Our dear friend Dusan gave us a scare today. Around 11 o'clock Fr Mark told me that Jean had called and said she thinks Dusan is dying. I went over after dropping off the children and found him in a state of semi-coma. He looked like he was sleeping, although he drifted in and out of what seemed like sleep to what seemed like nobody-there.
Jean was emotional and very distraught saying things like, "He might have been a fuss-budget, but he was a great, a really Great man." As we sat alone she would caress his hand tenderly. Apparently he had fallen late last night/early morning and was distraught at how disoriented he was. He said, "I'll never be able to find St Elizabeth's again!"
People arrived: Jean's family and children; calls were made to out-of-town people so they could say their own goodbyes to him. One of his godsons arrived. My husband arrived with Quartus. Everyone else was ushered away so Quartus could talk to him. Quartus' face was so tender and almost pleadingly conversational that I'll never forget the image of the two men.
Fr Mark then began the service for his final communion. He received the Gifts, and seemed to stir. Quartus must have noticed this because he began to read the Otche Nash, quite a bit louder than the other prayers. He was given the Anointing for the Sick right after the post-communion prayers. After that people whispered to him and said goodbye. Fr Mark left the room and was preparing for the Canon of the Departing of the Soul from the Body.
Then he opened his eyes.
We talked to him quietly about how pretty the day was, who was in the house, and who had called him. He grunted occasionally to acknowledge what was being said and smiled weakly.
He crossed himself slightly and motioned for a pen and paper. Quartus returned with it and he wrote the letter M. and something with a loop. For a few moments we couldn't quite decipher what he wanted. Then we realized it was M.J.: Mama Jean. She returned as we realized he was cramping. She massaged his feet and calves with Maximos and as they did, he began to revive to the point where his arms were moving towards where he was hurting. He also reached for the icon of Sergius and Bacchus next to him.
After that it was remarkable how he revived. His eyes finally opened and he started responding to questions. He talked to us and then asked Fr Mark if he could hear his confession.
As we were all on the porch Rose arrived. Quartus remarked, "He'll be dancing soon, now that Rose is here." She has always loved Dusan since she was tiny, and has doted on him since growing old enough to do so. When Fr Mark walked out, indicating the confession was over, we returned and found Rose crying but Dusan smiling and chatting with her. I almost told her, "Stop crying! You should have seen him 20 minutes ago."
We reminded him that the Kursk icon is coming to our new church building on Friday. Fr Mark picked up the small copy he had on his dresser and put it next to a picture I had brought of the children. He seemed to recall the fact and said, motioning to a copy of the icon, "Ahhh, Napoleon, he tried to invade, but This kept him out...because the Russian people had the icon...Hitler didn't have one either." It made me and Fr Mark laugh almost to tears.
He said, "I was never blessed with children." We responded, "We are your children and grandchildren, Tata!" I told him how much my children love him and named them all. He began to talk of them and their innocence and their natural love for Christ. "Matushka," he motioned to Fr Mark, "he is the Crown, but you are the Key. You are the Key to lock Him in, or lock Him out of the hearts of your children."
After about 30 minutes he was sitting up on pillows, and leaning on Josh, his godson. The transformation was miraculous. He began to joke and smile, the relief made the jokes all the more funny and the smiles seem like a sigh of relief.
This is an 86 year-old man who weighs as much as my left leg, and who has threatened for years that this year he will be celebrating his last Slava. He was a spiritual son of Justin Popovitch, fought in WWII, and survived a German and a British concentration camp. Since I have known him he has talked about wanting to die, and wishing to be buried in the holy ground of Serbia. His coffin is comfortably situated in the corner of his room, something which I noticed only when he was wide awake and talking about the pancakes Jean had brought him hours ago.
It was a relief, indeed. He is undoubtedly waning, but it was a joy to see him revive.
And the words, "He is the crown, but you are the Key..." have touched my heart.