Kevin Kearns Homily – Deacon Pat Kearns (Funeral Mass 01/20/2023)
Kevin was quite the man, remarkable in many different ways. He was smart, creative, kind, giving, and yes at times stubborn and onery. He was also a fighter and a man of faith. We were quite surprised many years ago when he was diagnosed with advanced stage 4 cancer. He was only given a 50/50 chance to live. He fought, receive great medical care, and won the battle. He eventually went into remission and after so many years was deemed completely healed, cured. He did have some residual side effects from the drugs and radiation, he became hard of hearing, but he wouldn’t admit it. 😊
Just like how he would never admit he was color blind. Remember some of the outfits he would wear? He swore those colors matched. 😊
But seriously, having cancer changed his life greatly. After his recover he saw life much differently. He knew that life could end at any time and unexpectedly. If you ever asked him how he was doing, he would always say “Blessed.” He truly saw his life that way. He embraced life and was thankful for the life he had. He also shared his blessing with others. Most might not know but years ago he created a charitable organization that he named “Hope Floats.” He used the organization to sponsor teachers in poor areas of Africa and Guatemala. He also helped with the funding of cancer and diabetes research, and did so much more, too much to list. He was always looking for ways to help those in need, especially children. Maybe that was his way of being fatherly since he had never married. And speaking of fatherly, after our father suddenly died at the age of 65, Kevin naturally and effortlessly took over the role as the patriarch of the family. He watched over his younger 5 brothers, their lives, their families, and was always eager to help if help was needed. He also had a family-related dream. For many years he dreamed that one day he would buy a large piece of property and that all the brothers and their wives could live by each other and share in each other’s daily lives. He loved his brothers more than anything. Well, a little more than a year ago, Kevin did acquire a large horse ranch in South Carolina. He then moved to the ranch and became a South Carolina resident. My brother Tim and his wife Angela followed. And two of the other brothers were beginning to make plans to join them in the near future. His dream was becoming a reality. I had never seen Kevin happier than when he was on the ranch or with his horses. He especially enjoyed driving the tractors, riding the horses, puttering around the ranch on his Kubota Mule, or exploring the forest on one of the quads. In a small way we might say he was already experiencing a bit of Heaven on earth. +
When we reminisce about the life of a loved one, especially so near to their time of passing, and if they go suddenly as in Kevin’s case, one can’t help but feel a sense of sadness and sorrow. We are united today in our sadness and sorrow at the death of Kevin Kearns. The reality of death, with all its pain and sense of loss, confronts us at this moment. But as we are united in sorrow, we Christians are also united by something else... our Faith. Confronted with the reality of death, we must allow ourselves to be confronted with the reality of our Faith. The reality... not a "maybe" or "I hope so" or fantasy or wishful thinking, but a reality. Our Faith opens our minds to the whole picture about life, death, and what happens after death. Only in the light of our Faith can we begin to understand what has happened to Kevin and how we are to keep going from here. When in our Faith we speak about heaven, and resurrection, and the next life, we do not speak about these things primarily because they give us consolation and strength. They certainly do that, but the primary reason we speak of these things is because they are True. God has spoken His Word to us; we hear it in the Scriptures and in the teachings of our Church, and we respond to it by saying, "Yes, I believe; it is true!" God has broken the silence about death, and told us that He has conquered it! Death was not part of God's original plan; it came into the world because of sin. Death is not from God; death is from turning away from God. Yet God did not leave us in death's power. He sent Christ, who died and rose again and conquered death! God has spoken to the world through Christ, and told us that He wants to give us victory over death in and through Jesus Christ! Because of this, a Christian is not silent in the face of death! Many people, on coming to a wake or funeral, do not know what to say! Death seems to have the last word. But we who believe are not silent. We speak! Christ is risen! Death has been conquered! Many people think that the story of human life is, "Birth, life, and death." For a Christian, it's different. The story is not "Birth, life, and death," but rather, "Life, death, and Resurrection!" Death does not have the last word; life does! Death is not the last period after the last sentence of the last chapter of the human story. There's another chapter to come! Death is not the end of the human story; it's the middle. The end of the story is Resurrection and life that has no end! The farewell that we give to Kevin today is a temporary farewell; the burial we give Kevin is a temporary burial. He will live! He will rise!
The ceremony today contains many reminders of this, and it points us to the fact that Kevin was baptized. We sprinkled the (remains) with holy water at the beginning of the ceremony... This recalls the waters of baptism that were once poured on Kevin. The white funeral pall is a reminder of the white garment placed on the newly-baptized... a sign of the new life of Christ given to the Christian. This candle is the Easter candle; it is present at every baptism, and symbolizes the Risen Christ. When Kevin was baptized right here in this church, the life of the Risen Christ was poured into his soul! He began to share, here on earth, the life of heaven! At baptism, God rescued Kevin from the power of death; He literally snatched him from the dominion of death and transferred him into the Kingdom of Christ -- a kingdom of eternal life. Christ said to Kevin on that day, "You do not belong to death! You belong to me!" Therefore, a Christian does not merely die. A Christian dies in Christ. Those two words, "in Christ," make all the difference in the world! We belong to Him by baptism, and we live in Him by a life of prayer, obedience to His teachings, and faithfulness to the Sacraments of the Church. If we live in Christ and die in Christ, we will rise in Christ! In the midst of all this, should we grieve? Yes, brothers and sisters, it is OK to grieve; it is natural, because we love Kevin. Even Christ wept when His friend Lazarus died... and He wept even though He was about to bring Him back to life! Yes, we as Christians grieve. But we grieve with hope. It is OK to be sad today that we do not see Kevin anymore, but it would be wrong to think we will never see him again. It is OK to grieve, but it is wrong to despair. Christ is alive! We pray today for Kevin that he may complete the journey to heaven. Pray for him every day, and for yourselves. Look at him today and say with faith, "Kevin, you do not belong to death. You belong to Christ, and so do we!" Amen.