In April 2019 I was leaving the country to attend a wedding in Ireland. Kathy Rasmussen was in the hospital and not doing well, and I was afraid that she might not make until I got back.
So, I wrote a letter and gave it to Buzzy to read at her funeral, just in case. Fortunately, Kathy was still here upn my return. I went over to her house to have coffee and cookies and read her the letter. We both had a good cry as I remember. Since the Covid isolation went into effect the week Kathy died in 2020 we have not been able to properly mourn her death here at the church.
Kathy was Director of Music at Pine Ridge for 35 years. Music was central to her life and faith. I met with her several times over the last few years to get “the list” from her of songs she had carefully picked out for her funeral. Of course, the fear that getting together and singing could turn into a Covid super spreader event kept us from setting a date and keeping it until now. A memorial service will be held for Kathy June 5th on what would have been Kathy and Pete’s 74th wedding anniversary in the sanctuary that she helped to design and build. Please come and sing praises to God at her memorial, because nothing would honor Kathy or God more.
I shared the letter I wrote with Kathy, with her family at the graveside in October 2020 and now with you.
Dearest brothers and sisters,
For years I have received beautiful notes from Kathy, which always began, “Dearest Jim.” Birthdays, Christmas cards, and special days she sent cards with the kindest notes. Each was carefully written in her beautiful, flowing cursive. I think I have saved them all somewhere. So maybe it is most appropriate that I now write a note about “dearest Kathy.” Since my handwriting is challenged, I will type it.
I have lost track of the number of people who have told me that they also received notes from Kathy. Marcia got notes, my kids got notes, probably many people hearing this now also got notes. Over the years some have told me about them with tears in their eyes, that it was like Kathy knew exactly what to say—to thank, to encourage, to heal. In this day of social media posts, texts and tweets, a handwritten note is even more precious, and a true labor of love. Writing notes is not listed as one of the spiritual gifts in the New Testament, but it certainly was for Kathy.
Actually, one of her notes is the reason we came to Kansas City. I had gotten to know Kathy and Pete when Marcia and I worked at Heartland Presbyterian Center in the early 80’s. In the fall of 1993 Kathy sent a note to say that the pastor of Pine Ridge was leaving and wondered if I might be interested in applying. “Just planting a seed,” is the line I most remember. That seed grew and grew. It seemed like the exact wrong time to be thinking about leaving the church I was serving in Iowa, but it turned out to be God’s time. I soon realized in coming that I am only one of many people Kathy helped call to ministry at Pine Ridge.
In coming to Pine Ridge Kathy was my colleague for the first several years. We worked closely together. She was also my trusted mentor. She had a lot of experience, but she was always looking for new ways to invite others to experience God. She was Music Director for many years who enjoyed all kinds of music. For example she worked hard to develop and lead our first contemporary services. She was always trying new Christian Education programs, writing chancel dramas and working hard to invite new people into leadership. I learned a lot from her about servant leadership and trusting the leading of the Holy Spirit in ever new and creative ways to guide the church. I came to appreciate and trust that she was a stable, loving presence at Pine Ridge for many years.
Kathy wasn’t perfect. She worked harder and probably longer hours than she should have. I realized when I came that she wouldn’t listen to me about some things, mostly about taking time off. For as open as she was, she could also be stubborn. For as much as she cared for others, she was very private about her own needs to the point of exasperation. “I’m fine,” was all she would say in a “Don’t ask me anything more” voice, and then she would ask, “How are you?”
I have always had great respect for Kathy. She was very intelligent and very wise. She was a dedicated Christian. She loved Jesus, and she served him faithfully through Pine Ridge and beyond. And she was the only one who could keep her sons and Pete in line. I can still here her say, “Oh, Pete!,” but it was clear from the twinkle in her eye that she enjoyed his mismatched socks, his bad jokes and silly antics as much as everyone else.
I am very sorry I can’t be with you today to say that most of all Kathy has been a wonderful teacher, a true saint of the church, and a great friend to me. She has listened to me, trusted me, prayed for and with me, loved me and encouraged me. I already terribly miss her wise, insightful words; her prayers; her ideas; her wit and her laugh and her beautiful notes—both written and musical.