Kenneth L. Carlson – Laid to Rest
The rosy fingers of dawn climbed the eastern sky over Iacolucci’s old place next door, most likely reflecting in the pond of Martha’s Creek. “This is the day which the Lord hath made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” I lay reflecting in the glory of G-d and in His Son, Y’shua HaMashiach – Jesus, the Messiah. Friday, September 12, 2008. The day I would lay my beloved’s body to rest. Sleep had been a welcome respite the past four nights and as much as I relished it, I knew I would have to rise and begin preparation.
Karin came first and tended to the kitchen supplies we would need for the reception. Blue and white plates, cups, spoons and forks and the napkins I had been saving for this day. I had made stacks of them. First a yellow and then a blue – thick dinner napkins in the colors of the Swedish flag, proper for the occasion.
She took the two big cakes my friend Thelma brought from Costco.
Carrot, Ken’s favorite, and chocolate. I was happy with them.
Kathy and Roger and Tiara arrived to attend to my needs. She found the sandals I wanted to wear. They were Ken’s. He never liked them – a North Dakota Swedish farmer doesn’t wear sandals. At least not this one. But Y’shua (Jesus) did and I wanted to. The soft brown suede matched the rust and black dress I wore.
I sat at the computer, making the list. Always, there is a list. Danny, my ben yamin, (my right hand man and number three grandson) was asked to take the specified three pictures to the Friendship Room at Northlake Christian Church where we would be gathering after the service. First the huge one of us kissing at our 40th anniversary that hangs in our room. Then, Ken’s favorite – the one of him, two friends and a group of Israeli soldiers we met in the desert outside Be’ersheba, Israel in November of 1991. They stood in front of their
trucks, waiting to go in for lunch. Someone took it from our tour bus and we had a poster sized copy made to frame. Ken was so proud of that picture. Then I asked Dann to take the picture of Ken sitting at the table praying over a tiny loaf of challah (Israeli braided bread for the Sabbath) and his glasses resting on his Bible.
A cup of coffee sits near by. I love that picture. It’s our rendition of the famous picture of the old grandfather bowing in prayer over his lunch. You’ve seen it. I know you have. I also took Ken’s Bible that I gave him in 1973.
The people of Northlake are a special breed. They have been so kind to us over the years. Jon has attended there over 20 some years. They are so good to him, always caring for his special needs. They brought dinner night after night when Ken had his last surgery when I was too busy to make meals for us. They offered us their facilities free of charge for this day. Northlake is directly across the street from Floral Hills Cemetery. How nice is that?
Danny was to be in charge of the roses. Rich, deep red blooms that Ken loved.
And I asked Danny to add one fern frond from our front yard. He found a beautiful crystal vase to put them in and took them to the cemetery. They sat at the casket, the only flowers there. Jewish tradition doesn’t include flowers.
Kevin, first born but always last to arrive, came at 9:30. He drove me in our red Mercury sable and made sure the wheelchair was in the trunk. I would be arriving in my chariot just in time for the 10 o’clock service. Jon’s (our youngest son) friend, Melvin Tiegs, brought him straight to the cemetery.
As we parked in our designated spot, our friend, Mike Sonnenberg of the Cedar Park Funeral Home, opened my door and introduced Sergeant Amy Balback of the National Guard Honor Guard. She told me she was honored to be there and thanked me for Ken’s service in the military. As Kevin rolled me past the young soldier standing at attention holding his cornet, I thanked him for being there. Most of the people were already seated in the 12 provided chairs or standing behind them. Our children “sat in age” with Kevin next to me. Mike came and stated that we were slightly behind schedule. I could only smile and inform him that
we operated on Jewish standard time – at least 15 minutes past the official time!
Pastor Carl Smith stepped forward and blew his shofar. He does it so well. He explained that the shofar was used, and still is, to call to assemble and for many other reasons. He welcomed our family and made a few opening remarks. He told us about the casket, which was unseen, being covered by a huge American flag.
The casket was hand made of unfinished pine by the Batesville Casket Company of Indiana, said to be the finest in the world. It was made to Jewish specification – no metal anywhere. All dowels and glue. Everything has to be biodegradable. There were four mogan davids (the Star of David) one at each corner. They were also hand carved of pine and stained a rich brown. Mike found a six inch wooden cross at the Christian Bookstore and placed it on the top of the casket as a gift to us. It was all so impressive to me. None of us has ever seen such a casket. It looked as if Y’shua, Himself could have made it in His carpenter shop. So fitting Ken.
