Memorial Address

Penelope (Penny) Anne Orr

By the Rev. James P. Cooper

January 23, 2010

 The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labour and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away. (PSA 90:10)

When someone we love passes into the other world, we feel grief and sorrow. Why? “It is known that all anxiety and grief arise from being deprived of the things with which we are affected, or which we love” (AC 2689:2). We feel grief when we are deprived of the things which we love because we are no longer able to be with that person, enjoy their company, or do kindnesses to them. To feel grief when someone you love dies is a demonstration of your love for that person. You do not grieve for that which you do not love or care about.

We all have to face these transitions into spiritual life from time to time. It’s a simple fact of life in the world of nature that it will eventually come to an end. The Lord’s life inflows into each one of us continually. But it can only be received if the vessel, the body, is in order. When in the course of time, the body is no longer able to serve as a vessel, when the heart no longer beats, or when the lungs no longer respire, then the body dies and the spirit is released.

This is not a bad thing! Every one of us has been created to live to eternity in heaven, and the death of the body is really just the ending of the natural state and the beginning of the heavenly state – a rebirth. Just as we delight and celebrate when a child leaves the state of the womb and begins life in the natural world, the angels delight and celebrate when a person leaves the state of the natural world and enters spiritual life.

      “This change of state [regeneration] cannot be perceived in the body of a person, but in his spirit, the body being merely the covering of his spirit; and when it is put off, then his spirit appears, and this (provided he has been regenerated) in altogether another form, for it then has the form of love and charity in beauty inexpressible…” (AC 3212:3)

We have gathered here today to remember Penny Orr, because she is someone whom we loved, someone who has been through the process of shedding that mortal body that covers the spirit, someone who is right now going through the process of finding her way in her new life, gently guided by the Lord, celebrating as she meets friends and family who have gone before, and rejoicing in the ability to walk and move about freely and without pain.

Penny was born May 25, 1923. She was adopted when 5 years old by Alec and Clara Sargeant, members of the Olivet Church in Parkdale. She was quiet and shy, the only child in an adult household. But it also had its advantages as she was often taken symphonies at Massey Hall where she acquired a lifelong love of classical music.

Penny felt the hand of Providence in that she was adopted by a New Church family and was brought up in the New Church. She attended the Olivet Day School all the way through 8th grade.

Her father, Alec Sargeant, passed away when Penny was just 18. Not only did it prevent Penny from spending more time with her father, it put a strain on their resources, so Penny’s mother rented rooms in their Parkdale home to help make ends meet. A young man from Moose Jaw, SK answered an ad and rented a room in the Sargeant home while he looked for work in Toronto. The young man was Ray Orr, and he and Penny fell in love and were married on September 12th, 1942 when Penny was just 19.

They continued to live in her mother’s house, which one can easily imagine might lead to some stress, but Penny managed to maintain a positive atmosphere in the home for her husband and her children. One fond memory her children have is of Ray and Penny pushing back the living room furniture, putting on a record, and swing dancing in the living room. Their marriage lasted more than 40 years until Ray’s death in 1986, and produce 4 children, 14 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.

Penny had a full and busy life with many interests. One of the things she loved most was the cottage on Gullwing Lake in Muskoka. But she also loved travelling to many different places in North America and Europe and everywhere she went she met people and made friends. She also took pictures during her travels, and particularly enjoyed photographs of nature, such things as birds and flowers and sunsets. She was also know for her good sense of humour and is reported to have said, although I did not hear it myself, “If I see Ray in heaven, I hope he’s straightened up a bit!”

Penny and Ray were lifelong members of this congregation, and they were active members. Penny served on many of the church committees, working with the senior members of the church, women such as Ethel Raymond, Ruby Zorn, Mary Parker, and others. Some things that people particularly remember are Penny teaching reading and knitting at Olivet School. She was head of the Chancel Guild for many years.

What was perhaps the most significant and thing that may have had the most far reaching effect on the lives of many people, was her work with the Sunday School Committee. The Church wanted to have positive contact with children of isolated families so they created a series of Religion Lessons that were mailed to the children. To give the children a sense of belonging to a larger organization, they were asked to mail their pictures and their projects back to a volunteer contact person who marked it, and commented on their questions and responses. Penny particularly delighted in this use and wrote thousands of letters to children and their families all over the world, helping them develop their knowledge of the Word and their love of the Lord, and making the church real to them. Many lasting friendships were formed in this work, too.

Somehow Penny managed to find time to do volunteer work away from the church as well. She volunteered at Roy Thompson Hall for 10 years, she volunteered at the McMichael Gallery, and she served on the Richview Residence Board.

Penny worked as a housekeeper, but her friendly personality was such that she became a friend – and even a member of the family – to many of the families she worked for.

In the last few years, as happens to most people, her health began to deteriorate and get in the way of doing all that she wanted to do. In spite of them, she remained active until just 2 years ago. She did find it difficult to endure the physical limitations of being unable to do everything that such an active person was used to doing, but she did rise above it in the end, writing notes and cards and having meaningful and engaging conversations with her visitors right up to the day she died.

