We gather today to mourn the loss but also to celebrate the life of Kathryn Link. Kathryn was one of those people who wanted to live until she died. I believe she did just that. She reasoned that as long as she continued to live on this earth, God must have still had something left for her to do—even if she wasn’t quite sure what it was.
We mourn today because we will miss Kathryn, but we do not mourn for Kathryn herself. She was never afraid of death, and in some ways looked forward to the day she could be reunited with her husband in heaven. As we grieve today, we cling to the same promises that Kathryn did; that there is life beyond the grave and that we can experience it through faith in Jesus.
Let me read you a passage from the Bible that describes the hope we have today.
Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile, we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling…For while we are in this earthly tent, we groan and are burdened…because we long to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up in life. (2 Corinthians 5:1-2,4)
This morning we remember that Kathryn is not gone, only her body is. She is more alive today than she ever was—and if you know Kathryn, you know that is saying something.
Will you pray with me?
Father, we come to you this morning as the One who holds all things in His hands. You are the Lord of both life and death. Lord, we thank you for Kathryn’s life. We thank you for the way she lived and the way she touched so many. We thank you for the legacy she leaves through her family. But most of all, we thank you that we can be confident that this is not the end. Lord, comfort this family as they grieve, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Kathryn Jane Manifold Link was born in LaHarpe Township on May 11, 1918, the daughter of A. R. and Helen Harris Manifold. She graduated from LaHarpe High School in 1935 and from Park College, Parkville, Missouri in 1939. On May 11, 1942 she married John Edwin Link in LaHarpe. They resided on and farmed the family farm until 1979. He preceded her in death on January 23, 1994.
She taught rural schools in Hancock County until her marriage. In 1964 she returned to teaching and taught in area high schools for 13 years. Following her retirement from teaching, she was editor of the Hancock County Quill for three years.
From early adulthood, Kathryn was always interested in youth and her community as evidenced by her leadership in forming the first permanent Girl Scout Troop in LaHarpe, the Two Rivers Council of Girl Scouts, LaHarpe Community Council, and LaHarpe School Band Boosters. She was a past member of the Order of the Eastern Star, Rene Cossitt Jr. Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Henderson County and Illinois Retired Teachers Association. Kathryn was a member of the LaHarpe Union Church where she had taught Sunday School, served on Vacation Bible School, served on various committees and also attempted to teach the pastor grammar.
I personally remember several times that Kathryn invited me over to her house to help teach her how to use the computer and e-mail. I remember being struck by this woman who continued to have a desire to learn even as she grew older. She was unwilling to get old and out of touch. Though she might have questioned the effectiveness of her teacher, I can attest that her years in education made her a wonderful student.
Kathryn died on May 7, 2011 at the Great River Hospice House. Today would have been her 93rd birthday and her 69th wedding anniversary.
She is survived by 6 children, John L. (Leila) Link of LaHarpe, Nina (Arnold) Boyer of Carthage, Illinois, Jane (Edwin) Goldhammer of West Burlington, Iowa, Lyle (Eileen) Link of Lewistown, Missouri, Rex (Cheryle) Link of Wellman, Iowa and Ann (Morton) Carrel of Dekalb, Illinois, 15 grandchildren, Joani Wilson, Lisa (Jeff) Howd, Susan (Tom) Weiss, Steve (Marcy) Boyer, Janet (Sam) Warner, Jennifer Jennings, Karen (David) Williams, Mary (Greg) Hurlburt, John W. Link, Steven Link, Tony (Tara) Link, Joshua Link, Mike (Carla) Link, Lori Jackson, Gary (Shana) Jackson, 31 great-grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her husband, 2 sisters, Helen E. Koring and Lois Painter and 1 great-grandson.
I had the privilege of sharing a good portion of my life with Kathryn Link. She was a prominent member of the Union Church when I arrived, and was very involved in the church over the years. We spent many years in Bible Study together on Thursday mornings. For a few years Kathryn was the person from our church who led Bible Study at the Nursing home when it was our turn. She became a special friend.
