In our unpredictable lives, important events often happen that give us joy, but over time, they are to some extent given over to oblivion. That’s how it would have been with me, if not for the evening of June 13, 2018. Some friends and I were sitting in a gazebo in a vineyard in Elder Gabriel’s native village of Kakabeti, recalling various stories from the saint’s life. There was such joy in our hearts that we all felt that Fr. Gabriel was with us. My friend said there is probably not a single believer in Georgia who does not feel the help and support of Elder Gabriel. “Indeed,” I said automatically, and began to recall and tell a story that happened to me several years ago.
It was the fall of 2004. Fall is a holiday in Georgia, especially in Kakheti, in the cradle of vines and wine. There is always a lot to do in the village, and I would try to help my father who rejoiced at my diligence and interest in winemaking. I was eleven then. Those were the years when everyone lived hard and tried to help their friends and families as they could. And I tried: I worked in the vineyards and helped people with various tasks. I was unloading watermelons that fall. At one point, the man who handed us the watermelons from the truck threw a large one down carelessly. I caught it, but three seconds later I was writhing in pain. Afraid my parents would be nervous and take me to the hospital, I hid what happened from my family, but a few days later, my parents found out about everything.
As I remember, the doctors examined me and said I had a floating kidney, prescribed me a treatment, and sent me home. The days passed, but the pain did not subside. At some point I noticed by the icons a bottle of holy oil from Elder Gabriel’s grave and remembered how they had told me during a tour that this oil works miracles because it’s from the grave of a holy man by the name of Gabriel. Then, as I recall, they showed us the grave and a photo of the saint we were talking about. I remember looking at Fr. Gabriel’s photo for several minutes and wanting to hug him. So I decided to apply the oil to the sore spot. This was in the evening. Then I immediately went to sleep. The next morning, I didn’t feel any pain, but in my own stupidity, I didn’t even think about why my kidney pain had stopped.
The whole day I ran and played, and in the evening I went up to the icons again and took the oil from Elder Gabriel’s grave. I wanted to put the oil on the already-recovered kidney, when suddenly I said, “No, Fr. Gabriel, I won’t bother you anymore; you’ve already helped me.” I stopped dead, having realized why my kidneys stopped hurting.
It turns out I had said this so phrase so loudly that my parents heard everything and came into the room. Without a word, they understood what happened, and we all stood together to thank God and Fr. Gabriel for his help.
The next day, they took me to the hospital for an examination. No floating kidney! The doctors were amazed, and our eyes welled-up with tears of joy in awe of the great elder.
Time passed, and I became closely connected with Samtavro Monastery and St. Gabriel. It was a great joy for me to participate in making a film about the elder. From the moment I started going to the shooting in Samtavro Monastery, I witnessed more than one miracle worked by the venerable father.
We recorded the monastery’s spiritual guide Archimandrite Lazar (Gagnidze) for the film. He finished his recollections saying he could feel the presence of Elder Gabriel, then he blessed us and headed for the chapel exit, when the doors suddenly opened on their own. Then Fr. Lazar turned to us and said, “You see, Batushka opened the door himself. I told you he’s here! And don’t be surprised even if you happen to bump into him on the street and he greets you.” We smiled. It was an incomparable feeling.
A month passed and we went to Moscow with some of the elder’s sacred objects for a presentation of the book The Elder’s Diadem.
Our Moscow friends came to see us on December 26. In the evening we shared various stories and planned where to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord. One friend asked me whether we can eat fish during the fast. My friend George Abaiadze and I answered that after December 25 and before Nativity we’re not supposed to. “But why?” he asked us, so George and I decided to show our “deep knowledge” of the rules and spent twenty minutes telling our friends why it’s not permitted to eat fish, and we guided them towards the right path.
The next day we took the relics to the church and stayed until late. We were a pleasant tired and we went home. Everyone went to sleep except George and I. “Let’s have some tea,” I offered and put the pot on the stove. I wanted something to eat with the tea, and I opened the fridge and saw a plate of fried shrimp. I grabbed the plate and George and I were happy to give them a try. We enjoyed the shrimp so much that we forgot about the tea. We ate well and soon went to sleep.
That night I had a dream. I was at Samtavro Monastery and Elder Gabriel was coming out of his cell. Everyone approached him for a blessing. Batushka suddenly said loudly, “Who can go to the store?! I can’t imagine the Nativity Fast without shrimp! Someone bring me fried shrimp!” He continued talking about how much he likes shrimp, and I was getting redder and redder! I opened my eyes and heard George laughing because he had had the same dream.
So that’s how Fr. Gabriel rebuked us, the all-knowing and “deeply-believing!” And I noted that I was not surprised at all after this dream, having a feeling only of contrition and joy. This joy always overwhelms you, when you have spoken with Elder Gabriel or he with you!
How I wanted to ask him so many things during the dream, but some power did not allow me to do so… The elder just tells you what you need to hear.
I often think about what I would say to Elder Gabriel if I were to meet him for real, not in a dream, and the same thought always comes to me: I wouldn’t be able to utter a single word before him, except to softly whisper, “I LOVE YOU!” And that is because God, to Whom the elder dedicated his entire long-suffering life, is LOVE.