Monday, April 3, 2017

Kelvin Thomas Johnson - Funeral - Talk by Doral Johnson


I wrote down some words. 

Kelvin loved words. 
He approved of words being assembled together.

He would have approved more
If these were in some kind of logical order

For some, Jesus is their co-pilot
For us, Kelvin was our editor

There is a song entitled, Jesus, take the wheel,
Our family’s version would be
Kelvin, brandish your pen

Just to forewarn you, my remarks today
would have benefited from the efforts of
Kelvin, our editor
Considering Arta’s recent health issues, I regret now asking her
 If it would kill her to arrange Kelvin’s funeral.

Eight minutes. 
That’s the time I’ve been allotted
 to provide some of my remembrances
on Kelvin’s 86 years of life. 
That’s one minute per decade.
 Six seconds per year.
 A half-second per month. 

To put that in perspective,
since I took the podium,
a half-minute, or five years
of Kelvin’s life have passed. 
He’ll be getting ready for his first day of school soon. 

If Kelvin were standing, here, today, at the podium,
he would tell us, do not weep. 
He would want us to be happy for him. 
He has disembarked the grey ship,
And is standing on white shores,
Smiling and embracing his mother Bessie, his father Miles,
his “not-twin” brother Beverly, his sister Nadine.
What a glorious reunion that must be for them!

Kelvin loved his parents, his brothers and sisters.
His love for them was immense.  He doted on his sisters.
 How their successes thrilled him, how their challenges broke him.
Kelvin’s children could see his love for his brothers and sisters,
whenever we attended family reunions. 
His love for Preston.  For Betty.  For Molly.
It was impossible to drag Kelvin away from his siblings.

World War II has started. 
Kelvin is 10, and will encounter German POW’s
picking sugar beets in the Southern Alberta beet fields. 
He’ll be teaching them English
He’ll be learning to play the harmonica

Near the end of Kelvin’s life, He,
his big brother Grant, his sister Sharon,
all resided at Seton Place. 
Kelvin spent all the time he could with them.

Kelvin would make a point of including Grant
whenever we came for visits. 
During one visit, we unsuccessfully
played card games with Grant and Kelvin. 
But their brotherly love meant
that Grant’s memory of Kelvin was undimmed,
Grant had no difficulty sharing many stories with us
of Kelvin’s childhood days. 

Time’s passing.  Kelvin’s into his teenage years now
He’s becoming the dreamboat of Barnwell.

Kelvin loved to laugh. 
He laughed when anyone told a joke. 
He laughed harder on those occasions
when he actually got the joke.   
He laughed harder still,
when he realised the joke was on him. 
While the joke was often on him,
Jokes played were played out of love.
Kelvin was the quintessential straight man. 
He tried to teach the importance of being earnest.
But earnestness was not a lesson we wanted.
Kelvin played the straight man so well
because he often “was” oblivious to the punch line.
Kelvin was an intelligent, thoughtful man
But had the misfortune of married into a family
whose humor was as biting as his was gentle.
Kelvin always took our kind of humor in stride.

Kelvin’s off on his Mormon mission to Washington and Oregon

Kelvin loved education.
When he brought his family from Grande Prairie to Calgary
He purchased a home close to the University
Close to schools
Close to his church
Kelvin wanted all of his children to get the benefits of a liberal education
The benefits of a religious education
For us to feel free to challenge conventional thought
To think for ourselves
To Question
Kelvin’s mother had worried that education
Would drive him from his faith
But it never did

Kelvin’s heading to the University of Alberta now,
to explore his favorite topics, literature and language

Kelvin loved science.
He saw no contradiction between the truth of science
And the truth of religion.
In Kelvin’s estimation the big bang did not repudiate religion
It was evidence supporting it
In the beginning god created the heavens and the earth
And God said let there be light and there was light
Was that not the definition of the big bang?

In Kelvin’s estimation evolution did not repudiate gods creation of man
It was merely the technique God employed to create us

We had the national geographic magazine delivered
Every month
Thanks to Kelvin
I remember poring over the pages of that magazine
It was filled with information about the natural sciences
Information about space
And the wonders of the universe.
He shared that joy of knowledge with us

Kelvin’s now working as a cook in the arctic
between university semesters

Kelvin fancied himself a chef.
While in the arctic, he cooked for dozens of men
Ordering food flown in by plane, serving meals
He brought that cooking acumen
And creativity
home to our kitchen
When Mary was born, he decided to cook
A delicious Italian spaghetti dinner
But trust me
Chinese five spice and spaghetti sauce do not go together
We were quite happy that Kelvin
was soon banished from the Kitchen

Kelvin has met the love of his life and is now married

Kelvin loved books.
He built two walls of bookcases in our home in Calgary.
Those bookcases were stuffed with the world’s great literature
He had a complete set of books
containing the classical greek writers
He had all of the plays of Shakespeare
He loved those books
and wanted to share their knowledge with his children
In addition to two walls of books in the house
Kelvin also built a study in the garage.
It contained his beloved collection of university texts
All three walls of that study were lined with old books
Sadly, they were lost during a garage fire

Kelvin has five children now. 
Three more are on their way.

