We gather this morning to mourn the loss and to celebrate the life of Kyle Thomas Wilson. We also will try to lay hold of the promises of God.
In the Bible Jesus extends this invitation,
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 10:28-29)
In Psalm 23, David wrote,
4 Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,*
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
5 You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
forever. (Psalm 23:4-6)
The message is simple: In our difficult times the Lord invites us to draw near to Him. He promises if we will do so, He will strengthen and comfort us. So, let’s do that by praying.
Gracious Father, we come to You in this time of need. We are filled with a variety of emotions. Grief, sadness, frustration, anger, and maybe even disappointment. To some degree this seems like such a waste. However, we know that you see the big picture. We ask you to draw us close to You and to each other. Help us to remember the good things and to look to You for our strength and our hope. We ask this in Jesus name, Amen.
Kyle Thomas Wilson, was born July 7, 1965, in Burlington, to Garold Dean and Geraldine “Jeri” Elaine Mallonee Wilson. As a child, Kyle was known for his independence, determination, and his head of hair!
He was a 1984 graduate of West Burlington Arnold High School.
On May 21, 1988, he married Joani Link in Stronghurst, Il. They were blessed with two children, Travis and Karissa. Because of his addiction issues, they later divorced.
Kyle had worked for Raider Precast, Doran and Ward Printing Co., General Electric, and The Hawkeye Group. He was always a hard worker and could do lots of different things.
Kyle was a member of The Union Church of LaHarpe and a volunteer firefighter for the LaHarpe Fire Protection District. He enjoyed woodworking, water skiing, mushroom hunting, fishing, and gardening.
Survivors include one son, Travis Wilson of La Harpe, IL; one daughter, Karisa Wilson of La Harpe, IL; his mother, Jeri Wilson of Burlington; two sisters, Kim (David) Bailey of Sperry, and Karen Wilson of West Burlington; three brothers, Kevin Wilson of Burlington, Kirk (Lisa) Wilson of Burlington, and Kent (Gisela) Wilson of Danville; three nephews, Ryan, Collin, and Connor; and two nieces, Samantha and Annika.
He was preceded in death by his father and one brother, Dwight
Kyle Wilson was a gifted guy. He was determined. He believed you could do anything you set your mind to.
As a child Kyle was the youngest in the family so he caught some grief from his siblings. One of his brothers actually threw him from the roof of the pressbox at the West Burlington football field. They thought he would land on the mat down below but only half of him made the mat. Fortunately, no bones were broken.
When I met Kyle he had moved to La Harpe with his family. Kyle was very active in the Union Church and in the La Harpe community. The parking bumpers at the church were cast and installed by Kyle while he worked for Raider. He also made the concrete picnic tables that are used all the time in the La Harpe Park District. He made a kneeling bench for the church. Kyle had great skills in a number of different area.
Kyle loved to water ski. He was good at it. He could ski on one ski and also kneeboard. He had HUGE feet. He loved boating on the river. There were times when he would be out on the sandbar for hours. He found the river to be a peaceful place. He often went out on the river with Kim when she had some time off.
Kyle liked to fish and may have been the one to plant the fishing bug in Travis. He and Travis enjoyed fishing together on the Mississippi. At one point he lived in a cabin on the river that was owned by his family. There had been a major flood and Kyle lived there to get things back in shape. He loved sitting by the campfire and he grew tomato plants and flowers. He even had a feeder out for the hummingbirds. But his favorite pastime was to sit on the dock and fish.
Every year Kyle looked forward to the mushroom hunting season. He also liked to garden. He was a man who liked things neat.
As we mentioned, Kyle served on the La Harpe Fire Department as a volunteer fireman. He took the job seriously and worked hard to be well trained. He loved relating to the kids about being a fireman. He was a Seattle Seahawks fan.
Kyle never missed a family dinner with his wife and kids. He was a disciplined eater. He announced he was done eating by placing his napkin on his plate. Once the napkin was on his plate it didn’t do any good to try to convince him to eat more! He never left a family dinner with hugging people. He had a wonderful relationship with Joani’s parents and grandmothers.
