Peggy Railey finally died yesterday. Twenty-five years in a vegetative coma, left there after an attack by what all assumed but was never proved to be her husband, Walker Railey, then the highly popular pastor of First United Methodist Church, Dallas. Twenty five years of agony for her family, twenty-five years of low moans, what looked like agonizing pleas for help coming from her eyes, and no other communication.
Thanks be to God, she has now passed into glory. It was time for her release–and time for the family as well.
At the very best, Walker Railey was an intelligent, articulate, charismatic, philandering scoundrel. At the very worst, he was a cheating, lying murderer who was happy to dispose of his family in order to feed his secret demons.
And Peggy? A wonderful mother, musician, Christian who lived her own life of private despair, as reflected in her journals.
As pastor and pastor’s wife of an extremely prominent church, they lived in the fishbowl of a particular kind of celebrity–a celebrity that admits no weaknesses, no quirks, no marital discord, no character cracks, no financial worries, no children with behavior problems, yet with the expectation of perfect happiness and harmony and an exceptional kind of trust in God required of no one else.
It’s a killer. It’s also no excuse for Railey’s actions. But it’s a soul-destroying killer.
Be nice to your pastoral family. Give them space to be human. They do it for you.