Kelvin loved reading to his children
When we were young, Kelvin read to us each night
He read the Hobbit
and the Lord of the Rings
By JRR Tolkien
Each Chapter was a cliff hanger
We were horrified at the ends of
The first and second books
When Boromir died and the fellowship broke,
When Sam lost Frodo to the Goblin tower

But Kelvin was not limited to story-telling
From established authors
He made up his own tales of adventure
Tales starring his children as small animals
And their own perilous adventures
Kelvin instilled in us
A desire to share the same sense of wonder
With our own families

The title of my remarks,
And my modest collection of books,
Have both been called
Appendix D by my sister Catherine
I suppose The D stands for Doral or Dad
My book collection owes much
to Kelvin and his love of books
His love of story-telling

Kelvin’s teaching English in the Calgary High School system
He’s teaching English as a second language to immigrants. 
He is upset the government will only pay for one immigrant family member to learn English.

Kelvin loved to provide service to others.
He gave freely of his time.
He gave freely of the time of others as well.
It would be an understatement to say
Kelvin had a childhood of modest means

He never forgot where he came from
And he never refused anyone’s request for assistance.

Kelvin’s children are leaving home now,
are in university, or are getting married.

Kelvin fancied himself a handyman.
He built a massive kitchen table for the ten of us.
That table was encircled by re-purposed church pews,
And many a religious discussion broke out at that table.

Kelvin built closets and cabinets
for the girl’s basement bedrooms.
He built bedframes, with built-in storage.
He built couches.
He built an extension to our home in Calgary. 
He built a retirement home in the Shuswap,
with the help of his brothers and brothers-in-law.
He felt so adept at constructing,  
he began to fancy himself a surgeon.
Those fantasies ended when he discovered
a fingertip is not a board,
a table saw is not a surgical suite.

Kelvin’s reached age 65. 
Time for him to retire from teaching.

Kelvin loved to educate.
If you needed assistance with your homework,
You could be sure that Kelvin could turn
any one hour lesson
Into a five hour one.
Or any afternoon school project
Into a three day ordeal.
Kelvin didn’t only to help you with your homework

He learned that subject as well,
With you sitting dutifully at his side while he did so
All kidding aside, Kelvin’s assistance always converted
A solid C effort into an A+ one
We are forever
Grudgingly, belatedly
Deeply grateful
Kelvin made us all better writers, better thinkers
Even if our patience never improved

Kelvin’s retired.
He’s nearly finished building his retirement home in the Shuswap.  It, and the Calgary renovations from 20 years prior,
remain stubbornly incomplete.

Kelvin loved music.
One of our family’s prized possessions was
A baby grand piano in the sitting room.
Kelvin loved that piano
It was a piano on which many a tune was learned
It was a piano at which many a song was sung
It was a piano at which many a tear was shed
(by those not wanting to learn to play it)
Kelvin played the piano, as do many in our family
When Kelvin’s fingers were still limber, he loved to play
The song “Flight of the Bumblebee”
If you know the tune, you will understand why
He would play it just as fast as he could
It was always a marvel to watch his fingers fly across the keyboard
We spent many wonderful moments around that piano
Singing together
The baritones, the sopranos, the altos, the tenors
I’m not sure there were tenors, maybe my brother Trell?

All Kelvin’s children have moved out. 
He visits their homes, spread out all over Canada
International students, boarders,
Become Kelvin’s second dear family now.

Kelvin was a poet.
Some of his favorite poets were Walt Witman, and
Robert Frost
Kelvin loved to write poetry
Had he been born 100 years prior he might have been a great poet.
But he was born in an age that no longer appreciates poetry
Rap has become our poetry now
Kelvin would sometimes write poems for his children
Kelvin wrote a poem for me on the birth of my son
That poem is somewhere in storage
I could not find it prior to our memorial, today
I should have liked to have shared his poetry with you
Maybe you will see or hear some of Kelvin’s poetry
Or you knew of his love of poetry already

Kelvin is ill now.  The prognosis is not good.
His family set him up with an ipad
so they can video chat with him

Kelvin was my father.
He was also my friend.
I had the good fortune to see
Don Giovanni with him
Several months before he passed
I was in Calgary and I called him to see if he had time to visit
He was off to the Opera
But fortunately, there was one seat left In the theatre
After some seat re-arrangements
I sat by my father and we enjoyed
The opera together
The phone call comes.  Kelvin has passed away,
surrounded by his loving family

In conclusion, I want to share two quotes
that bring me comfort,
I hope they will provide
some comfort to you as well.

The first:

No, the journey doesn't end here.
Death is just another path,
one that we all must take.
The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back,
and all turns to silver glass.
and then you see it;
White shores,
and beyond,
a far, green country,
under a swift sunrise.

And the second quote:
I am the resurrection,
and the life:
he that believeth in me,
though he were dead,
yet shall he live:
And whosoever liveth
and believeth in me
shall never die.
Believest thou this?

Kelvin believed this, that death is not the end
That death is just another path
That belief sustained him
May Kelvin’s belief sustain you
Till we meet at Jesus’ feet

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