Psalm 23 in the Old Testament comforts Christians by reminding them they are loved as they move forward on life’s path, guided by faith.
The late Georgina Bassett, the first Anglican Priest of Slavey descent in the Arctic Diocese, selected the Bible passage to be read at her own celebration of life, which was held on July 11, three days after she died at age 58 of breast cancer.
Also known as The Lord’s Prayer, the words are familiar to members of the congregation of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Hay River, where Bassett ministered as priest since her ordination on Sept. 12, 2012.
Love was the theme that inspired her ministry, according to longtime friend Gail Marshall.
“Love of the lord. Love of the family. Sharing with your community. Giving of yourself,” Marshall said.
Love is a beautiful thing, and Bassett honoured that beauty by lavishly decorating the church to inspire parishioners anew each season. Christmas was spectacular.
She applied her love for others by more practical means by managing the Hay River Thrift Shop, which was always stocked to almost to the ceiling with gently-used and affordable clothes and other inexpensive goods for sale.
“’Love’ to her was a verb, not a noun,” said Bishop David Parsons of Yellowknife. “She put it into action throughout her life.”
Bassett greeted her community with compassion, gently helping families and individuals navigate life’s anxieties and tragedies with patience and calm.
Her personality put people at ease, said Marshall.
“I think a lot of times they were reassured and comforted by her and they were reminded that there is a greater God that will provide for them,” she said.
Bassett immersed herself in the church about a decade ago, studying as she worked toward her 2009 deaconship, then studied more as she prepared for her priesthood. Throughout her life, inside and outside the church, she dedicated herself to her community.
“She was a very shy young woman who blossomed into a true humanitarian,” said Marshall. “She always had a strong sense of community and she volunteered for many, many things. She always had a strong faith and a strong calling from the Lord, ever since she was a little girl, but in the last 10 years she assumed more and more responsibility in the church. For her it was a joyous time.”
Her commitment to her community was recognized by the Hay River Chamber of Commerce in early 2012 when she was named 2011 Citizen of the Year.
Bassett was co-owner of Bassett Petroleum alongside her husband of four decades, Steve Bassett. She is survived by four sons and four daughters-in-law and seven grandchildren, ranging from age one to 16.
“Her prime focus was family,” said Parsons. “Georgina was a dedicated wife and a dedicated mother for her sons and grandmother for her grandchildren.”
Bassett arranged her celebration of life to be held in the Hay River Pentecostal Church, which is larger than St. Andrew’s. The church’s 400 seats were full for the event, and another 200 people stood in the parking lot out of respect, said Marshall.
Bassett’s advice to mourners was to move on, she added.
“It was because of her faith that she knew she was going onto something greater beyond here and that’s what she would keep reassuring us with. She would tell us, ‘life is going to go on and it’s going to change, but there is a reason that I am going on.’ There was another task she was needed for.”
Bassett’s loved ones needed that reminder, because a couple of weeks after she died, her second-eldest son, Nicholas Bassett, was scheduled to marry his fiancee Valerie Smith at the Anglican Church in Yellowknife.
“’Don’t change the wedding. Go rejoice. Celebrate!’ That was her big message to us. And we did. We missed her dearly, but we did what she wanted. ”Live life to its fullest and remember to give thanks for what we have,’” said Marshall.
Nicholas and Valerie were married on July 18.
— Sarah Ladik