Kathryn grew up as a woman “on a mission”. She was very close to her Grandmother. Her cousin was able to start Kindergarten because he was a couple of weeks older than she was. She worked with her Grandmother every day (during nap time) and she learned to read. When she was finally able to go to school the next year she was promptly moved up to the First Grade!
Kathryn has a scar on the side of her nose that came because one day when she was going to school with her sister she went through the windshield of their carriage because the horses were startled by a snake.
She went on to graduate from Park College in Parkville MO in 1939. She was then able to do what she seemed created to do: teach. She was thrilled to travel to France twice in her lifetime.
Kathryn loved learning. She memorized long pieces of literature and was a proficient teacher of French and English. When she taught in the country school she had to be good at all the subjects but she would tell you that she “didn’t speak math”.
She was such an influential teacher that a group of her students from the one room Country School until a few years ago always brought a cake up to “Miss Manifold” for her birthday.
Kathryn told the story about a time that she was grading term papers. One paper, written by a cynical student, interjected a message in the middle of his assignment. He said, “I bet you a dollar that you don’t read every word of this paper.” In red ink and in large letters she wrote in the margin, “YOU OWE ME A DOLLAR!” I bet she collected that dollar.
Miss Manifold met Mr. John Edwin Link at home. John worked for Kathryn’s dad. They began by flirting with each other. Once as John walked by the window Kathryn threw a glass of water on John! Sometimes she would untie his shoes just to see if he would tie them again. That playfulness finally built to an actual date. John had a couple of tickets to the movie. He invited Kathryn to join him with some wonderfully romantic line like, “So, do you want to come along. I’d hate for the ticket to go to waste.”
John and Kathryn were married on May 11, 1942…Kathryn’s 24th birthday. John and Kathryn had a good life together. They worked hard and did well. Throughout the years it was obvious that their love never diminished.
When children started to come along Kathryn grew into her role as a Mother. She insisted on good manners and proper behavior. A Barber’s razor strap hung near the door along with a belt. They were ever-present reminders that discipline would be enforced. And enforced it was. When the children became tall enough to reach the belt she believed they were old enough to behave without the belt.
From an early age she instructed her children and sought to instill within them a love for reading. Whenever the family came to town she made sure they were always cleaned up and looked their best. She did not want people looking down on them as “country folk”.
During that time the Shoemakers lived just down the lane from the Links. Kathryn “took the family in” in more ways than one. Dean, Hoss and Reva were all born while they were in that house. Since the children couldn’t say “Mommy Link”, Kathryn became known as “MommyHink”. John and Kathryn viewed the Shoemakers as an extension of their own family. They still called her “Mommy Hink” today. They had various pet names for the Shoemaker children. For example, instead of calling Paula, Paula Kay she was known as Par Kay (like the margarine). Chuck (Lyle) thought it was funny that sometimes they had Par Kay in the refrigerator. Kathryn called Paula “Par Kay” for years. They always chuckled about the refrigerator comment.
Paula had the privilege of doing some of her student teaching with Kathryn and learned a great deal from her.
The truth is, Kathryn’s children didn’t always do what Kathryn thought they should do as children or adults. However she knew it was her job to raise independent adults. She gave advice when asked and also knew when to keep silent. She seemed to have just the right sense of balance.
When Granchildren came along Kathryn informed her children that since they wouldn’t call her mother (which is what she wanted to be called), she wanted her Grandchildren to call her Grandmother (rather than Grandma). The first Grandchildren tried to call her Grandmother but it was hard to say. Joani started to call her “Gram Gram” and Kathryn liked it. The name stuck. Soon it was written Gram2.
Kathryn loved caring for the Grandchildren. If Joani had a day off from school Kathryn would take her to school with her! No sense wasting a day when she could be learning!
Kathryn loved to spend time with the Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren. She read stores, played cards, and loved to bake. She was known for her Sorghum Cookies, her homemade noodles and mashed potatoes and also her Divinity.
