Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rest In Peace, Elizabeth Leigh

Several people have expressed an interest in making a donation in Elizabeth's name. The family has asked that donations be made in memory of Elizabeth Leigh to the Cathedral of St. Luke's Restoration Fund. Please contact Ms. Sarah Simpson at sjsimpson@cwpanama.net

Our dear friend Elizabeth Leigh passed away this morning around 7:00 a.m. She had been in intensive care at Clínica Paitilla for the past few weeks, battling dengue, pneumonia, and Guillain-Barre syndrome. It seems that her heart was weakened by the many infections. Still, her passing was a shock to all of us who know her and love her.

We met Lizzie and Bert our second evening in Panama when we attended services at St. Simon's Church in Gamboa, where I was going to be serving for the next four months. Lizzie immediately invited us for dinner that evening, but we were unable to do so. However, every time we were at St. Simon's from that day forward, we had a standing invitation to dinner and drinks with Lizzie and Bert. They became dear friends and members of our extended family and we always spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years' Day together. Lizzie worked with the British Aid Society and was active in several churches and religious groups here in Panama, including the Cathedral of St. Luke, Balboa Union Church, and of course, her home parish, St. Simon's. She sang in many choirs and choral groups and was involved in every important concert held on the isthmus. She was always moving, going from one event to another and another in a single day; I used to get exhausted just listening to her itinerary! She worked with many indigenous groups here in Panama and served as a middle person for the sale of baskets and molas and all manner of native handicrafts and art. She sponsored classes in basket weaving at her Gamboa home. She loved all the animals on the planet and kept many of them at her home. She also loved nature in general. Anytime we would ask her what kind of plant we were looking at she would tell us the scientific name, so we'd always ask her what everyone else called it. She was also a major peace advocate and justice advocate and all the bumper stickers on her car made it look like she had driven all the way from Santa Cruz, California! In my mind she was la Reina de Isla Barro Colorado, where the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute is located. She loved taking us on walks through the Tropical Forest.

But most of all she was a dear, dear friend. I will always remember the time Lizzie, Mona and I drove to Changinola for the Diocesan Convention. It was a nine-hour drive, but we stretched it out by staying in Chiriqui at Finca Suiza, way up in the hills. We had great conversations all the way there and all the way home. We were stopped for speeding just outside of Anton, and the Transito kept telling us that he was sorry but the radar had picked us off and so he had to write us a ticket. We were trying to communicate with our pidgin español and Lizzie rolled down the car window and started explaining that I was a priest and we were returning from a church convention. The second time I heard the cop say "I wish I could help you" I realized he was fishing for a bribe. Lizzie kept talking, and when he asked how I could be married and a priest, she started explaining Anglicanism to the cop. He was getting exasperated, still saying "I wish I could help you" and trying to get his lunch money and Mona and I were saying "No, we were wrong for speeding. We don't want you to get in trouble. Just give us the ticket." He finally gave up and sent us on our way with out a ticket

Lizzie will be sorely missed by everyone who knew her. We are all very sad but we also know that she is with the Lord now and experiencing a light so clear and a love so profound that we can't even comprehend it, so we rejoice for her. Please keep Egbert, Mary, John and Laura your prayers at this difficult time.

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Elizabeth. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

May her soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

14 comments:

it's margaret said...

Oh Padre --I am sorry for your loss. It sounds like the whole world is a hollower place without her.

May she rest in peace, and rise in glory.

Tia Sue said...

Yes, it is a sad day for many. I have been thinking all day about how much I learned from her. One very useful pieces of information was how to pick up a snake without getting bitten. This was just after a small BOA fell from the cieling to the floor during one of the basket classes.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Amen

Caminante said...

I am so sorry to hear that. I went to their house in August 1987 and sang motets even though I was dying from the heat. I will remember her and those who loved her in my prayers and light a candle for her tomorrow.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

A candle in front of our Virgin of Guadalupe has been lit to illuminate the world around us in with the memory of Elizabeth Leigh.

Jane R said...

What a beautiful face she had. I'm so sorry for your loss, Padre. May Lizzie's memory be a blessing. May Lizzie rest in peace and rise in glory. My prayers are with you and those who loved her and those whom she loved so well.

susan s. said...

May she rest in peace and rise in Glory.
Love to all who knew her and miss her.

Cathy Toft said...

Thank you Padre for posting the news of Lizzie’s passing today. I first heard the sad news this afternoon in California, wanted to know more, and was able to find your blog. I first met Lizzie and Egbert in 1973, in a remote field station in the tropical rainforest of Peru. They had just married, after they met at RMBL in Colorado, both studying botany, where Bert had formally proposed to her. I lived with Lizzie and Bert on and off on Barro Colorado Island, where they lived in the big yellow house before moving to Gamboa. Lizzie and Bert brought their infant son John to stay with me in California, right after I moved there. I have seen Bert through the years on his annual migration, but last saw Lizzie on her rare visit with him several years ago. I have spent the evening remembering those days 35 years ago. Lizzie was a stunning beauty, straight out of a 19th century painting, with auburn curls that framed her face and cascaded down her back to her waist. I will remember Lizzie most for her vest for life, embracing it fully, her beautiful voice, and how she was always completely genuine and at ease with herself. Thank you for honoring her here.

Matty Boy said...

I'm sorry for your family's loss, Padre. And let me add an amen to your prayer for the peace of the souls of the departed.

Amen.

Vivian L. said...

Oh, I'm so sorry to hear this news. Even in the short amount of time I knew her, she seemed like an incredible person... prayers for your and her families.

Drude said...

I am so sorry to hear this. I found your post by googling her name after hearing the sad news. I wish I could send flowers or donate to her favorite charity or just give Bert a hug. I can't begin to imagine what he's going through.
Would you post about it if something is planned to honor her memory?
She was an amazing woman.

Emma said...

Lizzie was such an amazing and energetic woman. I still can't quite believe she's gone. Thank you for posting this in her memory.

The Dick-Ruiz said...

We won't forget the lovely and kind Lizzie. She will still alive in our memories. We appreciate all the great moments shared with her in Gamboa. For Bert, Mary and John all our sincere condolences.
Amen.

AEMahler said...

My parents called this afternoon to tell me that Lizzie had died. I met Lizzie and Bert on Barro Colorado Island. Aside from my fascination with tropical ecology and ethology, being invited to spend the week end in the Yellow House was the best thing that could happen to me during my high school years. I sang with Lizzie, played recorder with Lizzie and for Lizzie, I met young pre-docs and post-docs that I later worked for at STRI and went to church with Lizzie and Bert at St. Luke's singing in the choir while escaping the Missouri Synod horror across town in Balboa. Lizzie was adopted by my family after I went to college and my mother is Mary Leigh's godmother. I returned to BCI about a decade later as a niologist. I went to St. Simon's with Lizzie and to Rio Abajo and El Marañon bringing food and medicine to the Jamaicans who had been brought to Panama to help build the canal, but in segregated housing, and for whom the USA paid no pensions. Lizzie shaped my life in the impressionable years of high school and I know that I would not be the person I am if there had not been a Lizzie Leigh. Lizzie was a saint.

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