Funeral Service for Brad and Angie Kershner
August 20th, 2016
We are gathered here today to mourn the loss, but also to celebrate the lives of Bradley and Angela Kershner. As we gather today, the pain of loss is compounded by the shock of what happened. We are rocked by the circumstances of their death. In times when the world seems to not make sense, we must turn to something that can anchor us, something deeply rooted. This morning I want to help you to turn to the Lord as the source of our strength and our comfort. In the Bible, we read these words,
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed….because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us in his presence…Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
This is our hope and our comfort today—that the Lord is still with us and that He will give us strength as we grieve. So will you join me in praying to Him?
Our Heavenly Father, as we stand here today, we experience a flood of emotions. We struggle to even make sense of all that has happened. In our minds it just seems wrong for Brad and Angie to be gone already. So we seek your help as we grieve. Help us to cling to you, to the truth that this life is not all there is, and the promise that you are still with us. Comfort these friends and these families as they say goodbye to those they love. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Bradley Shane Kershner was born on November 29th, 1958, the son of Paul and Gloria McMahon Kershner. He was one of four children born to Paul and Gloria, and was preceded in death by his two brothers. Angela Ruth (Beach) Kershner was born December 19th, 1963, the daughter of Robert “Terry” and Ruth Kinney Teesdale. Brad and Angie were both married before, but the two married each other on April 14th of last year.
Brad and Angie were quite a pair. Though they had only been married for a year, they had known each other for many years before that. Over the last year, they seemed genuinely happy together, and they were so excited to finally get a chance to go on their dream trip out west on their motorcycle. They hadn’t been able to take a proper honeymoon after they were married, and they viewed this as their chance to do it right. And from all accounts, they had a great time, seeing a good chunk of the western United States. They got to ride through the mountains, they went ziplining together, went river rafting, watched pig races, hunted bobcats, and even made a quick stop in Canada. From what we can tell, the trip was everything they had hoped it would be. No one expected the trip, and their lives to be cut short in the way they were, when they were involved in an accident involving a deer near Great Falls, MT. Brad and Angela Kershner died on August 12th, 2016. Brad is survived by one son, Matthew Paul Kershner, his parents, and his sister Sheryl. Angela leaves behind her son, Terry and his wife Brittany Teesdale, her daughter, Nichole Beach, her mother, and her granddaughter, Bridgette Belle Teesdale.
When I asked the family to describe Brad and Angie, there were some common themes that really seemed to describe both of them. Both of them were ornery, and wouldn’t hesitate to give you a hard time. They both had a great sense of humor. They were probably most ornery with one another, as they loved to pick at and tease each other. But no one was immune from their playful teasing.
Everywhere Brad went, he made people laugh. He was well-known on his job sites as someone who liked to have fun. He was constantly giving others a hard time, and was occasionally known for his pranks. One of the best was when he was working for Wayne Hibreeder; there was a day when they had dug a large hole, and Wayne needed to leave to get some supplies. Knowing Brad as he did, his last words before leaving were to give explicit instructions, “Brad, do not get in that hole.” To his credit, Brad followed instructions. He didn’t get in the hole. But Wayne didn’t know that. He returned to find the hole filled in, but with Brad’s pants and boots sticking up out of the freshly filled dirt. He began to panic, thinking that Brad had been buried, but his mind was quickly put at ease when Brad came running out, laughing, in his sock feet and underwear!
He loved to live life on the edge. He liked going fast, and loved being on the bike. Of course, his orneriness didn’t stop just because he was in a vehicle. Apparently he once blew the engine in his green Chevelle while running from the police. As the story goes, the engine blew at the top of the hill, but he had enough momentum to coast back into the driveway at his house, acting as though nothing had happened.
I suspect that Brad came by his orneriness naturally. Growing up, Sheryl was often tasked with babysitting her three younger brothers. She was always careful to make sure they stayed out of trouble, and when necessary, she would make the boys sit in the corner. As the boys got older though, things became more difficult. And one day Paul and Gloria returned home to find that Sheryl was in the corner. The boys had teamed up on her and forced her to stay there. I think that was the last time Sheryl was asked to babysit all of the boys together.
Angie was feisty in her own right. She was driven and determined to succeed at anything she put her mind to. She wasn’t afraid to tell you how she felt, or to stick up for herself when she felt she wasn’t being treated fairly. When she started working at the Pink Tavern, she was not happy with the dress code. When she found out that she couldn’t wear her necklaces or rings at work, she told her mom, “They want me to dress like I’m going to the Laundromat!” Despite that, she loved working at the Pink. She loved the people and the environment as a whole. She really was a “people person”.
She loved having fun and loved helping others to have fun as well. Growing up, it was not uncommon for her to declare that they were having a “girls’ night” and kick her husband out of the house for the evening, because the girls would spend the night dancing, making (and eating) cheese dip, doing nails, and watching movies. She made sure that Nichole and her friends had a good time.
No matter what she was doing, you were sure to discover that Angie’s Pepsi was always nearby. Even when Terry was a baby, she would talk about how she’d always have Pepsi and Similac (baby formula) with her. Both were essential.
