This week Sophie Konefall (nee Pronishyn) celebrated her hundredth birthday (Aug. 10th). Surrounded by three generations of family, friends and fellow parishioners, Sophie celebrated such a wonderful hundred years of humor, joy, love and mercy. This blessed anniversary gave me something to consider.
It isn’t often that one gets to be a part of someone’s hundredth birthday, yet alone someone whose life today is connected to the same parish she was baptized in a century ago. These are indeed the blessings I have inherited at St. Nicholas, and these blessings have been made all the more profound, in getting to know and serve Sophie.
I am admittedly a latecomer in Sophie’s blessed life, having known her for only three years. But I would consider that I have been present for the best part of her hundred years.
As the oldest of three children, daughters of Ukrainian immigrants, who worked tirelessly to make a life as farmers and labourers in Narol (just north of Winnipeg), her life was marked by many struggles. Like many of her generation, she knew death amongst her family and friends, and the challenges of raising a family with few of the ‘necessities’ that many of us take for granted in this day and age.
Yet, through all of these challenges, challenges that would bring many of us to our knees, and break our hearts and spirit, Sophie would place her trust in God and her family, knowing that “in everything God works for good, with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose”. (Rm 8:28) and that love and only love could provide any kind of meaning and healing. In my three years with Sophie, this is all I have ever seen and heard. Isn’t this what it is to be Christian? to take whatever the world gives and reply with love.
I’m sure this spirit of love and mercy was always there, and many people who have known her (certainly her family!) throughout these hundred years can testify to it. But for me it is a wonder and an inspiration that gives hope and meaning, especially in a world that has little of both.
It might be redundant to say “God grant you many years” to someone who is a hundred years old, but the second part of this hymn sung by Orthodox Christians around the world is profoundly true when we ask the Lord to bless with “health and salvation”. We continue to pray that the Lord will bless her love and faith, as well as bless the dedication and love offered by her son Bob and daughter-in-law Elizabeth and her family, and in due time (not right now!) grant her, and all of us the Kingdom of Heaven!
Многая літа! Во здравіє во спасеніє! Многая, многая літа!