Well, Linda's funeral was yesterday.
We had such a great turn-out.
So many of you made the long drive in for the service and we could not appreciate you more.
The day started out rainy and gloomy and ended warm and beautiful.
I think that's a fairly accurate representation for how we all felt throughout the day.
One minute we were laughing and reminiscing and the next, we were drying our eyes.
Again, back and forth.
Linda's friend Sherry spoke and memorialized her beautifully. She talked of their younger years - how they would sit on each other's beds and plan their futures ... and she spoke of these last 20 years when they started traveling. Neither Sherry's husband Milt or Linda's husband Mike cared for the traveling life, so Linda and Sherry hit the road together! From multiple trips to Alexandria, Minnesota, to their visits in California and the East Coast, to their Hawaiian Adventure ... These two had so much fun and made so many memories.
She had us laughing, she made us cry a little ... Sherry perfectly captured Linda.
Miki's daughters Lauryn and Lindsay performed a beautiful rendition of "Amazing Grace." These two are so incredibly talented. They work so well together - Lauryn on the piano and Lindsay singing. I know Linda was absolutely beaming with pride.
Pastor Gary put it so well yesterday. He said, "As much as she loved all of us and as much as she loved her life here on earth, if you were to give her the option to come back, she would say 'Nope. I'll just wait for you here.'" That's so comforting, isn't it?
Nobody loved more than Linda.
She loved her people and she loved her life. But given the chance to leave Heaven and come back to us? She's going to choose Heaven.
Below is the eulogy I gave. It was such a privilege to know Linda and get to call her family and such an honor to get to write about her and speak at her service.
What a beautiful soul.
I need to start by thanking everyone for being here today. And for your calls and messages and just the outpouring of love and prayers we have felt since sharing Linda’s journey with you.
You. Let’s talk about you for a minute.
You’re here today because Linda meant something to you.
And you know you meant something to Linda.
There is not a doubt in your mind Linda cared for you. She loved you.
Joey and I were talking about all of the messages we have gotten and the conversations we have had in the last few days. We noticed there was one common theme. So many of you said: “Linda was always genuinely interested in our lives. She was always asking about my job or the grandkids or how school is going.” She made sure she invested some time and energy into Her People.
She had her own little Linda – Love - Language.
She was genuine. And she was welcoming.
A moment ago we heard from Linda's lifelong friend Sherry. Even as a fifth grader, Linda’s instinct was to make her feel welcome.
When Joe and I first started getting serious, I was a little nervous to meet Mike & Linda … and Miki! They had had such a wonderful relationship with Jodi and were such a close bunch, I wondered how my kids and I would fit in.
Linda – with her Linda Love Language embraced the three of us immediately – both literally and figuratively.
She folded us into her world so easily.
Our first Christmas all together … oh my gosh. If you guys know the Knudsons, you know they Christmas HARD.
The lefse making.
The annual Tom & Patty Christmas play.
The ornaments and decorations and dozens of pieces to the Christmas village … The food … the gallons of Tom & Jerry’s batter … The GIFTS – oh my goodness … The pile of gifts in front of me and in front of my kids was unbelievable. I don’t know what I was worried about – Our trio fit right in.
Joey said, “That’s what she does. My mom LOVES Christmas.”
There is nothing bigger, more fun, or HAPPIER than a KFC …. A Knudson Family Christmas.
And this year ... We did it BIG.
It was legendary.
We had two full, action-packed, fun-filled days of holly jolly merriment.
All the Knudson brothers and sisters were in attendance and on their best behavior, Linda’s sister Vionne and Honorary sister Kathy made an appearance, all the grandkids, a few relatives from my side … Everyone celebrated together and Linda was in her element.
Linda liked a good time.
She loved any reason celebrate.
She had the coolest birthday tradition for the kids.
On their birthday, they would get a card with some money or a gift card in it … pretty standard stuff, right?? … but what made it so cool was that Grandma would take that kid out to spend the gift card and take them out to supper and they would have a date – just the two of them.
I can confidently say that Grandma learned a lot about our four kids on these special one-on-one dates.
She also learned a lot about LEGO Star Wars sets, Barbie dolls, and soccer.
The woman spent hours in a football / baseball card store in our neighborhood and who KNOWS how much time she spent looking at Harry Potter treasures.
The kids were interested in these things … and she was interested in the kids.
She was famous for going to Half Priced books and just buying an entire series of children’s books because she thought the kids might like them.
She would say to me, “I know Joe said they don’t need any more books but these were so cheap! Someone will read them!”
And then she would do her signature move – Palms up, smile wide, she would say, “Right?? I had to! Right??”
You know the look. And how could you NOT match that enthusiasm?
Of COURSE our kids need another 25 books!
Mike, it looks like you need to build us another shelf!
Linda had hobbies – She loved to travel. She was an avid reader herself. She loved thrift store shopping and patio-ing with her girlfriends … but her biggest hobby – her passion … Was US. All of us in here.
Her loved ones.
And if there was something happening – Whether it was just a night out in the garage for Happy Hour, a choir concert, a sporting event, or a trip, Linda was up for it.
Until the end.
We found out about her diagnosis late this summer but her ending came so suddenly.
I know this is a blessing because she was suffering. And she wasn’t Linda.
She was getting confused.
And she was tired.
In her last weeks, her family and her friends rallied around her as she slipped away from us.
It was a helpless feeling – knowing there was nothing more they could do for her.
In one of our final conversations, I told her how proud she should be of herself. And her legacy. And the life she lived.
She said quietly, “I am. I really am.”
I’m going to close with a poem you may be familiar with. It compares someone passing away with a ship leaving shore.
The piece is called “Gone From my Sight.” And it’s by Henry Van Dyke.
I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship, at my side, spreads her white sails to the moving breeze and starts
for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.
Then, someone at my side says, "There. She is gone."
Gone from my sight. That is all.
She is just as large in mast, hull and spar as she was when she left my side.
Her diminished size is in me -- not in her.
And, just at the moment when someone says, "There. She is gone,"
there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices
ready to take up the glad shout, "Here she comes!"
I can’t imagine the Welcome Linda received in Heaven.
The woman who so eagerly welcomed all of us into her life, reunited with her sisters and her dad … With Beau and Jodi … People she’s known throughout her life … Smiling that smile that lights up her whole face … Telling stories, asking questions … probably reporting back on the rest of us … She’s home.
And while it doesn’t seem fair to the rest of us – we hated to see her go. We are going to miss her so terribly, I think we can all take comfort in the fact that when our time comes, Linda is going to be there – ready to welcome us.