by Andrea Brett
On Friday, April 12 we had the opportunity to pause from our crazy schedules and celebrate a life well-lived.
For those of you who have been to our show in Branson, you may remember our friend and “around the town” marketer, Kenneth Reitmeier. Our family met Kenneth and his wife, Sug, about 15 years ago when they first came to see our show. They quickly became fans, then they became dear friends, and soon they were like family. Kenneth and Sug came into our lives at a good time. With Tom’s parents living in Washington state and my folks having recently moved away from us to Utah, they became our Branson parents and grandparents, and they did what good family does – they cared aboutus and took care ofus. They attended the kids’ games and special events, they brought us treats and health remedies, they shared beautiful written words of faith and encouragement, but most importantly, we just knew they would do whatever we needed whenever we needed it. And they were our biggest cheerleaders. That’s why, seven years ago, Kenneth came to work for The Bretts Show to spread the good word around town. He distributed brochures and represented us at promotional events. He was young for his age and full of positive energy and enthusiasm, yet, he was also a father figure that Branson guests trusted and loved. He believed in what we were doing and he was proud to tell people about it. He encouraged us and stood up for us and many people were introduced to The Bretts Show as a result of his efforts. We had a good thing going. Then last year about this time, Kenneth and Sug broke the news to us that they felt it was time to move to Texas to be close to Sug’s family. The weeks between that announcement and the time they left Missouri went way too quickly, and though we completely understood and supported their decision, we were just plain sad to see them go.
As soon as Kenneth and Sug hit Texas they both began to have some serious health problems. Every time we spoke with them it was something new. They supported each other through it all, and never spoke a discouraging word. We frequently noted what a blessing it was that they were near Sug’s sons who could take care of them through these struggles. In an email I received from Sug, she wrote, “It looks like we came to Childress to get well.” They were ALWAYS full of hope and faith.
We were most worried about Sug who started having heart trouble and underwent heart surgery last Fall. Just as she was recovering, Kenneth started having his own challenges and at Christmastime he had prostate surgery. Sadly, he didn’t snap back very well and just couldn’t get his strength back. He soon learned that he had a much more serious disease coursing through his body – leukemia. The time we heard of his diagnosis to the time we got the dreaded call from Sug on February 19th, was just a matter of weeks. It came so fast. We were all shocked and deeply saddened. Kenneth was just one of those guys we thought would live to be 100.
Sug told us of plans to return to Missouri in April to hold a Celebration of Life for Kenneth at their church in Springfield, and she invited us to sing. We recently attended that service, and it is what inspired this post. It was beautiful. It was full of love and happiness. Midway through, members of the congregation were invited to take a moment to express their feelings about Kenneth and tell how he had influenced their lives. So many people, from every walk of life, came forward to share their personal stories. We were moved and inspired by the numerous accounts of Kenneth rescuing, healing, helping, inspiring, teaching and loving his church family. We were especially touched as the pastor read a simple love letter that Kenneth had written to Sug just two days before he passed.
As we listened to these stories, we realized that we were definitely not the only ones who had been the recipients of Kenneth’s goodness and generosity. This was just how he lived, and so many stood to attest of that. We left the service with a lot to think about. We felt inspired to be better and to do better. On the drive home, we talked about our desire to live the kind of lives that would be worthy of a celebration like we had just experienced.
I’ve always thought it was a shame that we say so many wonderful things about people after they are gone, and how, at their funeral services, we learn things about them that we never knew. In the past week, I’ve reflected on that and I’ve asked myself several questions. I thought I’d share them with you because I believe the answers might help us all to live richer, happier, more meaningful lives.
Who do I want to get to know better while I still have the chance?
What can I do today to honor and celebrate someone I love while they are still here with me? What can I say to them to let them know how I love and appreciate them?
What do I want people to say and feel about me when I’m no longer here? What do I want my legacy be? What am I doing this very day to be that kind of person?
What do I need to do to make more time for what matters most?
Years ago, I wrote a song that we used to sing in the show. Kenneth loved this song. These are the words to the chorus:
We may never have tomorrow; this very moment’s gone away
We may never have tomorrow to say the things we want to say
With its joy or with its sorrow, life is just a breath away
So sing, dance, laugh, live
Say, “I love you” today
Each day can be a celebration of life, so why not celebrate now?
With all of that in mind, I want to express my gratitude to all of you reading this blog post. Thank you for your love and support over the years. Thank you for being our fans and friends. Thank you for being such an important part of our lives. Our lives are richer for knowing you, and we love and appreciate you.
In the comments below, feel free to share your answer to one of the questions above.