This weekend we were planning to drive the grand kids down to Binghamton to meet up with their parents and then return childless to Canada. But that was not meant to be. On Friday I received a message from one of my dearest old friends, Sr. Sue Zemgulis that her Dad, Stan, had died on the 24th. Stan and his wife Marion have been dear friends almost since we moved to Niskayuna in 1978. So we changed our plans and headed for home after dropping off the girls.
Stan was a kind of quiet fellow. An engineer for years with GE and married to his sweetheart Marion for 63 years. They have four terrific children all doing different things in their lives but good solid people. I met Sue when she was 14 and I have no idea how old her parents were. Her mother had some back problems and I was asked it I wanted to come along to pray for her at their house. This was all new for me so I said sure. Stan would have been at work that day but I can remember their house and Marion’s wonderful self. As time went on we got to know each other in various ways through the Church. It was St. Helen’s back then.
We belonged to a prayer group for many years. It started as part of a two year Renew project in our parish. Our group never stopped meeting. People came and went but eventually we came down to a core group comprised of Rich, Susan, Bonnie, Stan, Marion, Alexis, Denis and myself. We were a family of folks. Almost all of us came here from somewhere else so we had no Sunday night family dinners with the extended family. We had our prayer group where we read some scripture and talked about it and then talked about our problems and were loved in spite of ourselves. I love all of the group and it hurts to know that I won’t be seeing Stan again.
Stan and Marion were a generation above the rest of us and they were deeply rooted in their faith. They were like the parents we all wished we had had. Or at least for me in terms of my faith it would have been great to have parents who had such a strong abiding belief. But the other thing they were was accepting. No matter what we said they did not scold or tell us we were off base. I have relatives who would condemn some of the things we said as un-Christian etc. But they accepted us where we were and it gave us a safe place to express ourselves.
Over time in the group we saw that we each had our roles. There were the doubting Thomas’, the blind faith, those who questioned everything, and some deep thinkers like I could never sit still to meditate. But Stan and Marion always held the respected Elder position. He, his quiet and strong faith, and Marion the mother role. They were such faith filled people.
The last time I saw Stan was in the spring before we came north. I was at the Drug Take Back Day at Town Hall and he drove up. He said he wanted to come so we could say hi. We chatted for a while and it was just so good to see him. I knew he was not well but was plowing forward. He looked good and it was so nice to see him. Later before we left I saw Marion and she told me he was struggling with fluid around the heart and I knew that was not good news. But he was the same. Great attitude and acceptance.
Today at Stan’s Funeral his wonderful daughter Sister Sue gave the homily i.e. reflection . and it was inspiring. She told the story of her dad and his faith and how he was a rock. When I looked at him the night before in the casket all I wanted to do was to give him one last hug. But I could not. Sue read a prayer he had written and said every day. I am going to close with that prayer.
Holy Trinity, be with me today
Abba, Father, hold mt hand.
Lord, Jesus walk, with me,
talk with me,
teach me your ways.
Send the Holy Spirit and counsel me,
by Stan Zemgulis 1925 – 2016