When children came along Kyle relished being a father. You only have to look at the pictures that were displayed to see that Kyle loved his children. Karisa remembers Kyle lifting her on his legs in the air so she could pretend to be an airplane. He also let Karissa shift gears for him in the truck while he was driving. Kyle also loved watching Travis play football. He went to the state championship game.
The family enjoyed their vacations. Two memorable vacations were to the Mall of America in Minnesota and the Precious Moments chapel in Carthage MO. Kyle loved being a family man.
One of the saddest parts of life for Kyle was his distance from his children these last number of years. Kyle felt like a failure and withdrew from his children. It was something he regretted to the end of his life. I like to think that some of his great qualities rubbed off on his children
This last week it was nice that the kids were able to spend some good time with Kyle. He said he had a taste for s’mores and Joani’s nacho casserole. The next night Karisa made some homemade s’more dip and brought it with some graham crackers and Kyle had his Smores. Joani also made the casserole so for that one night things were very good.
Even as Kyle’s health began to deteriorate he was still determined. He would do little things at Karen’s house while he lived with her. He did electrical upgrades, painting, and fixing things that needed fixing.
He purchased a house of his own less than a year ago. His desire was to have a project he could work on. He intended to fix it up and then resell it. Unfortunately, his health did not allow him to reach his goal.
Most of you know Kyle’s health issues were largely the result of the choices he made. He struggled with alcohol and had some problems with drugs too. Kyle’s addictions killed him. They also destroyed his life. He knew this but he was powerless against the draw of the alcohol. Kyle was independent and he didn’t want help. Deep down I believe he thought he could beat these demons in his own strength. He underestimated the power of these addictions.
It is tough today not to focus on the tragedy of his circumstances and death. I prefer to focus on the life of Kyle Wilson rather than on the demons he battled.
This is a difficult time largely because we feel that there could have been so much more to Kyle’s life. He was a talented, hard-working, and smart guy. But all of that was overshadowed by his addiction to alcohol. And let’s just be honest. There is a part of us that instinctively feels that Kyle spoiled his chance for heaven because of the choices he made.
I’m not so sure.
The Bible says,
“No one is righteous—
not even one.
No one is truly wise;
no one is seeking God.
All have turned away;
all have become useless.
No one does good,
not a single one.” (Romans 3:10-12)
Maybe we aren’t that different from Kyle after all. The Bible tells us that every one of us is messed up. We all have issues and demons that dog us through life. For some it is eating too much, for others it may be a bad temper, some suffer from depression, still others are impulsive in their spending. We are all messed up. We all sin. We all know what God wants us to do and we regularly choose to do the opposite. Nobody can get into Heaven by being a “good guy” because there is no such being.
Let’s grant that some problems have more public consequences. Some are more addictive and destructive but . . . all take us in the opposite direction God wants us to go. When we immediately write Kyle off it shows we don’t really understand the gospel.
Our only hope is for God to rescue us. And that is where Jesus comes in. God took the form of man in Jesus, and lived the one perfect life there ever was. He, as the Son of God, traded His goodness for our mess. He took the punishment that we deserved and offered us the relationship with God that we could never earn.
What determines whether or not a person goes to Heaven is what they do with this offer made by Jesus. To be a Christ follower four things need to be true.
- You admit that you are a mess
- You recognize that Jesus is the only One who is qualified to rescue you.
- You run to Him and ask Him to help you follow Him.
- You anchor your life to His promise on your behalf.
When you do this you begin a relationship with God that hopefully grows deeper every day of your life. But it doesn’t mean that the problems stop. It doesn’t mean the difficulties go away. It is a struggle to keep relying on Christ.
As I said, Kyle was active in the church. He served on some of our leadership boards in the church. He was a great board member. I had occasion to visit with him several times and I believe wholeheartedly that Kyle understood the message of the gospel and had embraced true faith in Christ. He sought to live out that faith in the way he lived his life until the addictions got the best of him.
However, the Apostle Paul said, “There is now No Condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1). That verse is written in the Greek in such a way as to say if a person has truly and genuinely put their hope in Christ, they will never, no matter what, face condemnation.