Carl finished his remarks, recalling that he and Ken had been serving on the same island in Japan during the Korean War, unbeknownst to each other. They didn’t meet until many years later. Carl and his wife, Henrianna are dear and special friends and the first pastor we called to Avodah Yeshiva Fellowship,
our Messianic Congregation which Ken and I helped co-found in 1998. Three other founders were there – Ruth, Thelma and Donna.
Carl introduced Jim Arneson, our famous local music man. He was part of the Crossroads Quartet for many years and still heads the Crossroads New Revival, a wonderful Southern Gospel group that blesses so many. We met Jim and his five siblings in 1959. His father, Ted Arneson, pastured the little white church on the hill a mile from our house. Bethel Assembly of God. We were members there (and in the bigger building later built in Lynnwood) for many years and I was Church Secretary for over twenty. Ted, now with the Lord, and his wife, Lola, remain among our dearest friends.
Jim led us in “Blessed Assurance”, a great old song of the faith, and the “Old Rugged Cross”. He then sang a medley of songs, including “Life is Like a Mountain Railroad”. Most people probably haven’t heard it. The chorus states:
“Blessed Savior, Thou wilt guide us till we reach that blissful shore where the angels wait to join us in Thy praise forevermore.” Since Ken was a railroad man for 41 years, I guess that was the right song. Jim also sang, at Karin’s request, “I Can Only Imagine” and “Day by Day”, an old Swedish favorite. I wanted “Leavin’ on My Mind”, but that didn’t happen. That’s the song I was singing to Kenny just before he passed. He loved to hear Steve Brock from TBN sing it.
Here are some of the words:
LEAVIN’ ON MY MIND
This old house I’m living in it sure needs some repair;
The windows and the shutters are letting in the cold, cold air.
I say to myself, I’m gonna fix them if I can find the time;
But all I’ve been getting lately is leavin’ on my mind.
Lately all I’ve got is leavin’ on my mind;
It seems that’s all I think about most of the time;
And soon and very soon I’ll leave these troubles far behind;
Lately I’ve got leavin’, leavin’ on my mind.
Carl read the obituary from the Everett Herald:
Kenneth L. Carlson
11/19/1928 – 9/8/2008
Kenny’s gone now. He’s gone ahead to kind of check out the Place – like he’s
done for me for 52 and a half years. I miss him so much. I’ve really missed him
for over two years. That’s how long he’s had this serious heart condition.
Ken has lived in three worlds. The first was a watery one. Warm, cozy, but
pretty small. Got to be quite crowded toward the end, actually. It was a little
lonely but he had all his needs met, didn’t have to do a thing. If you would
have asked him if he would like to leave there and go to a place where he could
see better, move around from place to place, and be part of a loving group he
might have said, “I suppose – sounds good, but no thanks. I’d rather stay right
here.” He didn’t have that choice. A day came when he felt crushing pain that
got worse and worse until he exploded into the brilliant light of a North
Dakota farm house. He had to learn a different lifestyle. It was hard, but he
learned to cope. He came to Seattle in 1945, got a job, fell in love, married
(June 21, 1957) raised a family, and made a good life for himself. Then one day
a fellow came along and asked him if he wanted to go to a better place. One
where there was no more pain or sorrow. A place where he could meet his Creator
and live in His presence forever. The answer was the same. “Sounds wonderful,
but I’m not ready yet. Someday.” Again, he had no choice – the day came, as it
will for all of us.
Thankfully, he had made the decision early on where he wanted to spend eternity
and as a Believer in the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and in His Son, Y’
shua, (Jesus)Ken was ready to make the journey. He’s there now with his
parents, Oscar and Ellen Carlson, his two unborn children, his eldest grandson,
Greg, and so many other friends and family members.
He leaves his grieving but happy-for-him wife of fifty one years, Fern Julian
Carlson; his sons, Kevin and Jon; his daughters, Karin Gudmundson (Rory); and
Kathy Barton (Roger); twelve Grandchildren; three Great Grandchildren; and a
large family of Carlsons, who by G-d’s grace will be joining him one day -
including his elder brother, LeRoy, (Emmie); his youngest sister, Ardis
Shelton; his sister-in-law, Pat Carlson (Ervin, deceased) and brother-in-law,
Eugene Heimbuch (Arlene, deceased).
Ken served his country in the Army during the Korean Conflict, worked for
Northern Pacific Railway (Burlington Northern) for 41 years. He lived in the
same house he and I designed near Martha Lake since 1958. He was a quiet man
who spent his time loving his family and being faithful to his G-d. He was a
member of the Assemblies of God Church for over 30 years, and was co-founder of
Avodah Yeshiva Fellowship, a Messianic Congregation of Christians who believe
in following the Jewish pattern of worship and trying to live the way Y’shua
(Jesus) did when He was here.