We’re sad that she’s gone because she has been an important part of our lives for a long time. But at the same time we can find some satisfaction in knowing that she is now enjoying reuniting with many good friends and family members that have gone before. We read about this in AC 1114:

      “Angels and spirits, that is, human beings after death, are able to meet any they like of all those whom they have heard of. They see them and talk to them in person, when the Lord allows it. And what is remarkable, those people are with them in an instant and very much in person. Thus they are allowed to speak not only to friends, who normally find one another, but also to others whom they have admired and revered.”

Penny loved to travel and meet people. It’s kind of fun to think about all the people that she’s seeking out and visiting with right now. Another thing that brings delight is to think about how she is gently, gradually growing younger – maybe she’s already swing dancing with Ray – as the states of the world are left behind and the heavenly states within are revealed. We read in AC 553:

      “In heaven those who are moved by mutual love are constantly approaching the springtime of their youth. And the more thousands of years they live, the more joyful and happy the springtime which they are approaching. This process continues for ever, constantly bringing increases in joy and happiness in proportion to the advance and upward progress in mutual love, charity, and faith. Those of the feminine sex who had died worn out with age but who had lived in faith in the Lord, in charity towards the neighbour, and in happy conjugial love with their husbands, as the years pass by come more and more into the first freshness of youth and early womanhood, and into a beauty that excels every idea of beauty which the eye can possibly behold. In fact it is goodness and charity forming and producing a likeness of itself, and causing the joy and beauty of charity to shine out of every individual feature of the face in such a way that these too are forms of charity. When some people have seen these they have been dumbfounded.”

But, it won’t be all fun and games, because the life of heaven is one of full health and usefulness, something that Penny has been preparing herself for her whole life in this world. Again, we read from AC 1854:

      “‘You will be buried in a good old age’ means the enjoyment of all goods by those who are the Lord’s. This is clear from the fact that people who die and are buried do not die but pass over from an obscure life into one that is bright. For death of the body is but a continuation and also a perfecting of life, when those who are the Lord’s enter for the first time into the enjoyment of all goods. That enjoyment is meant by ‘a good old age.” The expressions ‘they died,’ ‘were buried,’ and ‘were gathered to their fathers’ occur quite often, but they do not carry the same meaning in the internal sense as in the sense of the letter. In the internal sense it is the things which belong to life after death, and which are eternal, that are meant, whereas in the sense of the letter it is those which belong to life in the world and which are temporal. (2) Consequently, when such expressions occur, those who see into the internal sense, as angels do, have no thoughts of such things as have to do with death and burial but with such as have to do with the continuation of life; for they look upon death as nothing else than a casting off of the things which belong to merely earthly matter and to time, and as the continuing of life proper. Indeed, they do not know what death is, for death does not enter into any of their thinking. It is the same with people’s ages. By the phrase used here, ‘at a good old age,’ angels have no perception at all of old age; indeed they do not know what old age is, for they themselves are constantly moving towards the life of youth and early manhood.” (AC 1854) Amen.

First Lesson:

(PSA 8:1-5, 9) O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens! {2} Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength, Because of Your enemies, That You may silence the enemy and the avenger. {3} When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, {4} What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? {5} For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honour. {9} O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth!

(PSA 23) The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. {2} He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. {3} He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. {4} Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. {5} You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. {6} Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

(Micah 6:6-8) With what shall I come before the LORD, And bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, With calves a year old? {7} Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, Ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? {8} He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?

Second Lesson:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it:  You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. (DEU 6:5, LEV 19:18, MAT 22:37-40)

(Mat 6:19-21) “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; {20} “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. {21} “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

(Mat 7:1-5) “Judge not, that you be not judged. {2} “For with what judgement you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. {3} “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? {4} “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? {5} “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

(Mat 7:24-27) “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: {25} “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. {26} “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: {27} “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Third Lesson:

TCR 394. THERE ARE THREE UNIVERSAL LOVES-THE LOVE OF HEAVEN, THE LOVE OF THE WORLD, AND THE LOVE OF SELF.

These three loves must first be considered for the reason that these three are the universal and fundamental of all loves, and that charity has something in common with each of them. For the love of heaven means both love to the Lord and love towards the neighbour; and as each of these looks to use as its end, the love of heaven may be called the love of uses. …Charity has some thing in common with each of these three loves, because viewed in itself charity is the love of uses; for charity wishes to do good to the neighbour, and good and use are the same, and from these loves everyone looks to uses as his end; the love of heaven looking to spiritual uses, the love of the world to natural uses, which may be called civil, and the love of self to corporeal uses, which may also be called domestic uses, that have regard to oneself and one’s own.

TCR 395. …These three loves are rightly subordinated when the love of heaven forms the head, the love of the world the breast and abdomen, and the love of self the feet and their soles. …[2] The human mind is like a house of three stories which communicate by stairs, in the highest of which angels from heaven dwell, in the middle men in the world, and in the lowest one, [spirits]. The man in whom these three loves are rightly subordinated can ascend and descend in this house at his pleasure; and when he ascends to the highest story, he is in company with angels as an angel; and when he descends from that to the middle story he is in company with men as an angel man; and when from this he descends still further, he is in company with [spirits] as a man of the world, instructing, reproving, and subduing them.