I've been his pastor for the last 10 years, ever since God "kicked his ass" (his words), told him to go to church, and changed his life. He said that Jesus miraculously freed him from his long addiction to alcohol and drugs, overnight - never experienced a craving again. He led our addiction recovery group for years. There are people in my church who are certainly functional, and possibly alive, because of him.
He was a bachelor, a Grizzly-Adams type who chopped his own wood and shot his own food, loved the country, hated the city. And yet - he was part of our church, right downtown. Every Sunday morning, he would sit in the last row of the balcony, back corner. As soon as the music began, he would stand, raise his hands high in the air, throw his head back, and sing with all his might.
I officiated at his funeral today, an odd mix of city people and a city pastor, who all found our way to the little church in the country near his home, mingling with the people with whom he had grown up, and to whom he had delivered mail for years.
Some of them chuckled and raised their eyebrows
at my description of the Karl I knew.
They knew him before God kicked him you-know-where.
When the service ended, we all walked together up the country road to the cemetery where we said our final goodbyes. It was a perfect fall day. The pastor of the country church described to me the history and people of the farms and old homes as we walked past each one - generations of stories.
Lunch was provided on small china plates by the women of the country church. We laughed about the world of difference between downtown city and rural village, only 20 minutes apart. The matriarch of the Jerseyville church informed us with a shudder that she never, ever goes to the city; meanwhile, my crew wondered how to navigate out of the bewildering country roads and back to the highway.
My friend Karl passed away this week.
My faith tells me I will see him again,
this stubborn, humble, kind man
with an irreverent sense of humour.