I met Kenney Scruggs fifteen years ago when I was hired by a local attorney as a legal secretary. I’d only recently moved to Bishop, but already I’d heard of Kenney’s reputation as a family law attorney. She was smart. She was tough and tenacious. She was exceptionally articulate in the courtroom. I was unsure what to expect, but when Kenney and I finally did meet face-to-face, I found her to be straightforward, friendly, and wonderfully self-assured. She treated me as an equal, and was as interested in me as I was in her. We liked each other right away.
I moved on from my job in the law arena, but I would run into Kenney now and then–on the street or at the yearly Bar Association Christmas party. We’d greet each other affectionately and talk a bit. I always appreciated her keen intelligence, easy confidence, and ability to laugh at herself. A few years ago, I was greatly concerned to learn that Kenney had been diagnosed with cancer, but the reports were that she was fighting hard to get better. And she did for a while, but then the cancer made a reappearance.
This past fall I needed a presurgery EKG. At our local hospital, I checked in for my appointment in the same waiting area as the chemotherapy outpatients. As we sat there, several people tugging at the scarves covering their bald heads, a nervous hush settled over the room. Then, the front door opened and Kenney walked in. Immediately, the whole atmosphere brightened, and even more than usual, Kenney’s powerful presence filled the room.
When she noticed me, she beamed. “Why, Melissa! How are you?”
“How are you?” I asked.
She told me, in her usual no-nonsense style, that she was trying a new kind of chemotherapy, and that it was most likely her last option. But still, as she spoke, she was upbeat and positive. She was grounded in her hope, and vibrantly alive.
“What are you doing these days? Still teaching?” Kenney asked me.
I shook my head and explained that I was writing full time. She raised an eyebrow, studying me closely. “It takes a lot of dedication to write. To show up each day at your desk and actually do it.”
I couldn’t help but feel a little like a witness being cross-examined on the stand. “I know,” I said. “But I am showing up. Every day. As Richard Bach said, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.’”
Kenney smiled broadly and pumped her fist in the air. I had proven myself as credible. “YES!” she said. “That’s right! You keep at it.”
Her support was immediate and heartfelt. Her belief in me emphatic and intense.
Just then, my name was called, and we said goodbye. That was the last conversation I had with Kenney, who died recently. The loss of her bold, intelligent spirit saddens me deeply as it does many others who were fortunate enough to know her. And yet, I realize that in our final interaction as in all our chance meetings, Kenney passed some of her fierce bright light on to me. A bit of courage, a bit of perspicacious focus, a bit of unwavering determination. All the qualities that made her who she was, and that she shared so generously with me and others.
I carry our conversation in my memory, not only as a reminder to show up at my desk each day, but to show up for life. Clear-eyed and ready, just like Kenney.