RIP Yvonne O’Hara

Yvonne and I had some very meaningful times together. She had questions, she had answers, she was a good sounding-board for various ideas I had, and she was pleasant company. That’s how she was with me, her priest, at any rate. It is a truth that she was raised in the Orthodox tradition; that probably worked to my favour with her, and also the favour of my predecessors. She had been an Anglican for years, raising her own children here at St. Stephen’s.

Edwin Markham wrote of the death of Abraham Lincoln: His passing from the human scene was like the falling of a great tree, which in its falling left a lonesome place against the sky.[1] I think that’s what we’re all feeling at Yvonne’s death – there’s a lonesome place; in the midst of many others, there’s a lonesome place; in the certain hope that we have in Jesus, there is still a lonesome place; in the midst of personal concerns regarding mortality, there is a place that is lonesome. That’s part of what’s brought each of us here today.

I would often bring communion to the Palliser, where Yvonne’s lived the entire time I’ve known her. Sometimes I would celebrate with her and then bring communion to the others from that single celebration. Sometimes I would celebrate with another, and bring communion to her from that single celebration. Once, I got three people together. I remember that, on that particular occasion, I marked myself with the sign of the Cross and she said, “What are you doing?” I thought to myself, “She should know this, the Orthodox “Cross” themselves more than anyone I know of…” and I said to her, “Oh, just marking myself as Christ’s own…” Her response was, “Why are you doing it like that?”

Before I ever did such a thing in front of her again, I made sure to visit the Greek Orthodox Church in town and pick up their habits. So let me show you how to do something in a very intentional way, which I suppose I had done haphazardly until Yvonne challenged me on it. Hold up your right hand, fingers spread; now put your baby and ring fingers down, into your palm – as you’re able, actually poke the tips of them into your palm. These represent Christ’s divinity and Christ’s humanity – important to be mindful of Christ’s nature when crossing yourself.  The other three, thumb index and middle, these represent the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – it is important to be mindful of the Holy Trinity when crossing yourself.  Whose Name are we baptized into? Whose cross are we signed with? This is a part of the memory of Yvonne that I will always carry with me – for which I will always be thankful.

We’ve heard some of the stories of Yvonne told already, and there will be opportunity to share more of those stories with each other in a short while, over coffee and snacks. Let the sharing of memories, and of your lives with each other through those memories, fill those lonesome places – however temporarily – today.

Know in your hearts, today, that Yvonne knew Jesus in this life, knows Him now, and that He knows her. There is no question as to her salvation: in Jesus she has been granted eternal life. The souls of the righteous are in the hand of the Lord, as we heard today in our Scripture lesson. Yvonne is in the Lord’s hand. Though in this life she had difficult times, yet her hope was full of immortality. Weep, today, not for her who is with her Saviour – but for yourselves, because she is not with you.

Yvonne had a calm assurance, a security for this life, that had deep roots in her security for the next. From that stable foundation she lived her life. That same assurance is available to each one of us, today, if we would just ask Jesus to be Lord of our lives and to gift that security to us. The life that Jesus invites us into challenges the world we live in: that instant reward, or gratification, is not the best end for us He challenges us to see farther; that indulgence and entitlement is not a right but a privilege He challenges us to be generous and to put others’ needs before our own and to love our neighbours as ourselves and to pray for our enemies and those who are cruel to us.

Jesus challenges us that though Yvonne’s remains will be laid to rest in the earth, as the remains of so many others, yet we should see that there is a deeper reality at play. She is not dead, but alive with Him. That same covenant of life is what He offers to each of us who mourn, today. How will we respond to His invitation?

Let us pray.

[1] Zuck, R. B. (1997). The speaker’s quote book: over 4,500 illustrations and quotations for all occasions (p. 100). Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications.

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