You could count on her to be there for her family. She was there to celebrate with them, to support them in heartache, encourage them when they felt they had failed, listen to them when they were frustrated, or just simply enjoy the details of their lives. She was willing and eager to help in any way possible. She was always their Mother.
Kathryn loved history. She wrote an autobiography of her life. She wrote a brief history of the Union Church building for one of our Church anniversaries. She was always fun to talk to because she knew details and how various people were related to each other. She had a strong sense of connection with those who had gone before us. She believed in the extended family. Cousins far and wide were important to her.
Teresa Sheets Watkins tells the story,
In the early 1960s Kathryn decided that her family needed to “hook up” with a family in Delaware County, Ohio. For decades the Link and the Sheets (distant cousins) families had always visited each other especially during the Little Brown Jug Horse Race that occurred in September at the Delaware County Fairgrounds. It seemed that each family had a place where they always stayed, so Kathryn decided that my folks Bill and Mary Louise Sheets, with four children very close in age to her six, would be their place to stay in Ohio. When I was in 7th grade on Thanksgiving weekend, I caught a ride with some Links who were going to La Harpe. We drove all night and they dropped me at Kathryn’s door at 7:00 a.m. She and John were the only ones that I knew, but she quickly took me to the girl’s room and woke them up to introduce their long lost cousin from Ohio. Soon the boys were awake and I met the entire family. The next thing that I knew, Kathryn had fried some of the most delicious bacon and eggs I have ever eaten. It turned out to be a wonderful weekend and the start of a long relationship between our two families.
When Kathryn and John would visit, my folks loved to take them to Holmes County where there is a large Amish community. For years my father told the story that while they were touring the area John would comment , “Look . . . there is an ARMISH man raking hay” or “Here comes an ARMISH man in his buggy.” After every remark Kathryn would say, “John . . . the word is AMISH, there is no R in the spelling.” After a few minutes of long silence they came upon another local resident and John noted, “Look over there . . .I see another ARMISH farmstead.” Of course this observation prompted Kathryn to spell the word again and so it would go over and over again all afternoon. Though my father has passed away now, I can still hear him telling that story and laughing at their interchange. I have a notion that it was not the first time that Kathryn tried to educate John and probably not the first time he ignored her in order to aggravate her.
Teresa adds, “My folks loved Kathryn’s quick wit, and outgoing personality. She was such a dear person to our family that she influenced my brother to name his daughter Kathryn.
Kathryn was an active woman. She was involved in church groups and was very active in the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was the editor of the Hancock County Quill for three years. She kept in touch with her teacher friends and even went to a number of Women’s Retreats with my Mom. My Mother had great regard and affection for Kathryn.
Kathryn loved finishing Crossword puzzles (you haven’t really done a Crossword Puzzle unless you finish it!). She enjoyed the challenge of Jeopardy even though she knew 95% of the answers.
Kathryn was happiest when she was surrounded by her family. They were the greatest joy of her life. She prayed for them regularly and asked about them constantly. She loved having children, Grand-children and Great-grandchildren stop by to visit or play cards. Last week when everyone had gathered at the hospital Kathryn loved the fact that everyone was there. She believed they were all there to celebrate her birthday! It was actually a fitting end for a wonderful life.
Even up to the end Kathryn had her great spirit. When I talked to her on Wednesday I asked her how she was doing. She said, “It looks like I’m going to live another day!” When a Social Worker came in she made the mistake of asking, “How are you feeling?” Kathryn responded as she always did, “With my fingers”.
When son John came to her bedside Leila bent down to give Kathryn a kiss. John held her hand. Kathryn looked up at her son and said, “What’s the matter, don’t you bend!”
Kathryn was constantly telling her family (especially the boys) “You are never too old to give your Grandmother a kiss!”
Every time Kathryn woke up last Thursday she had a bright smile and said, “Well, Good Morning!”
If someone responded to something with the fragmented sentence, “I’m trying”, Kathryn would respond “Yes, Very!”
Kathryn Link will always hold a special place in my heart. She was an enthusiastic supporter. I knew she loved me. She used to tell me that I was like one of her children. (I was never sure whether that was a good thing or a bad thing.) Every year she sent us a gift at Christmas. Often it was a big box of fruit.