Both Brad and Angie were also a little bit on the strong-willed side. They both had very specific ideas about how things should be done and were quick to ensure that others knew the “right” way to do things. I’m sure this made for some interesting discussions between the two of them, but they seemed to make it work. Brad was particular about how things were done on the job site. After years as a boilermaker, he understood the importance of making sure things were done the right way. If you didn’t do it right, lives were at risk. When he became a supervisor, he ensured that things were done the way they should be. And if you didn’t listen to what he said, he was not afraid to climb up there and do it himself. No one questioned Brad’s work ethic. He seemed to get that drive to work hard and do a good job from his dad. As a result, his co-workers came to respect him and liked working with him. As a matter of fact, one day after quitting his job, he found his phone starting ringing constantly as word got around that Kershner was available to hire. By the end of the day, he had four new job offers!
He knew what he was doing in most things. He was a great hunter, and an excellent marksman with most anything you put in his hands. He passed along that love for the outdoors to Matthew, who he took hunting with him even at an early age. Apparently even when Matthew was little he was a natural, because he kept saying, “Buck, Buck” to his dad, even though Brad kept insisting there weren’t any deer around. Later on he saw what little Matthew had seen, and from that day forward, his son had a new nickname, “Buck.”
Angela was particular about how her house was kept. No one seems to know how she did it, but her house was always immaculate. Everyone knew that you didn’t dare to walk on the upstairs carpet with shoes on, and if you even set foot on the stairs with your shoes still on, she seemed to have a sixth sense and would call you on it, even from two rooms over. There was a rule in her house as well, if you were the last person to use the shower in the morning, it was your responsibility to squeegee it when you got done. The fact that she was so particular about making sure everything was clean meant that she was in high demand when she started cleaning houses for others. When she decided to stop cleaning houses, her clients were all upset—they weren’t sure how they were going to find someone else who did as good a job as Angie.
She was particular about her workout regimen when the kids were growing up as well. The kids vividly remember Angie clearing out the living room to do her workout tapes. Her favorite (or at least the kids’ favorite memory) was her Cher workout tape. She must have done that one a lot, because both Terry and Nichole can remember it vividly. Apparently one day she lost her balance while doing the Cher tape, however, and the result was an Angie-shaped dent in the wood paneling. Of course, the kids were told never to speak of that incident. Unsurprisingly not long after that, Angie decided it was time to redo the walls in that room, and the wood paneling, and her indentation disappeared.
She was also tough. She was one of the first girls to play Little League baseball when they started letting girls play. She loved playing ball, but wanted to show that she could hang with the boys. One day, she got hurt on the ball diamond, but she stuck it out and hung in there until she got back to mom and dad, at which point the tears started flowing. She didn’t want the boys to see her cry.
She also loved her children fiercely. She always told Terry and Nichole that they would always be her babies, no matter how old they got. She always called Terry her “buddy”, and growing up, he went everywhere with her. I’m not sure the whole story, but growing up she and Terry shared a special bond with the Van Halen song “Jump”. As a kid, he knew every word.
She tried to make other kids feel welcome in their home, and to this day many of their friends still refer to her as “Momma Angie”. She showed a similar devotion to Michelle when she had kids. She was excited to go to doctor’s appointments with her, and got her a big thing of diapers for her baby shower. Michelle said it was the best gift she got, and it became her standard gift for new moms as well. When Michelle’s second child, Macy was born, the first thing Angie did was go to Mariah and congratulate her on being a big sister. She wanted to make sure she wasn’t ignored.
Both Brad and Angie had big hearts. There were many stories of ways in which they helped out other people. They wanted to include as many people as they could in their Father’s Day Fish Fry. Before they left on their trip, they were excited to give Paul and Gloria the Iwo Jima sculpture they had bought for them. They even delayed leaving for the trip to make sure it was installed properly. They once stopped to help a biker who had broken down in Fort Madison. They loaded up his bike and took it (and him) back to their house. They fixed the bike and cooked him a steak dinner that night. He spent the night with them, and they fixed him a big breakfast before sending him on his way again. They didn’t know the guy, they just knew he needed help. They were truly willing to use whatever they had to help someone in need.
Their biker friends will always remember Brad and Angie as Hillbilly and Barbie. They took great pride in their friends, and love being out on the bike. If there was one theme that seemed to resonate as I talked to people about Brad and Angie Kershner, it was one of love. Love for each other, love for life, love for their families, and really for most everyone with whom they interacted. Both Brad and Angie loved the people in their lives…and it seems the feeling was mutual.
Today it seems like we’re left with a whole lot more questions than we have answers. We find ourselves asking why this happened to two people who were out celebrating their marriage. We ask why they couldn’t have been 30 seconds earlier or 30 seconds later. Why did this have to happen? I don’t have an answer to those questions. I wish I did. But as I try to wrestle with these kinds of questions, I find comfort in a story from the Bible: the story of Job.
