The chorus of harmonies made its notes seem as though they were repelling the heavy mist that had settled in the Grand Forks valley Saturday morning, cleansing the USCC Hall with soft white light for family and friends gathered to pray for and remember prominent Doukhobor Laura Petrovna Verigin.
“The melody serves to provide comfort and release of sorrow for the grieving loved ones,” said Peter Zaytsoff, who acted as MC for the service.
The crowd of more than 80 had gathered to say farewell and pray for the Doukhobor icon, who passed away on Feb. 29.
“There is a saying,” Zaytsoff reflected, “Nothing is so strong as gentleness and nothing is so gentle as strength. That saying could have been written especially for Laura Verigin.”
She treasured her moments with family, friends and loved ones, Zaytsoff reflected. “Now, I come to realize just how special this sparkle was. It was her light. It was her heart. It was her spirit. It was her God-given soul – it was her love.”
Standing steadfast at the podium, beside her mother, Nina Decaire told the improbable story of Verigin’s life – from being pulled from school after Grade 4 to help her mother at home in Raspberry Village to being thrust into the international scene alongside her husband, the late Doukhobor honorary chairman of the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ John J. Verigin – reflecting on the knowledge Verigin gained through her relationships.
“Although Mom would often express the feeling of being hindered by a lack of formal education,” Decaire recalled, ” I believe that her most important education was her wealth of life experience.”
Her lack of schooling certainly didn’t stop Verigin from being personally selected to work for local magistrate Stanley Humphries (“Whenever Mom told this story,” Decaire said, “I would notice a special sparkle in her eyes.”) and it didn’t hold her away from her love, her future husband, even though her own parents told her suitor that they thought someone more educated would be better suited.
“It seems Dad understood that Mom had the qualities needed for their happiness as a couple and for the special role she would be required to fulfill as the wife of someone with his specific responsibilities,” Decaire said.
All speakers Saturday illustrated Verigin as a hub for support, who would keep up to speed on the pursuits of her friends’ children and cherish her relationships.
“It was always very touching to hear her speaking on the phone with friends or relatives,” said Decaire, who lived with her mother for the last few years of her life, “and hear her end a conversation with, ‘I love you and I wish you the best.’”
Simultaneous to being a well of advice or an ear for sharing stories in her community role, Verigin fostered a loving space for her own family too.
“Through all those years when we were growing up,” Decaire said through a breaking voice, “Mom made a special effort for us to have our own childhood, even though there were many aspects of our family life that made that effort challenging. We children will remain eternally grateful to Mom for her loving care and attention.”
For J.J. Verigin Jr.’s childhood, that meant things like early morning rides to hockey practice. “That was a chore for her,” he said. But, around her 80th birthday, Verigin recalled, “She, together with so many women here all of a sudden became Canucks fans,” he said, prompting a fond laugh from the crowd.
After thanking speakers, attendees, as well as the community members and doctors who visited and looked after his mother after she suffered a stroke on Feb. 21, J.J. Verigin Jr. acknowledged the impact of his family’s loss. “Although we all think that we’re strong and that we can weather these storms and these episodes in our lives, I have to admit, brothers and sisters, this one has hit me differently,” he said.
Defining his mother as “a link to a priceless past,” Verigin noted that with her passing, “that link was severed.”
“She taught all whom she touched the power of love, and how that power of love could overcome any obstacle, any challenge. It was that power that helped her endure for 93 years.”
Verigin was interred at Verigin Memorial Park in Brilliant on Sunday.