[Spring, 2001]

In Memory: Kyra Shafran Griffitts

   Kyra Shafran Griffitts, daughter of Fr. Paul and Matushka Mary Shafran, died at home in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania on March 13. She is survived by her husband, David B. Griffits and two daughters, Natalie and Marissa. Professionally she was vice president of finance and accounting and chief financial officer of Oasis Aviation, based in Los Angeles, where she worked for 20 years.

   Kyra struggled with cancer for 6 years, being initially diagnosed with it while pregnant with her second child, Marissa. She remained on the prayer list of Orthodox churches throughout the world during her long illness. Her funeral was served at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Catholic Church in Trenton on March 19.

   Below is the eulogy preached by Fr. Gregory Safchuk, who had been her pastor while she was attending St. Innocent Church, Tarzana, California.

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Today I want to talk about Kyra, us, and God.

   I have known Kyra for a long time. I was her priest and father confessor for about 12 years, yet it is hard for me to think of her alone. She exists in my heart, mind, and memory always in context - in relation with others.

   I think of Kyra as daughter, as sister, as wife, as mother, as friend, and as parishioner. And what a parishioner! At the time of her first diagnosis with cancer, she was with child, as well as serving as the president of our parish council and chairing the committee for the upcoming 40th Anniversary. To be sure, in the midst of the church and her family, those "relations", she is and has been a genuine "person", unique and precious, with a character, will and personality which of late has been tested by the fire of her illness.

   That fire refined her character, tested her faith and will, and revealed her, to all of us, as a remarkable example and inspiration as a human being.

   She had a sense of humor (which is shared by her husband David) with an awesome inner strength and courage that would be the envy of the greatest warrior, yet with a warm compassionate heart that would not allow her to wallow in self-pity, but would always turn her concern back outward toward others; to her family, her friends, her brothers and sisters in the church who were all so concerned for her well being.

   And so we were, and so we are.

   That is why we are here today - to pray for her. Kyra brought us together.

   I feel that this gathering as well as last night's is almost a mystical meeting of so many who for so long were separated by time and distance but united in common purpose - to pray for Kyra and her family.

   It's a bittersweet reunion for many of us. Bitter because we are sad to be deprived of her physical presence; Sweet because we are together in Christ's name, remembering her out of love, thankful for the end of her suffering and confident in her salvation.

   She brought us all together in a place that reminds us of why our grief is temporary and passing. We are here in Church, in our Father's house where but yesterday the cross of Christ was brought out and put before us as a sign of victory, of joy and hope, of Christ's victory of life over death and His love for us, and as a reminder of His resurrection and our own. But I also know that this is an arena as well.

   It is a time and a place to "wrestle" with God. Like Israel of old, like Kyra of late. To wrestle with our faith. To ask ourselves - Do we really trust Him after all this? That He knows what is best for us? Can we still have complete confidence and faith in God, even though we didn't get ALL that we asked for in prayer?

   I know that I am not the only one in this room that prayed for a miracle, for Kyra to one day become that rare medical anomaly for which the doctors have no explanation. For them to have said to her, "there must be some mistake for none of our tests show any indication of cancer at all any more." For her to live a "normal" happy, healthy life. But that didn't happen. It didn't happen in the narrow confines of our definition of that; so in our grief we are upset and confused, maybe even angry and disappointed with God.

   But before we rail against Him in our hearts like Israel of old, let's stop and think. God is not the enemy. Did he not give us Kyra in the first place? Did he not unite David and Kyra in a holy marriage? Did he not bless them with Natalie? Did He not hear our prayers six years ago, when Kyra was with child again and diagnosed with breast cancer? When we cried out to him to spare both her and her baby - He did. We have a living reminder of that…her name is Marissa.

   Kyra's name has never left my prayer list since her first diagnosis. During the course of the past six years, ALL of my prayers for her, except that one for a miracle, have been granted. For I prayed for many things. I prayed that she be given COURAGE, that she be STRENGTHENED, that her FAITH would increase, that her LOVE would not grow cold with fear of death, that she be blessed with PATIENCE to endure the trials and tribulations of her illness, and finally, let's remember what we all pray for almost mechanically in the Liturgy: A Christian ending to our life, painless, blameless and peaceful. A good defense at the dread judgement seat of Christ.

   I believe that Kyra was blessed with ALL of these things.

   The evidence of it is overwhelming. She bore her cross in an exemplary manner as a sister in Christ. Her footsteps were made secure on a solid foundation of faith in God's Holy Church; a foundation laid for her lovingly so long ago by Fr. Paul and Matushka Mary, who taught her "the way", from which she did not depart. A foundation of faith which was built upon in a new household and family with her husband David by her side.

   I refuse to speak of Kyra only in a past tense because I KNOW that she is alive in Christ. Because our God is the God of the living, not of the dead. He is the very source of life and love. And as we approach the celebration of Pascha, the resurrection of Christ, our sadness indeed will be turned to joy. When we remember that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God, not even death. And THAT love, which is the power of the Cross, will unite each one of us once again in a perfect life that will be free of pain and suffering, evil and death - the life that we were created for in the beginning. In this God, I pray that we will all still place our complete trust, as Kyra did, even when the answer to some of our prayers is "no".

Amen.

 

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