Job was a wealthy man, and a good man. We are told that God loved Job and that Job was strongly devoted to the Lord. One day, Satan decided to test Job’s devotion to God, and in a single day Job learned that his children had died, his servants had died, his livestock had died, and most everything he owned was gone. He continued to trust God, even though he was distraught with grief. But Satan wasn’t done with Job yet. He gave Job a painful skin condition that caused his whole body to break out in painful boils. In all of this, Job continued to trust that somehow God was in control, and that he just needed to trust Him.
In the midst of Job’s grief, his friends came to comfort him. For a while, they were a wonderful comfort. They recognized that they couldn’t do anything to fix Job’s situation, so they simply sat with him and mourned with him. But eventually they thought Job needed to move on, so they began to try to explain to Job why these things had happened. They started explaining why God would allow these things to happen to him. Their conclusion was that Job must have done something to make God punish him. He must have deserved this for some reason, and so he needed to figure out what he had done to make God mad at him.
Job’s friends were fools. They were trying to explain things they didn’t know anything about. They had no idea why God allowed these things to happen to him, but they spoke as though they did. The truth is, we find ourselves trying to do the same thing. Maybe you’ve even tried to explain to others why God allowed something to happen. It’s a natural response to grief—we long for answers. We can understand why Job’s friends did what they did, but the fact of the matter is that what they did wasn’t helpful at all. Job didn’t need guesses about what was going on, he needed friends who would grieve with him.
After Job spent some time listening to his friends, he found that he started questioning God. He started feeling like God owed him answers. At the end of the story, God responds to Job’s requests to answer him, but Job didn’t get the answer he expected. God never explained to Job why things happened. He simply told Job to trust Him, to recognize that even though he didn’t understand what was happening, there was a reason.
To be honest, that’s where I think we are today. We have tons of questions. You might even find yourself being mad at God that He would allow something like this to happen. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you the reasons for that today. What I can tell you is that God is good, and that He knows what He’s doing. Let me encourage you today not to turn your back on God but to run to Him.
Part of what makes the death of someone we love so hard is that it feels like such a waste. If this life is all there is then death is the thing we should fear the most, because once you are dead there is nothing left. But I truly believe that the Bible is correct when it tells us that this life is not all there is. Jesus told his disciples,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.…Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus declared to us that death in this life is not the end. There is another life that begins after we die here. And he goes on to tell us that if we trust in and follow Him, then we can spend eternity with Him in Heaven. This is a source of comfort for us as we grieve. It is a reminder that there is more to life than just what we see in front of us. There is a bigger story that we can’t fully understand. Instead, we should simply trust in the One who is in control of it all, and cling to His promise that if we will follow Him, then we have no reason to worry in this life.
Brad and Angie Kershner’s earthly lives ended last week, but we cling to the hope of life beyond the grave. But even as we mourn their deaths, we can honor their lives. They died, but we can’t forget that they also lived. So to that end, I think there are some lessons we should learn from the lives of Brad and Angie Kershner.
- We learn the importance of having fun, whether that’s taking the time to kick off your shoes and dance, go out for a hunt, or take the bike out and enjoy the wind in your hair, Brad and Angie teach us that we should enjoy the simple pleasures God has given to us.
- We learn the importance of working hard and doing a good job. Both Brad and Angie took great pride in most everything they did. They didn’t believe in doing a job halfway. If they were going to do something, they were going to make sure it was done right. We should learn that it’s worth it to take the time to do something right, so that we can take pride in a job well-done.
- We learn the importance of seeing the people around us and trying to care for them to the best of our abilities. Brad and Angie made a difference in the lives of others because they learned to see beyond themselves. If we look out for others, we can make a difference. Maybe nobody will praise us or even take notice, but to that one person who feels loved, who feels valued, a simple act of kindness can have a profound impact.
- We learn the importance of caring for those in our families. Family is a special gift, and we get to share life with that special group of people while we’re here on the earth. We learn the importance of making sure our families know we love them and tending to that relationship, because you never know how much time is left.
- And we learn that we need to take the time to do the things that are most important now, because we never know when our time on earth is up. This means we should show love to those who are important to us. We should mend relationships that are broken, and we shouldn’t put off until tomorrow the things that need to be done today. I would even say that this reminds us that we need to wrestle with questions of faith, because the answers to those questions are not merely theoretical, they are intensely practical. We need to look for answers to the question of what happens after we die and seek to make sure that we know where we will be going when our lives end as well. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, so we need to tend to the important things today.
Will you pray with me?
Our Heavenly Father, today we are left with more questions than answers. We find ourselves feeling much like Job, wondering why you didn’t keep Brad and Angie from this accident. We may never know the answer to the questions we have, but we pray you would help us to trust you even when we don’t understand.
Help us to keep alive the memory of Brad and Angie Kershner. Help us to learn from the way they lived and to apply those lessons to our own lives. Help us to deal with the things that are most important while we still have time.
And comfort this family. Comfort them today as they say goodbye, but also in the days, months, and years to come, as they feel the pain of life without someone they love. In those times of pain and grief, I pray you would surround them with your love, that you would draw them close to you, and that you would give them the strength to carry on. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.