There used to be this elderly lady in my village, Ruxanda; she had cirrhosis and had reached that terminal point, which would cause the poor thing to literally “spit out” her liver, as they say. We were during the “Cheese week”, on a Friday, two days before the beginning of the Lent. I’m telling you this story so you can see how people on their deathbed listen to their Confessor, and how great the confession mystery is.
The woman’s daughter-in-law contacted me and told me: “Father, my mother-in-law has grown very weak; could you please come and give her the Eucharist, because she’s leaving us.” I took the Holy Mysteries with me, my epitrachil and all the other necessary things and went to her place.
As I went in, I saw this skeleton-like figure, with a swollen-up abdomen. I asked her:
– How are you, grandmother?
– Death’s knocking at my door. It’s over.
– It’s not over; have you eaten today?
– Yes, I have.
– I can’t give you the Eucharist, mother. Tomorrow is Saturday – you should eat meat, since we’re during the week before the Lent; on Sunday, you have some brandy and wine, since it’s the day before the Lent, you do a good chicken grill with cream, and from Monday you start fasting. Next Friday I’ll be here to give you the Eucharist. You are not allowed to die until Friday. If your angel or God comes and tells you that they must take you away, you tell them this – that Father Calistrat told me that I am to stay alive until Friday.
– Will I catch next Friday, Father?
– Listen to what I’m saying, because you won’t die; do obedience.
So I took my epitrachil and went back home.
On that next Friday, as I finished my service at Church – the pre-sanctified Liturgy, as one does during that week, at around 1 o’clock, I remembered: “The grandma! poor thing! I should have gone to her this morning to give her the Eucharist.” I had forgotten about it, what with the pre-sanctified Liturgy and the longer services, as they are done during the first Lenten week, with useful words of advice and akathists; by the time I remembered about her, it was already past 1 p.m. As I was thinking of that, a man whom I knew well drove into the monastery yard by an ARO*. I told him: “Let’s go; we have an urgent matter. Come on, someone is dying and if I don’t get there in time, she’ll go without taking the Eucharist; take me there, as there’s no time; we’ll talk afterwards.” No sooner said than done. I got into the ARO and we drove straight to the woman’s place, which was at the other end of the village, about 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) away.
When I got to her house, her daughter-in-law said:
– Hurry, Father; she’s already hallucinating.
– What kind of hallucinations? What does she do, tell me.
– Since this morning, she’s been saying: “You can’t take me away yet, as the Father isn’t here; have a little patience, close the gate, open the window; there, sit down on the bench and wait for a little while.” I asked her: “Mother, but what do you see?” “What! Have you lost your mind? Can’t you see how pretty they are? Look how they’re waiting, poor things, to take me away. But what if the Father is running late!” Oh, dear — Father, she’s been saying nothing but nonsense.
– Nonsense, you say? You’re the one saying nonsense, who doesn’t know what death is; she knows what she’s talking about.
– So there, grandmother, see you haven’t died yet?
– Eh, Father, they’ve been waiting around since this morning, poor things; look at them, they’re tired with so much waiting. I told them to sit on that bench for a while.
– But who are they, grandma, what do they look like, what do you see? I can’t see anything.
– Oh, come on! Look how pretty they are! Look at them and how they’re waiting for me! They’re so glad you’ve come!
– Fine, let them be glad.
I gave her the forgiveness and the Holy Mysteries and then she said:
– Father, would you please help me turn to face the wall?
– Of course, grandma. There.
– Do you have any wish that you would like me to fulfill before I go, Father?
– Just one: if you see my mother, please ask her to pray for me.
And I added:
– You go in peace.
– Here I go; they’re running out of patience, too.
And she turned to the wall and stretched out, about 10 centimeters longer than she was, and remained still.
I told her daughter-in-law: “Please touch her; see what has happened, dear — is she alive, or has she passed away?” I was already at the door, I had taken my epitrachil. And I hear her say: “When you get back to the monastery, please tell them to ring the bell, Father. She’s gone.”
Danion Vasile – “Conversations with Father Calistrat from Bârnova”
*old Romanian 4×4