Here is the text of Kurt's tribute delivered at the Memorial Service.
Hello, my name is Kurt Klassen. Thomas Carney was my Grandfather... I always called him Grandpa Carney. This morning, I’d like to briefly share with you the impact that he has had upon me and in so doing; I want to celebrate his life. My love and appreciation for Thomas is very deep, but I know that I’m not alone. He has impacted everyone here in a meaningful and significant way. Sometimes when a person dies, the challenge is to find good things to say…that is not the case here. Our challenge is that there is so much good to say that it’s hard to fit it all in. Many of you knew him better than I, and saw aspects of him that I did not. Our collective experiences of Thomas are like a collage, and so I hope that these thoughts serve as a contribution to the greater picture.
I would summarize Grandpa’s impact upon me in this way, “That Thomas Carney tangibly demonstrated to me the reality of Jesus and what it means to love him.” I find the words of the bible to be authenticated and adorned by his life. And so I’d like to share a few examples of how he did this for me.
First, Thomas had a vitality, a love of life that was unmistakable. He was a continuous learner with a perennial curiosity. He seemed to know the names of a hundred different plants and he loved getting outside and exploring. I have fond memories of hiking, fishing & shooting with him, of working on projects in his shop. His interests were so broad and varied!
One time when my brother, Kyle, and I were kids, he took us squirrel hunting. We drove to an almond orchard where the squirrels were sure to be fat and slow. We took turns shooting and by the end of the day had nearly filled a five gallon bucket with them. It was then that Grandpa said, “now we’re going to skin them!” He picked one up and jabbed it with his pocket knife. .. I’m not sure that we had thought that far ahead. Soon we had a bucket of pink little critters. We brought them home and Grandma kindly went along with the whole thing and made squirrel stew.
Grandpa taught me that when you’re on a long hike and your legs hurt, a good remedy is to eat a raw olive. This will help you to completely forget the pain. He embodied the verse in Philippians that says “do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be children of God”. Thomas didn’t give much space to complaining, life had too much good for that.
I have an image frozen in my mind. We were on Uncle Stanley’s ski boat and had taken turns being pulled on the inner tube. This was a few years ago when Thomas was about 80, and he wanted a turn on the tube. Stanley didn’t give him a free pass just because he was old, he cranked up the motor and let his Dad have it. The tube skipped and bounced over the water,( cause Thomas didn’t weight enough to hold it down). And the image frozen in my mind is of grandpa, on the tube, about three feet in the air, white hair blowing in the wind, and a steely grip of determination. That was Thomas’ love of life.
Thomas heartily affirmed God’s words upon creating the world, “it is good”. His love of life, with all it had to offer, was, I believe, rooted in his love for God.
The Second way that Thomas tangibly demonstrated Jesus to me was through his personality. He had a genuineness, a care, a love for others, that set him to action. He was industrious and purposeful because he sought to make an impact in the lives of others. His little tan truck was stocked with extra oil and water and fan belts so that, should the need arise, he could help someone who was broken down. And that was his attitude, always on the lookout for opportunities to bless and help others. His life was oriented to this cause.
My mom shared with me an encounter that she had at the airport on the way out here this past Monday. She got to talking to an Asian man and in the course of conversation asked where he was from. “I’m Hmong”, he responded. “That’s interesting”, my mom replied. My Father once helped a Hmong man and his family by providing an apartment for him. The man responded, “we need more people like him, do you know what we call a man like that in Laos, a brother of Jesus.
I especially admired Thomas’ and Madeline’s marriage. It was evident that they loved each other very deeply and they seemed to complement each other so well. Their relationship was a most beautiful thing. They were tender towards each other, they were patient, and they brought out the best in the other.
Which leads me to one final reason that I want to share as to how Thomas demonstrated the reality of Jesus to me. I ask, what was the key to this man’s character, what made him such a blessing? I would have to say, the bible. This is the theme that unifies all the parts… From my earliest years I remember the importance that he placed upon the bible. In second grade he quizzed me and helped me to memorize Psalm 23. Grandpa believed the bible to be the very words God, an extraordinary claim. That God’s message to the human race was reliably preserved in a group of writings, writings rooted in historical events.
As a Jr. Higher, I spent a summer here in Phoenix with Thomas and Madeline. And it was then that I gained a glimpse into their relationship with Jesus. Whatever the day’s events, they spent a significant time each evening reading God’s word. The word was read out loud, and then there was prayer. Prayer for missionaries, prayer for the church, prayer for those in need, prayer for family.
Thomas was a Gideon, a group dedicated to sharing the bible. What was it that he found in these writings that so gripped him, that so centered and directed his life? Well, in short, he found God… or rather, God found him. He met the living God, and it changed him. It didn’t merely make him religious, it made him a whole new person. It was this relationship that brought to bloom the beauty of his personality, his life, and his work. This colored him through and through and touched every corner of his being.
But no, he was not perfect. Those of us who knew him, know that he had flaws. And those who knew him most closely saw those flaws most clearly. And only God knows the full extent of his brokenness and sin. As much as we admire about him, we have to admit that there was a measure of pain. Yet I feel a joy and a deep seated hope that Thomas is now in the very presence of God. Not because he was faultless, but because he was forgiven. Not because his good deeds outweighed his bad, but because he found grace. He found forgiveness at the cross. This forgiveness set him free, free from selfish ambition, free from self centeredness. It made him a lover of life, a lover of others, and a lover of God. That’s what I mean when I say the Thomas tangibly demonstrated the reality of Jesus to me.
As a final closing word of hope, I find great comfort and joy in the passage that Pastor Randy read earlier in the service. The passage in revelation says that the Holy city will descend to the earth. And that the dwelling place of God will be with humanity. What I love about this passage is that it affirms the physical. Heaven will not be a mystical, ethereal place in the clouds occupied by floating spirits. No, it will be as physical and tangible as everything is now…in fact more so. That’s why Jesus physically rose from the dead, because the physical is here to stay. Thomas trusted Jesus and so he will pass through death and come out the other side. Thomas Carneywill walk again on a renewed earth.
Praise God, from the ashes, he is making all things new. Amen