The Lord said to Peter, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.” This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God. And after this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:18-19)
These same words Jesus has said to Peggy as he continues today and until the end of the ages to say to all of his followers in the same way he spoke to Peter. Peggy was a role model that many current TV shows would want to host to inspire other women. She was very creative, energetic and outgoing woman.
She was able to hold her family and her marriage well together for more than fifty years. She maintained a healthy life style working out and walking many miles every day. While being a professional working woman she was able to balance her work life and to entertain large groups’ events and to hold large size public affairs as well, without needing to skip church services in order to catch up.
This ideal life style was interrupted. After suffering from the consequences of a car accident and then later as she fought several health issues Peggy, who used to get dressed and go wherever she wanted to go had to depend on the help of someone else “to show by what death SHE was to glorify God” (John 21:19) as it was the case with the story of the apostle Peter.
This is the person that I have come to know closely. I visited with her often after her car accident as she called me often. Most of the times she would tell me that she had an important matter or need, and almost in every time that important matter was a request for prayer.
No matter what concerns she had when she called or what issue was troubling her, after the prayer service and after receiving the holy sacrament, Peggy would look calmer and more content.
It must have been very hard on her to lose her independence after not being able to drive, and to lose her mobility after her foot surgery. Yet the church hymns, the singing, the prayers and the holy sacraments always soothed her pain and calmed her down, and took her worries away.
I cannot think of a person with the same level of health challenges like Peggy in the past few years that came more times to the weekday services or on Sundays to the divine liturgies. But I certainly can think of many cases where more people chose to stay home who had way less challenges than hers.
The unfathomable and ineffable wisdom of God was so marvelously revealed in the life of Peggy and to her surrounding through these past few years. It certainly made me realize that we all are equally needy to God’s mercy and grace from the oldest to the youngest, the healthiest to the least healthy, the wealthiest to the poorest, the most church goers to the least of all among us.
Peggy opened my eyes to remind me that anything and everything that I have and take for granted or think that will always be there can change in the spilt of a second. God put her in my way to refine my patience, to smash my idols, and to heal my ego.
If I ever thought for a moment that a title is important in order to carry God to people, I came to discover that the face of the sick and the needy are the altar where the face of God is revealed to people with important religious titles. I came to realize that as I carried the holy sacraments to satisfy her hunger and needs, surprisingly my needs and hunger were the ones that were met and satisfied.
My last visit with her at the hospital was a unique and astonishing experience. I left with a great sense of inner joy as if I were the patient that communed and received the holy sacraments.
The room felt so bright as if it were emanating light, and it was so graceful as if I were at the holy altar of our church, and in a mystical way I felt as if I heard the marvelous hymns of the Divine Liturgy being sung.
Peggy falling asleep did not hit me as a shocking surprise. Everything about her during my last visit with her at the hospital indicated that she did not want to burden her family that she loved dearly and always had first on her list of top priorities, and after receiving the holy sacraments, she did not need to ask for or need more prayers.
Peggy’s falling asleep is a testimonial of the invisible and intangible but true reality which we live together in every Divine Liturgy, “Εἴδομεν τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν, ἐλάβομεν Πνεῦμα ἐπουράνιον, εὕρομεν πίστιν ἀληθῆ, ἀδιαίρετον Τριάδα προσκυνοῦντες, αὕτη γὰρ ἡμᾶς ἔσωσεν. We have seen the true light; we have received the heavenly Spirit; we have found the true faith, worshiping the undivided Trinity, for the Trinity has saved us.”
The true light that is Jesus Christ, once he is seen, he is captivating, sweet, attractive, loving and desirable. Whoever has that true light, he has everything. And even if we have to part from our loved ones, he is worth it, especially knowing that the human life is so short that when we are reunited, we will pick up from where we left off.
This journey has been a marvelous walk with all of you who cared for Peggy. It has been nothing less than an absolutely wonderful privilege to have joined you by the edict of the grace of God during the last few years of your journey. Glory be to God the Father of the light who grants us such good and perfect gifts. Amen