Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I’ve been getting a few emails from folks wondering if I intend to get back to work here or if I’ve indeed abandoned the “mind” for good. That’s nice my friends; thanks for asking. I didn’t actually mean to be away for so long, but much has been happening lately and I simply haven’t had the time to sit and gather my thoughts until now.

Holy Week and Pascha consume quite a bit of a priest’s time and energy, but beyond that I’ve been mostly occupied with caring for my elderly mother, Marian.

Mom is 85 years old and up until just recently has been able to live independently in her own apartment. Last year she finally decided she was no longer fit to drive and gave up her car. We were very happy for that, but this also meant that my wife and I, who live in another town about 20 miles away, would have to take up the slack and do her driving for her, bringing her groceries each week, taking her shopping or to her doctor’s appointments, and so on. Over the past year she also became increasingly more forgetful and thus it became necessary for us to take over her financial affairs, paying her rent and various bills from her tiny social security stipend.

Over the past several months her memory got to be so bad that we had to call her every day just to remind her to take her medications and which pill was which. She also became increasingly unsteady on her feet, and so we would go over many times a week just to do her dishes, change her bedding, or clean her apartment so that she wouldn’t have to do these things and risk a fall. We enjoyed spending this time with her, and she enjoyed our company, though she always insisted we didn’t need to do so much for her. Yeah right, mom.

Mom never went to church, though her two sons both became Christians in the 1970’s. She always claimed to believe in God, but never read the bible or saw the need to go to church. This last Pascha my brother, who attends Calvary Chapel, went over to visit and read to her from the Gospel of John. He spoke to her of her need to accept Christ and be “born again”. We had both talked to her about these things many times over the years, but on this occasion she apparently decided to listen. She said the “sinner’s prayer” with him and accepted Jesus as her savior. When I heard about this the next day I suggested that she let me baptize her in her apartment, and to my great surprise and joy, she agreed. Thus I went over and baptized and chrismated her into the Orthodox Church, with my wife as both witness and photographer.

I have no idea how much she understands about these things, but she is very happy that she was baptized and talks of it often to anyone around her who will listen. What a wonderful gift from God!

A week ago my mom had two important surgeries which seem to have gone well, but they have also left her in a physical and mental condition even weaker than before. As we visited her each day in the recovery room at the hospital, we came to the painful realization that mom had simply reached the point in her life that she would no longer be able to live alone or care for herself even with our constant help. I spent 48 gut-wrenching hours researching “elder care” on the internet and making dozens of calls to a variety of people, and many visits to different skilled nursing homes and residential care facilities until finding a place that would accept her.

We took her to her new “home” yesterday, a board and care facility in Carson in which she has her own private bedroom and someone there 24/7 to dispense her medications, prepare her meals, and help her with bathing and other daily needs. If we had an extra bedroom in our apartment, we would take her in ourselves. It just breaks my heart to see my mom in a “home” even though it’s a very nice one and she insists that she likes it there and recognizes that she really can’t take care of herself. It’s still tough. Today we went over and began the work of cleaning out her old apartment in which she had lived for the last twenty years since my dad died. It is sad knowing that she will never see it or most of her things again.

I still have a lot to do. Financially, this is a tremendous burden on our family and our own limited resources will run out in only a few months. I need to find out if Social Security or some other government agency will help us offset the expense. I will also need to find her a new facility somewhere in Orange County, as Carson is twice as far away as her old apartment and is quite a long drive to make several times a week. I am not happy, but I am a bit relieved. At least for the moment she is in a place where she can be cared for daily, and surrounded by people that she seems to like.

My mom is still teaching me many valuable lessons through all this. With her ever-positive and cheerful attitude, she is teaching me about being truly thankful for what you still have and not lamenting what you have lost. She is teaching me about being resilient and accepting change as life goes on. As she is gracefully making this transition to one of the final stages of her life in this world, she is also reminding me of how much I love her and what a good mom she has been to me. Yeah it’s tough seeing her like this, but it is also a gift from God that she is still with us and that we can still sit and talk together. I need to cherish this time, and enjoy it while it lasts. It’s just hard getting this lump out of my throat right now.

Please pray for us.