Yesterday I attended the funeral of one of my younger cousins, Kay. I hadn’t seen him for maybe 20 years, and knew little more about him than childhood memories. Kay had lived alone most of his life, surfed from job to job and was in the middle of a financial crisis when he died. He had only one son, with whom he was estranged. Kay was what some people kindly call slow. He never quite understood why things happened as they do, or what he could have done differently. He made the same mistakes over and over.
He died alone in his home because he could not afford medication for his heart. His body was not found for over three weeks. His only possession he left of any value was a 1965 pickup he had restored. He had a full head of bright red hair and a full beard which he often wore in a wild frizz, making him look like an African lion with a great big smile and intense eyes that showed white above the iris.
When another cousin stood to offer the eulogy he began to weep. He told of a completely different Kay than I had guessed was behind the lion hairdo. He talked about a man who when the Elder’s Quorum asked for help moving someone, would show up with his prize pickup and a trailer, work hard all day, not stopping until the job was completely done – no matter how long it took. He talked about a man who would drop everything to help, and who had many friends, loved animals and especially birds. He spoke of someone who lived his religion with dedication.
Another cousin described the Kay he knew as someone who loved to laugh, who loved to dance. He said he scared the girls at the dances until they got to know him, then they all wanted to dance with him because he was actually good at it. He told of a person who had struggled all of his life to develop friends and relationships. He laughed at Kay’s funny and mischievous side, and then cried as he recalled how Kay had been faithful and true to his friends and his religion all of his life, but to whom life had refused to yield emotional riches.
His bishop stood and spoke of Kay as a faithful member who was quiet in groups, but opened up quickly one-on-one, who enjoyed talking about any subject, and telling jokes. He said he had given Kay many jobs, most of them less-glamorous, which Kay had carried out faithfully and well, never asking for rewards, recognition or to be released year after year.
I heard sniffles in the crowd, and saw many nods of agreement. My cousin who spoke last mentioned that Kay would have been pleased to see a chapel full of people here to remember him. It would have come to him as a surprise. I turned around and looked at several hundred people with tearful eyes.
I felt the Spirit warm and move me, not with just comfort, but with the sure knowledge that Kay had completed his life honorably and was even now wearing the victor’s crown. He was at this very moment receiving honor in divine arms, and was looking forward to another honorable and weighty mission that was even then opening up before him. I had the distinct impression that the lack of understanding that had overshadowed him all of his life instantly ended when he departed mortality, that the cross that he had been given to carry all of his life, which had been important to his ultimate victory, which had been lovingly laid on him at his birth, was now joyfully tossed aside.
I rejoiced for Kay then. He was not the least of us, he was the greatest, because he won the crown of those who return with valor, which is an accomplishment the vast majority of mankind, most all of them mentally better equipped and with better hair do’s, fail miserably to accomplish.
Well done, Kay Lynn Pontius 1953-2011
O death where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:55,57)
© June 2011, John M. Pontius, all rights reserved. Non-commercial reproduction permitted.