Saturday, July 18, 2020

The funeral for Jennifer Johnson

The Funerals for
Jennifer Johnson
(July 1, 1971-July 11, 2020)

10:00 a.m. - The Fargo Dome, Fargo
2:00 p.m. – Karvonen’s Funeral Home, Wadena, MN

July 18, 2020

Revelation 7.9-17
+ As I said at the beginning of our service, it is real honor for me to officiate at this service for Jennifer.

I am especially happy to say that I was Jennifer’s priest.

My role in her life was actually a short one.

I was only her priest for a little over a month.

But in that time, Jennifer and I definitely bonded.

We became close in that time.

And it is a friendship and a bond that I will always cherish.

As we all know Jennifer really fought hard with this battle with cancer.

And she was able to show us all real courage in the face of the hard things of this life.

And as grateful as I am today that Jennifer is not suffering, as grateful as I am that she not in pain anymore, that she is not having to fight anymore, I have something to admit.

I am also angry today.

There should’ve been more time.

Her life was cut short entirely too soon.

She had so much life, so much living ahead of her.

There should’ve been another 30 or 40 years to her life.

She should’ve grown old with Mark.

There should’ve have been more time at the lake, more time to travel, more time to just live and enjoy life.

There was so much life ahead of her.

And I can say that there was maybe a moment or two over these last weeks when my most common prayer for Jennifer was a fist shaken at the sky.

Now, mind you I love God.

I love being a priest, even when I have accompany wonderful young people like Jennifer on their last journey.

Anyone who knows me knows I love God.

I really do.

But sometimes I get angry at God.

And that’s all right.

(We know we can be angry at someone we love).

And it’s all right to be angry about this.

Now, maybe I’m not really angry at God.

But I really am angry at death, and I’m angry at cancer, and I am angry at the unfairness of this all.

It is unfair.

This should not have happened to someone like Jennifer.

This should not have happened to Mark or to Jennifer’s parents  Ann or Jerry or to her siblings or to her nieces and nephews or any of the family.

Or to us, who loved her and knew her and cared for her.  

Jennifer did not deserve this.

And that makes me very angry!

I’m really angry that there wasn’t more time.

But, for those of us who have faith—faith like Jennifer—and let me tell you, Jennifer had faith—a fierce, strong faith in God—for us, even in the face of this gut-wrenching pain we feel today, even in the face of our frustration and anger and sadness, we know…

We know that the God of love in which Jennifer believed so strongly, really was with her.

I saw it with my own eyes.

Early last Saturday morning, Mark texted me and told me that Jennifer was nearing the end.

I went over to the house, as we gathered around her bed, we prayed, I laid hands on her. And just as we finished the prayers, she went.

It was a holy moment.

It was truly one of those “God moments.”

Even the Hospice nurse was amazed by it all.

There was a palpable, holy energy in that room.

She left this world surrounded by those who loved her.

She left here knowing she was loved and cherished.

She left here hearing all those wonderful, amazing comments from people were calling and  texting and leaving messages on social media for her.

She heard them.

And, for those of us who have faith, we know:

This is not the end.

In that beautiful reading we just heard from Revelation, we heard:

"These are they who have come out of the great ordeal…
They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;
   the sun will not strike them,
   nor any scorching heat; 
for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd,
   and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

For Jennifer, her great ordeal is over.

She never hungry or thirst again.

And God has wiped away every tear from Jennifer’s eyes.

She will never cry another tear.

We…well, we are not so lucky.

At least right now.

We have not yet emerged from our great ordeal.

But we know that, one day, our tears too will be wiped away for good.

These tears we cry today will be wiped away.

And, when that day comes, it will be a great day.

All this reminds us that our goodbye today is only a temporary goodbye.

All that we knew and loved about Jennifer is not gone for good.

It is not lost forever from us.

All we loved, all that was good and gracious and beautiful in Jennifer—all that was fierce and strong and amazing in her—all of that dwells now in a place of light and beauty and life unending.

And we will see that smiling face again.

We will see her again.

And it will be beautiful.

Jennifer showed us all true courage, true strength, true determination.

She showed us what real courage was in the face of death.

And we should be grateful for that.

We will all miss her so much.

But I can tell you we will not forget her.

Jennifer Johnson is not someone who will be easily forgotten.

She is not someone who passes quietly into the mists.

Her strength, her dignity, her love lives on in all of us who knew her and loved her.

Today, we are sad, yes.

But for those of us who have faith today, we are also confident.

The Alleuia that say today is a defiant word.

That alleluia in the face of death is a defiant alleluia.

It is fist shaken not at God, but it is a fist shaken at death.

It is the fist Jennifer shook at death.

Jennifer, whose faith was so strong, was able to say, Not even you, death, not even you will defeat me.

I will not fear you. (and she did not fear death!)

And I will not let you win.

And, let me tell you, death has not defeated Jennifer Johnson.

So let us be defiant.

Let us shake our fists at death today.

Let face this day and the days to come with gratitude for this incredible person God let us know.

Let us be grateful.

Let us be sad, yes.

But let’s remind ourselves: death has not defeated her.

Or us.

Let us, like Jennifer, be defiant to death.

Let us sing loudly.

Let us live boldly.

Let us stand up defiantly.

Let us live fully and completely.

That is what Jennifer would want us to do today, and in the future.

Into paradise may the angels lead you, Jennifer.
At your coming may the martyrs receive you.
And may they bring you with joy and gladness into the holy city Jerusalem.

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