Sunday, December 7, 2008

So Many Feast Days, So Much Sadness, Such Joy

If ever the phrase, "bright sorrow" were applicable, it seems now.

So many commemorative days! St. Barbara was the 4th; St. Savvas, the 5th; St. Nicholas yesterday; today is Pearl Harbor Day; tomorrow is the Conception of the Most Holy Theotokos. Church every day, although I haven't been there every day.

I rejoice and grieve especially on the Feast of St. Barbara, for that is the day, two years ago, when my sister Barbara became Orthodox. St. Barbara is also the patroness of the artillery, and my father was an artilleryman.

Today we had the 3-year memorial for George, our dear friend. I remembered his zest for life, especially his dancing. I remembered how he used to exclaim how lucky he was to have Chrysoula for his wife. He was, too; and in the distant past he used to make life extremely difficult for her, but that was all healed and forgiven long before he died.

Of course, I thought of Dad, and of Barbara, during the prayers and felt choked up. My koumbaros (sponsor, in this case best man at our wedding) squeezed my poor arthritic hand with all his might, to comfort me, and it was all I could do not to scream out in pain. Instead, I burst into tears. There was a four-month-old baby girl in front of me, in her infant seat. She is still so small she uses one of those inserts to keep her head in place. Wee Vasiliki stared up at me with such luminous eyes that no sooner had I dried my eyes that I burst into tears again. What could be more heart-wrenchingly beautiful than a small child? And how confused must she have felt, to watch an adult cry!

In the parish hall later, I found Ero sobbing. She never cries. She's so brave and strong. So I was alarmed. I put my arm around her and took her aside. Turns out someone she had been trying to help dish up the refreshments had snapped at her. She forgave the offender and within 15 minutes was back at the other woman's side.

Afterward, we went to a meal given in George's honor at a restaurant owned by his sympatheros (man whose child married one of George's children), Tony. Tony lost his wife a couple of years ago to cancer.

In the car, I told Demetrios I felt ready to die myself.

"Why, precious?"

"Why not, is the question. No particular reason. I just feel very tired of living. It seems such a struggle. Every little thing, a struggle."

And then he said the most perfect thing, that made me realize the nonsense of such a sentiment: "My Love, what do you think would happen to me, if you were gone?"

For him alone, if there were no other reason, I would rather live than die! Only later did it occur to me how presumptuous it is to wish to meet my Maker. It wasn't presumptuous in St. Paul, but then he was better prepared.

At the restuarant, I met Tony's (the owner's) sister. She had lost her husband in September and wanted to tell me all about it.

The food was good, but the company I have no words to describe. We were all sad, but we were sharing the sorrow! And sharing the hope, and sharing the new life our Lord gives us. And sharing some laughter, as well. And watching all George's young grandchildren having fun together at their own table. I could feel myself glowing the whole time. What a wonder, how true joy abides, even through sorrow. True joy is inextinguishable, because true joy is the joy we take in Christ and in one another.

Tiny Vasiliki, she of the luminous eyes, let me hold her, only for a moment before she cried for her daddy, but that moment was enough.

Vada came for tea late in the afternoon. She brought us an oil painting she did many years ago. It's of a scene in Switzerland, a place she and her husband and Demetrios had once visited together. It's painted from a snapshot she had taken then. It's impressionistic in style, with cheery colors, and we shall cherish it both because of its nostalgic value for Demetrios and because Vada painted it. Also, of course, it's an excellent painting, for Vada is very talented.

Vada talked about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and what a shock it had been, and how she little knew how it would change her whole life... "Do you remember that day?" she asked Demetrios, forgetting he wasn't quite 2 years old at the time.

While she was here, her cell phone rang and she received the news she had been expecting: her favorite younger brother died today. She remembered how, when she was 8 and he was 4, he used to like to crawl into her bed. "He sucked his thumb, and with the other hand, he rubbed his ear. But when he got close to me, he'd get my ear! He sucked his thumb until he went to school, but he stopped that first day of school and never did it again."

Her brother, a chemist, worked at the National Archives and was the man who laminated the originals of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He also used to check, every night, that these had been placed in their underground vault.

"It won't be long until we're all reunited," I said.

"How do we know?" she asked, always a skeptic.

"Well, if we believe Jesus rose from the dead, then we know because He told us so. He's the only One Who ever came back from the grave to tell us about it."

She nodded.

Vada lost a sister a couple of months ago. We hugged her and offered to let her stay here tonight, or we could come stay at her house, but she declined both offers.

God rest the souls of all the departed, in a place where there is neither pain, nor sorrow, nor sighing, but unending life.


Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...


DebD said...

My kids were remembering Barbara this weekend too. May all their memories be eternal.

::Sylvia:: said...

May their memory be eternal. It's hard for me to comprehend too sometimes how some people are so certain about what is to come in the next life. A friend I met while on a missionary trip in Alaska, said to me when we were leaving them, "Don't cry, one day we'll be together forever in our Father's Kingdom." Of course at the time I just cried harder. But then I realized she was sure of herself because her faith is so strong and pure and mine is like a speck of dust; blown somewhere different every day.

Keep up the good fight. We all feel like that sometimes but it is the Evil One making us think those things. You're in my prayers...