Kathy Marie Jansen Allen, age 54, of Fridley, MN, died unexpectedly in her sleep on March 26, 2012.
Beloved daughter of Carolyn and Charles Jansen (deceased,) Kathy was raised in Minnesota, moved to Alabama at 16, and married Mike Allen.
She gave birth to two boys, Jeremy Michael and Benjamin Stephen, and was a wife and mom full of life, passion, creativity, and love.
Kathy is survived by her ex-husband, Mike; her close friend and significant other, Craig Berner; her oldest son, Jeremy and his wife, Rachael of Seattle, her son, Benjamin of Birmingham; her brothers, Chuck and John; sister, Rita Carlson and her husband Dan; along with her nieces, Kelsey and Nicole; and five rescued and adopted cats.
Kathy invested the last 10 years of her life bringing laughter and joy to her co-workers and customers at Cub Foods in Fridley where she served in several capacities.
Memorial Service will be held at 11:00 AM on Saturday, March 31, 2012 at Methven-Taylor Funeral Home, 831 - 40th Avenue NE, Columbia Heights, Minnesota with visitation beginning at 10:00 AM.
A Celebration of Kathy's life will be held immediately following services.
Next weekend, it will be three years since I was asked to speak at the funeral of a young friend who died suddenly in a car crash early on Easter morning in 2009. The young boy who died was my friend through Young Life. As volunteers of Young Life, our mission was simply to make friends with local high school youth, sharing the love of Jesus Christ with them, and being a dependable and good friend.
During my last seven years of volunteering with Young Life, I have been given a number of opportunities to speak with groups of kids large and small, sharing stories of what God has done, and continues to do, in my life, and encouraging them to trust God with their lives.
Often times before giving a talk, I’d call mom to ask for her help, to clarify my memory of the stories she told us about how things really went in her teenage years and in my childhood. Some of you might know that mom was only 18 when she gave birth to me, and mom was in many ways, very similar to the high school youth I mentor and minister to back in Seattle. The teenagers at Young Life would always listen quietly when I was given the chance to share my story of how I was a child of a mom who was darn near their age when she left home and hitchhiked her way to Alabama, where she eventually met my father Mike. Something I would always share in my story is that mom was a dancer, and dad was a patron. It’s ok to laugh here – it’s true. After I would talk, the kids would play a song for me that was popular several years ago named “I’m in love with a stripper!” And they loved it. They loved seeing that despite anything we do as humans, God still loves us and cares for us even more. Mom was a beautiful young lady (as you can see on some of the photos up on the memory boards) and dad was smitten by her. He insisted on taking mom out for a late night breakfast at the Waffle House when she got off of work and after several asks by dad, mom finally accepted, and well…it must have been a good first date, because 36 years later, here I am. And I am thankful to God for the way things turned out.
Mom and dad got married young – mom was 19 and dad was 20. Dad worked multiple jobs while mom jumped right into being a loving, caring, joy-filled momma. It’s mind boggling to me when I think about it – when mom was my age now (36) she had already nurtured and loved on me (and put up with me) for 16 years. I can’t imagine my wife Rachael and I having a one year old yet, let alone a 16 year old.
During mom’s life, she faced more than her fair share of challenges. She came from a home where her mom and dad loved her, but also struggled with alcoholism. She left home at 16, not yet fully equipped to navigate the world ahead of her. Still a teenager, she rushed head-first into adulthood, traveling thousands of miles from home, long before the days of GPS enabled cell phones and the internet. But she was courageous and determined to create a new life for herself in the south, somewhere warm and that didn’t have the cold winters that she grew-up with in Minnesota, as she often said.
And my brother and I, in so many areas of our lives, have become the men we are today because of the courage and the determination that mom learned in those early years and passed onto us. If mom ever bragged to you about us, I hope you’ll remember that she was our momma, and that we are the men we are today largely because of her heart and courage and the way she loved us.
If you knew mom, you knew she was woman who lived life joyfully and passionately. She was always ready to offer a smile or a laugh, ready to be an encouragement or to share whatever she had with whoever had a need. Just three months ago, her father passed away and left her a small and humble inheritance. Mom called me several times and asked how she might best invest what grandpa left her, and she was insistent on sharing some of her inheritance with my brother and me. That was mom – she didn’t have a lot, but when she did have, she was generous and kind.
She never really had the extra money for it, but I am certain that mom was Fridley’s own little humane society, taking in as many homeless cats as possible and loving them as her own. I think she left her good friend and ten-year companion Craig with five little cat mouths to feed. And I am sure that if they would have had more room, no doubt there would be many more cats with her. Yes, mom was that crazy cat lady. As passionate and loving as mom was, she also wrestled fiercely with physical pain and substance addiction.
