Monday, April 3, 2017

Kelvin Thomas Johnson - Funeral - Talk by Catherine Johnson

"May his memory always be for a blessing.”

I first learned this phrase from my Jewish friends.  These are traditional words of condolence shared at a time of mourning.  People explain this phrase in many ways, but the explanation I like best is –“I'm wishing that stories and recollections of this person will influence all of us who knew him to live better lives”.  This week I have listened with gratitude to the stories and recollections of many people who have reached out to express their condolences. I am grateful for the influence my father had on me and on others to live better and more kind lives.

With this idea in mind, I want to share a few things I learned from my father that I know have been a blessing.  I want to summarize these ideas using the following 4 words:  Seek, Connectedness, Grace and Love, and by using one of Kelvin’s favourite texts – the scriptures.

Luke 11: 9-10 
And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Kelvin was a seeker of knowledge and truth.   For me this was most clearly reflected in his profound search for God over the course of his life.  When it came to seeking, Kelvin believed that there was no such thing as a bad question.  He was always respectful of other seekers and what they were discovering. He wasn’t afraid to question or to struggle with hard issues—including issues of his faith. His questions for a time led him to step away from this faith community.  In the LDS tradition, there is often a lot a sadness/sorrow/grief when people decide to leave or disconnect from the community.  It isn’t easy for those that leave, nor is it easy for those who are left behind.  10 years after stepping away, Kelvin’s seeking led him back to the faith of his youth. He had a powerful reawakening of a faith that he had for a time lost. He felt immense gratitude for that reconnection. When we spoke about his experience of stepping away, Kelvin was always very kind and gracious towards other seekers.  He encouraged me to be more kind and gentle to those who were struggling in their faith and to those whose seeking was leading them in different paths.  His gentle words remind me to have the courage to make room for others—not only those who have a different understanding of the world than we do, but especially for those who may once have been part of our faith community but whose seeking has led them elsewhere.  Kelvin taught me to believe and trust in the power and strength that comes from SEEKING.


D and C 130:2 And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.

Kelvin knew the importance of relationships and that relationships matter.  Kelvin had a strong faith in the Mormon belief that families are eternal and connected beyond death.
He believed in a Saviour and in the power of his Atonement.  He believed in a resurrection. This belief is comforting for many including me.  This hope in a future where we can return to God doesn’t however take away the practical problem of being connected in the present.  Families are complicated and building, creating and strengthening family relationships is not easy.  On this front, I think my father’s love of words has been helpful for me and has sunk deep into my heart.  He taught me that words are powerful.  Words can give us the power to create peace.  They can also give us the power to destroy.  I hope to live a better life by remembering the importance of my words as a way to build and strengthen relationships and help me to connect with others.

Ephesians  Chapter 4: 7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.

If Kelvin were here, he would remind us that grace has many definitions.  He was a walking dictionary and could give you the 8 Webster definitions of this word without cracking open the dictionary, which is however what I had to do.  I want to speak of Grace today in its sense of “help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.”  Kelvin needed Grace.  We all do.  He was not a perfect man and had his own faults and challenges.  He made mistakes.  He was well aware of his faults, yet he had a strong faith in the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and that this Atonement (this Grace) had the power to heal him. Kelvin had experienced that Grace.  I hope to live a better life by remembering my own need for Grace and by learning to extend Grace to others. 

As a young child, I would sit on this front row of this church and Kelvin would put out his hand and let me rest my head on it during sacrament meetings.  As an adult, I tried to do this with my own children only to discover how completely uncomfortable it is.  It was one small way my father showed me love. Even during his final year, Kelvin was often looking for ways to show his love.  He really wanted to help those around him. That included reaching out to and visiting with his sister and brother living in the same residence, being kind and generous to nursing staff, and simply offering words of encouragement.  I think of the last conversation I had with him.  I was telling him about the comings and goings of life in my home.  He responded – WONDERFUL. He had a strong desire to help others feel loved.  I finish with a scripture that Kelvin helped me memorize as a young woman.  May these words about LOVE and Kelvin’s memory always be for a blessing. 

Corinthians Chapter 13:  1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Like Kelvin, may we all be seekers – seekers of connectedness to others, seekers of God’s Grace, and seekers of Charity--which is the pure love of Christ.

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