We’d like to thank Dr. James Pautz of Swedish Heart and Vascular Institute and
their staff, and Dr. Henry Hochberg as well as the Evergreen Hospice Team for
their kind and loving help.
Ken never wanted a big memorial service, just a family graveside service since
he never wanted to call attention to himself. If you would like to contact his
family, we’re got the same number we’ve had for almost 50 years. It’s in the
phone book. Or e-mail us at: KennethLawrenceCarlson@gmail.com We’d love to hear
from you. Shalom!
After the obituary was read, Carl introduced the young man with the cornet. He
stood some distance away at the entrance to the Camelia Garden where our family
plot is. He played the most beautiful rendition of TAPS that I have ever heard.
I can only describe it as sweet and majestic. Then he and the lady Sergeant,
the Military Honor Guard, came forward and removed the flag from the casket.
With military precision, they gently, slowly and methodically folded the flag
into a triangle of 13 folds, each one representing a message. Sgt. Balback
knelt before me and presented me with the flag, saying it was an honor to be
there and a part of Ken’s service. She bethanked me for his years of military
service. Then she saluted the flag and me and was gone.
Jeff Steadman, current pastor of Avodah, sang the Mourner’s Kaddish in Hebrew.
I will do it in English every day for the next year. It is a beautiful tribute,
giving glory and praise to the Lord and it’s for the living.
Carl dismissed all but the family. The workers came to lower the casket, which
they did a few feet. Then Danny came forward with his list. First, he called
Kevin, our eldest son, who came, took a rose and laid it on the coffin. Then
Karin, our eldest daughter, came and placed one rose for her, one for her son,
Greg, who is rejoicing in heaven with his grandfather, and one for Amy, her
daughter who was home very ill. Kathy placed hers and Danny did one for Jon,
who is disabled. Then the grandchildren came. Danny, Kyle, Josh, Russ,
Christina, Joshua, Renee and Tiara. Jonathan is attending the University of
Southern California and Jason is in the hospital with mersa so roses were
placed for them. Danny placed a rose for me and of course the fern frond. It
was a very touching moment. One none of us will forget.
There was a silver bucket with a small silver shovel at the end of the casket
containing earth. Carl picked up a shovelful and sprinkled it on the casket. It
symbolizes “from dust thou art, to dust thou shalt return.” Then he brought a
shovelful to me. I took it and touched the dirt and he sprinkled it over the
casket, too. Danny, Kyle and Josh Gudmundson took a turn. It is a sign of
respect and love for the deceased. I believe it is also symbolic of the
children of Israel crossing the desert on their exodus to Egypt when they
placed rocks on graves to protect them from being disturbed by animals or
anything. Many cultures observe this and I find it a touching way to say the
final good-bye. The men lowered the casket. Carl blew the shofar one final time
and we left the grounds.
There were finger foods, fruit salad, sandwiches, a vegetable tray, cookies,
coffee and lemonade along with the two cakes over at the church. The ladies of
Northlake had tableclothed big round tables and set up eight chairs at each.
The tablecloths were an olive green and each had a large square napkin with a
dark blue background showing large fruit in fresh colors. Striking.
Tiara, our youngest granddaughter, age 6, wore a beautiful black dress and her
favorite tiara. She carried a basket of tiny Butterfingers candy bars. She
circled the room stopping at each table to ask the guests if they would like
one of her Grampa’s favorite candy bars. Of course, everyone did!
We enjoyed each other’s company for quite a while and then went our separate
ways to process the day and the meaning of it, each in our own way.
I believe Ken was honored in the simple quiet fashion he so desired. G-d was
uplifted, exalted and blessed as we praised His name and thanked Him for Ken’s
life and the fruit of his efforts. Yes, this was a day that the Lord had made
and we could rejoice and be glad! One day, not too far in the future, I will
see my Kenny again – never to say “good-bye”!
KEN CARLSON MEMORIAL SERVICE
12 September 2008 – Floral Hills, Lynnwood, WA
Order of Service
Shofar Blown for Assembly
Shema – Carl Smith leading attendees
Introduction of Jim Arneson
Comments and Music – Jim Arneson
Comments (W/Mourner’s Prayer) – Carl
Sung in Hebrew by Jeff Steadman
TAPS & Folding & Presenting Flag
Lowering of Casket
Reception at Northlake Christian Church