For my brother and me, some of our strongest memories and impressions come from episodes where mom had too much to drink or was just out of control due to substance abuse. I can remember a handful of times when mom either checked into rehabilitation clinics or entered an outpatient program, trying to learn to live without drugs and alcohol.
Going through her belongings this past week, I’ve found numerous Alcoholics Anonymous books and a treasure trove of notes and journals, providing insight into her personal struggle to break free of addiction. That was mom – always trying to grow, to learn, and to become a better person. Uncle Chuck and I were talking about that this week – who knows how even how much more an amazing a woman mom would have continued to become had she been given another 20-30 years.
In 1999, she attempted to break free again, trying to leave behind the tightly knit habit of drugs and alcohol for a new life of health and clear mindedness. During this season of new sobriety, mom met a man who made her several empty promises. He encouraged her to follow her heart rather than honor her commitments. He promised mom not God or family, but himself and his pagan religion. Unfortunately, this man led my mom into leaving my father and in the process, pursuing witchcraft and the worship of the earth. I share this part of mom’s story not to shame her or make us feel uncomfortable, but to set the stage for what good God did next in her life.
During this time, God turned my own life upside down and called me to follow Jesus Christ. I was baptized on Easter Sunday, 2000, less than a year after mom left dad and married the witch. Mom and I had many long conversations – she would talk with me for hours and cry about her deep regret for making such a rash decision – it was a life altering mistake she was torn-up about and wished she could change. We know this even more now as we have read her journals this past week. Life continued to become darker for mom, very quickly. She would call me fearful and ashamed of what her new found witch friends were asking her to do and take part in, and yet, she didn’t know where she could turn to get out. One night she called me while she was in the bathroom – in despair she was attempting suicide, having completely given-up on life. I asked mom if she would be willing to trust Jesus, surrendering to His power and protection over her life. We talked about what following Jesus meant, and during that phone call, by God’s grace and through lots of tears, I led my momma in prayer, helping her to ask Jesus to be Lord of her life.
That next day, my brother and I showed-up with a moving truck, storming the house like a southern militia, and we packed mom’s things (and her cats) and told her to drive north from Alabama, not to stop until she parked out front of Grandpa Jansen’s and Auntie Rita’s house in Fridley, Minnesota. That was eleven years ago, when mom moved to Fridley and begin brightening the aisles of Cub Foods with her joyful smile, her caring heart, and her love of people (and cats).
During this past 11 years, she had a number of physical illnesses. Mom was in and out of the hospital most of her life, and the past decade saw more of the same. She was just rough on her body and it wore out quicker than any of us wanted. Despite her almost constant physical pain, something changed when she accepted Christ. She complained less and less about the pain, and instead, chose to be joyful and loving and kind. She found a job at Cub and walked to work several days a week, every season; summer, fall, winter, or spring, doing her best to serve her customers with a truly caring smile and a tenderness that was so unique. And mom did that for over a decade. Reading the online comments from her obituary this past week shows just how much mom loved and cared for her coworkers and customers, and how much those coworkers and customers loved and cared for her.
Death is going to come to us all – and I think it’s by God’s amazing grace that the Father took her quietly in her sleep, without years of pain or declining health. Just last Sunday night, she was at work, smiling and being her helpful, joyful self, and the next morning, she was gone.
I do wish mom would have been able to stick around another 30 years and see Rachael and I have kids and become a grandma, and see her youngest son Ben get married and also start a family. It’s true, Ben and I were late bloomers…far slower to the marriage alter and parenthood than mom, but we still think she left us far too early. We’re going to miss her cheerful smile and her always loving heart. Mom’s Christmas and birthday cards with money in them, even though she didn’t have a lot to give, and her random late night calls telling us how much she loved us.
I look forward to the day we will show old photos and tell our kids stories about their grandma, and how courageous and loving, and funny a woman she was. She wasn’t without her struggles or addiction, but she never gave-up, and always continued to face each day, giving her best to bring joy and life to the people around her. I praise God Kathy Marie Jansen Allen was my momma, and I pray that her life, and her death, will continue to bless us, long after today. And that mom’s big heart will give us all cause to be of good courage, and to not lose hope, and to remember that God loves each and every one of us and wants us to live life, and live it to the full, just like mom did her best to do. And to save a few stray cats along the way – I know that would make her smile, too
Columbia Heights Chapel 763-789-3338