This wonderful woman was always learning. As Rick said, she even worked at learning how to use a computer. She told me that was one class she never completed. One of the real struggles of these last years was her failing eyesight. When she could no longer read it was a real blow.
When Rick and I wrote a book together we asked Kathryn if she would proof-read the manuscript. She did so gladly, making a number of corrections and comments. Kathryn was always working on my grammar. She worked to help me to understand that I was supposed to say, “They were talking to Bob and Me rather than to Bob and I”. However, I should say “Bob and I went to the store.”
I am from Chicago and she didn’t like it when a preposition I did end with. She was constantly pointing out that I needed to be consistent with tense and number. If I said, “When Bill and I were kids we are always afraid.” She would point out that proper English demanded that I write “When Bill and I were “children” (she reminded me that kids are baby goats) we were often afraid.”
I was never offended by these corrections. Kathryn knew that I wanted to speak well. Once she said to me “You are too smart a man to be so imprecise in your speech”. Or maybe it was, “You are too smart to sound so uneducated.” She was not being offensive; she was simply doing what she always did. She was teaching.
I’m sure Kathryn appreciated this piece called “The Builder”
A builder builded a temple.
He wrought it with grace and skill;
Pillars and groins and arches
All fashioned to work his will.
Men said, as they saw its beauty,
‘It shall never know decay.
Great is thy skill, O Builder!
Thy fame shall endure for aye.’
A teacher builded a temple
With loving and infinite care,
Planning each arch with patience,
Laying each stone with prayer.
None praised her unceasing efforts.
None knew of her wondrous plan,
For the temple the teacher builded
Was unseen by the eyes of man.
Gone is the builder’s temple,
Crumbled into the dust.
Low lies each stately pillar,
Food for consuming rust.
But the temple the teacher builded
Will last while the ages roll,
For that beautiful unseen temple
Was a child’s immortal soul.
In the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon reflects on the meaning of life. In chapter seven of the book he writes these words which I read in a contemporary translation,
A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume. And the day you die is better than the day you are born. 2 Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies— so the living should take this to heart. 3 Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. 4 A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time. 
Solomon argues that funerals can be a good thing. He says dying is better than being born. Solomon recognizes that this life is not all there is. Death for the child of God, is not defeat, it is victory.
Solomon reminds us that sadness and the grief, though painful, testify of significant love. You don’t grieve for people that mean nothing to you. Sometimes it takes a loss to remind us of our blessings.
Solomon says it is better to spend time at funerals rather than parties not because it is bad to celebrate with people. Celebration is a good thing. However, funerals cause us to think deeply. They lead us to examine ultimate issues. Parties tend to be frivolous, funerals are reflective. You don’t spend time at parties considering the meaning of life, ultimate values, or what happens after we die. But you are likely to consider these things at a funeral.
Our sorrow is mitigated today by the fact that Kathryn was so ready to die. She didn’t know why she was still here because she believed her usefulness had been depleted. She could no longer read and on many days her mind which she worked so hard to cultivate, betrayed her. We see the blessing in Kathryn’s death more than in the death of others.
However, we are still left with a question aren’t we? Where does this all lead? What happens after we die? Is it really just “eat, drink, and be merry” and then we are no more?
I know that was not Kathryn’s conviction. Kathryn Link lived her life with a fervent faith. She believed we are living now to live again. This belief impacted the values she instilled, the lessons she taught, and the choices she made. She spent a large amount of time reading her Bible, learning about God, serving in the church, and telling others about Christ.
Was she wasting her time? I don’t think so.
The Bible is a reliable historical record of the experiences and teachings of those who sought to follow God. It is an accurate record of the life of Jesus. The Bible tells us that this man was like no other. He taught with a penetrating authority. He performed miracles that connected the supernatural and the natural worlds. And then He died without a fight. The Bible tells us the reason He died, was to give His life as a sacrifice for us.
