV last weekend about a Vancouver, WA teenager who had taken a shortcut across a field on her way home and ended up dead at the hands of a known sex offender who was living nearby.

I never felt personally connected to any of the young victims of these kinds of sudden death at the hands of a stranger until this past weekend when I got a call from my sister in another state. That phone call meant that I now had a direct DNA-level family connection to one these young victims.

The  body of 13-year-old daughter of a cousin had been found in the woods near her home, hours after she had been reported missing.  There had been an Amber Alert, but she was probably already dead at the hands of her assailant  by the time it was issued.

It was a bright sunny day in Cincinnati when Esme Kenney told her parents that she was going for a run around the nearby reservoir, something she had frequently done for exercise, setting out around 3 p.m.  When she did not return at her usual time, her parents were alarmed, police were notified and a search was begun.   Esme’s  body was found at about 3:30 a.m. the following morning in the woods near the reservoir, not far from the path where she had set out for a short run.

As I pointed out earlier, Esme Kenney was the daughter of a cousin, a member of a large extended family that was presided over throughout my childhood by a strong-willed matriarch who had reared five children to adulthood without a spouse at her side to provide financial support.

I first knew of Esme’s presence on the family tree when she was just an infant.  Her proud father was cradling her in his arms, radiant with pride and joy.  He was so very, very happy at that time.   As a pediatrician he had dedicated his life to nurturing children but the one in his arms was very special.

As Esme grew she developed an interest in music and enrolled in the School of Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati with a double major in vocal and instrumental music (cello).  She wanted to share her passion for music with others. We will never know whether she would have been a worthy successor to Yo Yo Ma.  Her great-great grandmother Kate, who famously danced a jig on her 90th birthday, would have found in Esme a kindred spirit.

Sadly, Esme will not live to see her 14th birthday, much less her 90th.  Esme Kenney’s personal song stopped, tragically, too young.

This “bright spirit” brought joy to many with her music.   Let her song live on in in our hearts.  Let us celebrate Esme whenever music moves us to great joy or sorrow or any of the many other emotions that music can evoke in the human breast.  That is the best memorial for Esme Kenney — letting the music speak to us and for us when words don’t work.

Some links to other thoughts about Esme Kenney:


and Esme’s personal blog:


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4 Comments on “Her music, stopped”

  1. Michelle Says:

    RIP Esme! I live in Cincy and am outraged that this was allowed to happen. My heart breaks for her parents. Heaven is full of music right now!

  2. Debi lockwood Says:

    My heart breaks at your loss Esme… may the Lord bring comfort to your family. Most especially your mother and father, who miss you more than can be tolerated. Your music and light left an indelible impression on all of us.

  3. Thank you for this post. I am sorry for your loss and can’t stop thinking of Esme, her family and how cruel and unfair this is.
    The more we hear about the circumstances and how her killer should not have even been free, I just…there aren’t words.
    I pray that she did not suffer.

  4. This is so sad. We are all children of the Earth, interconnected in ways beyond understanding. When an elephant dies, the other elephants in the group express their sorrow. They gather around, extend their trunks, and gently touch the tusks of their fallen friend. May everyone who reads this come to the circle, send thoughts of healing to Esme’s family, and share the common grief.

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