Sophia Forest Eulogy
On Thursday July fourth of this year my personal calendar had a short note written in it by me. Even though the handwriting is not neatly done, but the event itself that is described there is significant to our gathering tonight.
The calendar has the following short line: “Visited with the Forests at home, did a house blessing, gave communion to their mom Sophia”. She was a quiet lady. Her health was frail, but very aware of her surroundings, even more so when I administered to her the Holy Communion.
On Saturday the ninth of August of this year my personal calendar has the following short line of handwriting: “Woke up in the morning. Worked on my sermon. Mike Forest called. His mom Sophia passed away. Went to his house to do a trisagion”. That was when I found out that my first visit with Sophia was also the only opportunity to meet her before she is called by her Lord to join Him in His eternal dwelling place.
Knowing that I was going to be standing here tonight I sought the help of Mike & Angie to tell me few things about their mom. Mike wrote as an introduction of his note to me that he does not envy any new pastor who needs to do a eulogy about a person whom did not know very well.
Angie chose few things as important to share with me about Sophia. The first thing was the following: “Mom fell asleep in the Lord at home Saturday morning where her two children were present by her side.”
This was a brief description of a very beautiful event. The most two important people to her were by her bedside biding her farewell. It brought to memory the last moments before Jesus death. Those whom He loved and they dearly loved Him were near to His cross. The gospel says, “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. Later, knowing that all was now completed …. Jesus said, “I am thirsty. A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:26)
I cannot think of a greater blessing that God could have given to Sophia more than this gift. He called her into His dwelling place in a peaceful manner while her two children who are an extension of her present by her bedside.
The other interesting remark that I came across in Angie’s note when she said that Sophia was cared for by her two children at home Michael & Angie until her death at the age of 95. Living in a time where nursing home business is booming. Many children are preceding their parent to death. Again many parents are cared for by these institutions as their long term care can be an arduous task above and beyond what most of the people can handle. Sophia was blessed with a long life but also blessed that her children were still around her. They cared for her after she could no longer take care of herself.
Her children cared for her the same way she cared for her husband when he became confined to their home. This reminds me with the lesson that Lord taught us saying, “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12). In everything we do in life we need to remember the lesson that Sophia exemplified with her life. “With the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1)
Let me give you another example of how did this lesson become a reality in Sophia’s life. When her husband became confined to his house, Sophia could not attend church as much as she wanted, and church was about her only activity outside the house, she chose a different way to serve God. She made the floral wreaths to honor the various feast days of the Saint of the Church. She kept this ministry until reaching the age of 91. She could not do it anymore when she broke her leg and physically was no longer capable of carrying this task out. However, what is interesting that all those saints that she loved and honored with flowers made sure to send her flowers on a weekly basis through her family and friends who made sure that the family room in her home always had flowers as no one could enjoy them more than her.
This is another aspect of Sophia’s life that teaches us an important lesson, which assures us that the saints are real people. They love us as we love them, care for us in the same way we care for them, and reciprocate the same love we show toward them. The Apostle Paul said in epistle to the Hebrews, “Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
If I were to put any word on Sophia’s lips today talking to us and exhorting us, I would not have found anything better than what the Apostle Paul has said in his fourth chapter to the Philippians, “Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:1-8)