The Bible tells us that God is holy and pure. Any sin in our life erects a barrier between us and God. Though we think our good deeds somehow cancel out our bad deeds, it is not true. When we do good things we are just “turning in our assignment”. We aren’t doing anything worthy of extra credit. Consequently, our sin debt just keeps growing. Like someone who continues to pile up unpaid parking tickets, we deserve God’s Judgment for our continual rebellion.
Jesus, we are told, was the only sinless man to ever live. He was the only man who didn’t have a debt that needed to be paid to God. Jesus traded His life for ours. He paid our debt for us. Because He was the Son of God, His life had sufficient value to cover the sin of everyone who would put their trust in Him.
It’s a pretty powerful story but we are right to ask, “How do we know it is true?” The answer is simple: Easter. Jesus came back from the dead. He appeared to hundreds at various times. He told the disciples that those who embrace Him, rely on Him, and follow Him, will also live even though they die.
Kathryn was persuaded that this is true. I am likewise persuaded as are many of you. These facts change everything about how we view this day. We do not view this as a day of emptiness. Today is a day of graduation and victory for Kathryn. Kathryn looked forward to this day. Sometimes when someone asked her how she was doing, she would say, “”Well, I’m alive”. The person might respond, “Well that’s good” to which she would say, “I’m not so sure about that”.
Kathryn Link saw the big picture not only when it came to character and education, she saw the big picture when it came to death. She was not afraid to die.
We grieve today because we have suffered loss. We need not grieve for Kathryn. She was greeted by the big smile of her husband, the loving arms of her parents and sisters. She has been reunited with some family members and introduced to many more. She has reunited with many of our church family who were waiting for her arrival. But most of all; the face she longed to see during her lifetime, was the smiling face of Jesus. When she saw Him I’d bet her eyes filled with tears of joy, her soul was more satisfied than ever before, her mind was more fully aware than anytime in this life, and I bet she ran to His embrace. I wouldn’t be surprised if she was greeted by all of them with the simple words, “Well, Good Morning!”
That’s what life holds for those who have put their trust in Him. This is what life holds for those who earned a good reputation because of their faithful consistency.
Today is the day for us to reflect on the true nature of life. Before long, maybe even before this day is over, we may be back chasing rainbows. But for right now, in this place, I encourage you to ask and consider the most important questions: Where are you headed? Are you living now to live again? Have you put your hope, confidence and energy in Jesus or are you merely drifting and hoping you never really have to think about what happens after we die?
Don’t waste this opportunity. Don’t miss the blessing of a funeral.
Today we reflect. Hopefully we will embrace or renew our faith. I hope today you will look at Kathryn Link and realize that she lived the way she did because she knew where she was going.
We rejoice this day for Kathryn Link
She taught us well; she made us think
When we would get lazy in the way that we speak
She would always be quick, our grammar to tweak
Her playful heart often led us to grin
Yet often those words conveyed values within
“Respect for others”, and “Cherish each day”
Were the values she sought through her words to convey
“You’re never too old to give Gram Gram a kiss”
Was a family value you weren’t going to miss
She looked past the surface and into the heart
Appearance to her really played not a part
She cherished her family and loved her dear man
They were blessings enjoyed as part of God’s plan
She lived her life faithfully trusting her Lord
His promises faithfully in her heart stored
And as she enjoys that life full and new
The question remains: What will you do?
Will you stop and reflect on life’s meaning today
Or will you simply return to laughing and play?
Jesus is calling to you in this place
He offers new life, forgiveness and grace
For those who receive this, one thing is sure
A future reunion our Lord does ensure
And after we’ve lived all the days that we’re due
Kathryn will be there to say “Well Good Morning!” to you.
Our Father, we are so grateful for the life of Kathryn Link. She taught us, and she served You, well. We release her now to your tender care. Welcome her into your Kingdom and the place that you have prepared for us.
Help us in our grief. Help us to learn the lessons of this time. Help us to realign our priorities and to gain a glimpse of the goal to which you call us. Comfort us in the sadness. Bring to our mind cherished memories. Comfort us with the hope that comes through Christ alone. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.