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In Memory of my wife, Ann (Fedder) Kern

My wife of 40 years passed away Tuesday, March 27, 2012.  She was buried on Saturday, March 31, 2012.  She died after a lengthy disease of dementia which lasted over 20 years and resulted in her staying at a nursing home for over eleven years. She also left behind our two children, Katherine and Michael Kern in addition to our daughter-in-law Alison (Michael) Kern and grandson, Noah. She finally is at peace.  Below is an obituary of her passing. Also included is an eulogy by daughter, Katherine Kern; reading of the Psalm: reading of the sermon text; and the sermon by son, Rev. Michael Kern, at the funeral service at church.

Ann Kern, age 68, passed away Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at the Surrey Place Nursing Home in Chesterfield after a lengthy illness.  Ann was born May 17, 1943 to Albert and Edith (Schmidt) Fedder in St. Louis.  Ann married Wallace Kern on July 17, 1971.  Ann attended Concordia Teacher's College in River Forest, IL and graduated from Harris Stowe State University with a Bachelors Degree in Education.  She earned a Master's Degree in Education from Webster University.  Ann taught elementary grades in the St. Louis City Public Schools.  After having children, she taught in preschools, was a teacher's aid, and substitute teacher.  She loved her students.  Ann was an avid reader and loved the outdoors.  The family is grateful to the wonderful nursing staff that took care of Ann while at Surrey Place for eleven years.

Surviving Ann is her husband Wallace; two children Katherine Kern, St. Louis and Rev. Michael Kern (Alison), Albion, NE; one grandson, Noah Kern; one sister, Ruth Mueller (late Rev. Donald), Vestal, NY; two brothers, Joel (Cynthia) Fedder, Alexandria, VA and Brian (Berenice) Fedder, Lynchburg, VA; and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.  She was preceded in death by her parents Albert and Edith Fedder, and one sister, Joan Fedder.  

Services: Visitation will be Friday, March 30, 4-8 p.m. at Ortmann Stipanovich Funeral Home at 12444 Olive Blvd., Creve Coeur.  Funeral service will be on Saturday, March 2012 at Holy Cross Lutheran Church at 13014 Olive Blvd., Creve Coeur at 10am with visitation preceding at 9 a.m.  Burial to follow at Oak Hill Cemetery in Kirkwood.  Memorials to St. Louis Alzheimer's Assoc., 9370 Olive Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63132; Lutheran Family and Children's Services 8631 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63124, or a charity of choice.

 

Eulogy Given by Katherine Kern©

At first, I never thought to speak today - as indicated by this eulogy not being in the program. I keep my emotions to myself to the point one might mistakenly believe I don't have them. However, as we got closer to the service something compelled me to speak up - something left unsaid - a part of my mom gone unappreciated. Yet, how do I adequately express how much my mom means to me, all the things she taught me, or the hole that is left in my heart by losing my best friend - without seeming like I'm being paid by the minute? Faced with these intangibles and the unknown that needed to be said I looked at my options. I could put together something that sounded like I'd spent the last few months in a Hallmark store copying all the cards. But that didn't feel genuine - no matter how true the words - a virtue my mom taught me and modeled herself. My other possibility was admitting she wasn't perfect or maybe even the best mother (not that I was perfect or the best daughter) but detail how special and wonderful she was in just being herself nonetheless - and showing my appreciation/gratitude - another quality she taught me.

Unsatisfied by either possibility, I wondered if I were looking at this in the wrong way in focusing on perfection. This orientation toward perfection has always guided my life in my striving to be perfect in everything - and to everyone . . . Perhaps I'm missing something - what exactly is a perfect life? All of a sudden the phrase "they'll know we are Christians by our love" popped into my head like a bolt from the blue. So I thought about all the ways my mom expressed her love for God (from singing hymns to making sure we got to church every Sunday), her husband (by deferring to his wishes), her kids (like the gifts she sent me each night she was in the hospital when she had my brother), and the world in general (like after her stroke in 2005, in the hospital herself - thinking only about ways she could donate her unused clothes etc. to the victims of the tsunami).

In a day and age where we are encouraged to forward e-mails or take up a particular cause to "prove" our faith - that we are Christians - a woman who never got the hang of a computer -much less e-mail - spoke louder than a spam folder full of forwards by the way she loved. At that instant I realized of all the things my mom is to me and everything she taught me - perhaps the most important is that you will never regret living your life with love - that you will never regret love itself . . . regardless of the outcome. And in the end, I can't think of anything better - perfect or not.

PSALM 23

The LORD is my shepherd, I need not be in want.  
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;  he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil;
for you are with me; your rod and your staff-- they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The Gospel According to John 10:11-27 (The Text for the Sermon)

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away-- and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep.  14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,  15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.  16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.  17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father."  

    19 Again the Jews were divided because of these words.  20 Many of them were saying, "He has a demon and is out of his mind. Why listen to him?"  21 Others were saying, "These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"  

    22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter,  23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.  24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly."  25 Jesus answered, "I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name testify to me;  26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.  27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.