39 And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. 40 For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:39-40)
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. (John 10:28-29)
At the end of Romans 8 we read these incredible words,
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
So, here is my point: Since no one can take us from the Lord and nothing can separate us from Him, it seems to me that means not even alcohol can disqualify a true believer from Heaven. Even if Kyle lost sight of God for a while, God never lost sight of Kyle.
I remember a time when I was a child. I don’t know why, but I felt I was being unfairly treated by my parents. (I wasn’t even 10 years old). I thought I would show them how mean they were by running away from home. So I wrapped up a few things and I headed out the front door. My parents let me go and wished me well in my new life. I walked out the door knowing this hadn’t worked out quite like I planned.
I walked around the neighborhood for several minutes and then I came back into our back yard and sat under the back porch. I figured that I didn’t really have to be away from home to make my point. I stayed under the porch for a long while and finally I surrendered (I suspect I was getting hungry). I came back into the house and my parents told me that it was nice to have me as part of the family once again.
I am pretty sure that the whole time I was gone my parents knew exactly where I was. I also suspect that they were sitting inside the house smiling and waiting for me to come to my senses and return.
In some ways I think this may be the way God relates to us. He allows us to drift from Him and to try things our way. However, he never loses sight of us. When it is time, he welcomes us back home.
Could it be that Tuesday was God’s time to welcome Kyle back home?
This belief was strengthened by what happened when Kyle died. He was deeply medicated and unable to respond even though at times it seemed he wanted to respond. He had gotten more morphine for his discomfort. We felt he would relax enough to let go. Then, almost as if someone had called to him, he reached over to the bed rail, pulled himself to his side and his eyes opened really wide. But Kyle wasn’t looking at anyone in the room. He seemed to be looking up to the corner of the room. And he seemed to be transfixed, almost as if he was listening intently to what someone was saying. Then he relaxed and within just a couple of minutes, he was gone.
It is impossible to know what was taking place in those few minutes. However I believe God called to Kyle. The God who can call people from the dead would have no trouble calling someone out of a morphine stupor. I Imagine God speaking to Kyle. Maybe he was saying, “Kyle, I know you are tired. You are part of my family because you have trusted Christ to the best of your ability. I forgive you Kyle. It’s time to come home.”
Once again, I can’t know for sure what was happening. However, based on the Bible and what we saw and what happened I believe it may very well be true.
I believe Kyle was caught in a cycle of addiction that served as his own personal demons. But even though God allowed Him to face these demons, I don’t think it ever caused the Lord to turn away.
Instead of shaking our head at “Kyle’s sad story”, it would be good for us to use this time to remind each other that we are not made right with God by our good deeds. We are made right with God because the mercy and grace He extends to us in Christ Jesus. If God only allowed us into Heaven based on our “grade” no one would get in. The only thing God requires of us is to believe in Christ, in other words to trust Him. We are called to trust that God’s promises are true and what Jesus did was sufficient to save us. If we believe this and cry out to Him . . .we are made a part of God’s family. The more we try to earn salvation, the more we show our misunderstanding of the gospel of Jesus.
I believe on Tuesday Kyle Wilson was set free from his addictions. I believe Kyle discovered the wonder of the grace of God once again. In other words, I believe, that in spite of all his problems, Kyle is now with Jesus who died to cover over all the things Kyle was ashamed of.
Today is a day to remember the man who
- Had a great sense of humor
- Who seemingly could do anything
- Who worked hard
- Who had giant feet
- Who made an impact on the community of La Harpe
- Who had thick hair
- Who loved the river
- Who survived his siblings
- Who loved being a dad
- Loved to Work and was always up for a challenge
- Who professed faith in Jesus Christ.
And we remember a God who remains faithful even if we drift away for a period.
Let’s pray together,
Our Father, help us as we mourn. In the midst of our sadness remind us anew of your mercy and grace. We turn to You today and thank you for the ways you showed us that you had not abandoned Kyle. Remind us that you will not abandon us either. Fill us with good memories of Kyle and a fervent confidence in your promise of life beyond the grave. Amen.
* 23:4 Or the dark valley of death.