Saturday, April 11, 2015

In celebration: Clayton Knutson

Clayton Knutson

Ecclesiastes 3              2 Corinthians              John 14:1-7, 25-27                   April 11, 2015

There is a time for everything, a time to be born and a time to die… this is something that Clayton, who loved the land and the outdoors knew deeply; and yet, this is a day that we did not anticipate just a few months ago. Although he suffered from Alzheimer’s for the last few years, and perhaps longer, Clayton’s journey from relatively good health to death felt fast…
Just last January, he was able to go out for breakfast and enjoy a very big cinnamon roll when John visited... Even when things became too difficult to remain at home, and Clayton moved to Lyngblomsten weeks ago, he was at least somewhat aware of where he was going and it was a special gift that he recognized his loved ones to the end. Even when he had stopped eating and speaking… he squeezed my hand powerfully as we sang and prayed with him, showing that he knew that Carolyn, Charlie, and I were gathered around him. And on Palm Sunday, with Carolyn and Thessaly nearby, he peacefully died. Moving from this life into the next, we commended him to God’s care.

Today we acknowledge the ways we are grateful and celebrate Clayton’s life, and we are grateful that his suffering is over; but also, it is difficult to say goodbye.
In John, Jesus speaks to disciples who, put simply, can’t imagine their life without him. Jesus is talking about his upcoming death and they don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to face losing him, and Jesus reassures them… Don’t be afraid. I am going to die, but death does not have the final word. I’m going ahead of you so you can be reassured that when you come this way, entering the mystery of life after death, you’ll know I’m there, with a place for you.

And what’s more, as Jesus faces his own death, he promises a gift for those who cannot imagine life without him—the presence of the Holy Spirit—who blows where it will, who teaches, who reminds them of what they know, and fills them with peace. Not the temporary, unsatisfying peace that doesn’t last, but deep peace and love that takes our fear and despair away.

Doesn’t that sound like Clayton?
In the binder of photos and stories that you may have seen on your way in, a creative gathering of stories and pictures from children and grandchildren, you can glimpse story after story of how his family remember the ways that Clayton extended grace to them… sometimes through a well-placed word or story or joke… sometimes through his incredible gift for small talk… but also simply through his presence, his hand on a shoulder, his hand of blessing on their heads.

He was not only loving and gentle… he also had a truly adventurous, completely courageous, maybe even a little dangerous side… picking up his young kids in the loader bucket with the snow and dumping them on the snow pile, encouraging them to take risks and have adventures, supporting them in all their independent and creative endeavors.  Sometimes, Clayton also forgot the kids, leaving them behind not just once but frankly, so often that they learned strategies for what to do. Wait right where you are. He’ll be coming back, even if it’s a few hours.
And through both his deep attentiveness as father, as grandfather … and his forgiving, and forgetting… he has given incredible gifts to each of you, Charlie, Kathy, John…Andrew, Claire, Alex, Thessaly, Linnae, and Elise, gifts that he would want you to carry on through your whole lives.

Here is some of the wisdom that Clayton embodied and lived out for you, Carolyn and kids and grandkids, family, loved ones, friends…
Be good to one another. Forgive what you need to forgive. Although toys can be fun, experiences are more important than things. Hold your families close. I love you.

We grieve the loss of this incredibly likeable, fun, and even-tempered man, but we also have received so much from him that can never be taken away.  Clayton taught and gave and told stories and modeled a way of living and loving. What he showed you—the love and the time he gave you—and the way that he would have given you whatever you needed. That is the kind of love that lasts and can live on in and through you.

Also, Clayton was pretty private. He would continually deflect conversation away from himself. In fact, he was not generally keen on being the center of attention, unless it was to occasionally be the life of the party… and that is how he would want us to move forward… with a spirit of celebrating all that has been good, all that has been gift, that our tears might turn into tears of joy, that our mourning might become singing—or maybe whistling—that we would tell stories, and embody love.

Jesus promises, “‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

There is a time for everything… a time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant, a time for harvest; a time to weep, a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. In this time, in these days, in this season of resurrection and new life, may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, and may the Holy Spirit bring you peace.

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