Sermon by Rev. Michael Kern

My mother was a sheep through and through.  She embodied both the good and the bad that comes with being a sheep.  On the one hand, she was warm and soft--comfortable to be around.  She was innocent and open to wonder and joy.  She was quick to run to those she knew and loved.  On the other hand, my mother had her share of fears and pains.  Like a sheep, she was also sometimes vulnerable.  She searched for things she could not find.  And she had her moments, especially in the end, of not being sure what she was doing or where she was going.  My mother was a sheep who followed other people, often to her credit in her faithfulness, but sometimes to her own peril as she was led to situations of pain and fear.  But despite those moments, my mother still knew the Shepherd's voice.  Ultimately, the one that she followed was God.  She tried to do good, tried to do what was right.  She loved people fiercely, just as God loves people.  She also had high expectations . . . for herself, for others, for the world, and for God.  

But we all know that life took her places she did not want to go.  As was the case in these last years when she was bound to a wheelchair and couldn't tell us where she wanted to go, she was pushed around from place to place.  I'm not sure what led my mother to the dark valley that is dementia--I know it was not God.  Instead, I believe it was a wolf in the night.  Like a hired hand, each of us had our moments of running away from her illness, distancing ourselves, because we didn't know how to hand it, how to face it, or why it was happening.

But even as we struggled to be there for my mother, God was with her all along.  She belonged to Him.  I can remember one time when I was a kid and begged my mother to skip church one week.  I begged and pleaded.  It would just be one week.  Couldn't we take just one week off?  And do you know what she told me?  "God never takes a day off caring for us."  She knew His voice alright.  She knew He was near to her in good and bad.  I've never forgotten that lesson.  I still believe it's still true, even for my mom.  Even as her days ran together and her illness progressed, God never took a day off.  In that conversation and in her life, my mother taught me that God doesn't leave His people.  That's a big part of the reason I'm here talking today, why I like sharing that Good News with others.  

God has been with my mother her whole life long, and knew her in ways that myself and everyone here could never have understood.  Even as we wondered what was going on with her body and in her mind, God knew.  God know the thoughts and words, the emotions and feelings she could not speak.  God heard her pain, fear, and loneliness--in illness and in life.  And though we also wondered whether my mother could hear our voices, I believe she could still hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.  It was clear even through the fog of dementia.  God was with her.  God thought for her.  Through the Spirit, God even interceded and spoke to our hearts for her.  

My mother was indeed wise in the lesson she taught me.  Not only did she hear God's voice, she knew that it was good.  She knew that He is the Good Shepherd, even when it's hard to see.  Despite illness and hardship, my mother was still so blessed.  As I was looking through pictures of her this past week, I began to remember her as she was.  And I even discovered a beautiful child and young woman I never really knew.  Yes, she had her struggles in life.  But we also had a lot of fun along the way.  We laughed together, we cried together, we did lots of silly things together.  And my mother was blessed to have touched many lives along the way.  She taught us how to love.  She taught us how to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.  She shaped the lives of so many children she taught along the way who have now grown up, and some who may now even teach like she did.  Even in the face of dementia, my mother was blessed.  She still found joy, even if she couldn't express it in the same ways.  God continued to bless people through her gifts and capacities even in her later years.  Even as the wolf crept in and dementia laid claim on her mind, my mother was giving back rubs and pushing other wheelchair-bound residents through the nursing home.  God never took a day off blessing her, and us through her.  

God's works testify to His great love.  We know God's love and faithfulness through the cross.  Through Jesus, God entered the dark valleys of life.  He laid down His life for my mother, for us.  God allowed himself to be led where He didn't want to go, into the pits of human sin and pain.  God goes there willingly, all to lead my mother home.  God journeyed into my mother's pain, into her confusion, loneliness, and fear, though it was a long and painful walk for God and my mother (and for us, too).  My mother knew God's voice was love, even when the dark world around her did not make sense.  But God went there because she belonged to Him, because ultimately, this isn't about sheep.  Yes, my mother was a sheep, but she was also God's child.  The twenty-third Psalm my mother loved is about sheep, yes; but really it's about people, about my mother, about us, about God's beloved children redeemed and restored.  It's about the same children my mother loved and taught who walk through their own dark valleys, but ultimately like her are led out.  As a kid, there were places I know I led my mother that she wasn't exactly thrilled to go.  But she always went there because I was her child.  She always brought me home . . . to herself and to the God she knew.  

One day God will gather us and lead us home, too.  We are sheep who wander, too, sheep who likewise experience loneliness and fear.  We are sheep who walked with my mother through those dark, dark valleys.  And so God comes to us there now, and in our own valleys we face.  We will hear His voice even as we heard it in my mother.  And He will lead us back . . . to be part of His flock of the saints . . . and one day, to my mother, who I know will be whole in body, mind, and spirit, more so than even before dementia crept in.  And I know that we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever, together in peace and wholeness.  Thanks be to God. Amen.

 

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