The Story of a Christian Death, a Miracle After Reading the Psalter, and the Infinite Mercy of God

This story, which is important and very personal, was shared with by Irina, a parishioner of one of the Moscow churches. It is about the final days of her mother Galina’s life, a miracle after reading the Psalter and God’s infinite love and mercy. We offer this story from Irina’s words.

A Woman on Her Deathbed. Artist: Ferdinand Hodler A Woman on Her Deathbed. Artist: Ferdinand Hodler     

Death is a great mystery. It is the birth of someone from earthly, temporary life into eternity.

St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)

The story I am going to share with you began with my integration into church life. I became a church-goer while caring for my mother, who had been ill for about fifteen years by that time. She had rheumatoid polyarthritis, and the mobility of her joints kept decreasing over the years. When I started attending church, my mother was already bedridden—she could sit up on the bed a little, but she could no longer walk.

And my father-confessor began to show concern for my family and events related to it in conversation with me, and often inquired about my mother’s health. “How is your mother?” He would ask. “Would she like to confess?”

I had a condescending attitude to her then: “Mother had never been to a church, but I am an active church member!”

But the priest was persistent. He kept reminding me to ask my mother about confession. I finally obeyed him and asked her if she wanted to talk to a priest. And my mother suddenly agreed!

The priest came rather soon, a few days later. They spoke and then he came out and said that my mother was still not ready to confess. But she would let me know when she was ready, and then I should let him know right away.

And the day came when my mother told me that she wanted to have confession. But I forgot to tell the priest about it; my chores and very important events in the church filled my mind. And finally, the priest himself asked me again if my mother was ready to confess. I told him that, yes, she was ready!

Soon the priest arrived. He heard my mother’s confession and gave her Communion. It turned out that although she had never been in a church in her life, she knew the prayer “Our Father” by heart. And when I talked to her rather arrogantly, she said: “True, I had never set foot in a church, but I knew, ‘Our Father’, and whenever you had ups and downs and bad things happened to you, I read this prayer.” These words greatly astonished me.

Here is my mother’s life story in brief: she was baptized “by accident”, if I may say so. She was born in 1940, and there lived a priest nearby who would visit the families where a baby had just been born and offer to baptize them. My grandmother was an absolutely unreligious person, but she agreed to have the baby baptized “just in case”, because she had been offered. Thus, my mother was baptized, but never when to church afterwards. She lived the life of a typical Soviet person.

And so the first confession and Communion took place in her life. By the look of the priest who came out of my mother’s room, I realized that the confession had been very thorough and left a mark on his soul. At first, I didn't take what had happened seriously, but my father-confessor was very pensive. I wouldn't use the word “staggered”, but he was close to it.

Three days after the confession and Communion, my mother suddenly began to feel unwell and experienced a sharp drop in her blood pressure. I have very little medical knowledge, but there was a medical person close to us, albeit a vet by profession, and such extremely low pressure indicators immediately alerted her, as well as the sounds that could be heard when my mother was breathing. The woman said I needed to call an ambulance. I was hesitant to agree and skeptical that the ambulance would arrive. But this acquaintance of ours convinced me, and an ambulance did arrive.

Everything was very routine... The ambulance doctor washed her hands, measured my mother’s blood pressure, gave her an injection, then washed her hands again. She then calmly said to me, “Your mother is dying.” She explained that when someone's blood pressure drops like that, it is irreversible.

I was not ready to hear that... I didn’t know what to do. In my confusion, I called my father-confessor who advised me to continue fighting for my mother. I called him with the question: “What ought I to do? Perhaps in such cases people read something in church? Are there any specific rules of the church? But the priest suggested fighting a bit more. Another ICU ambulance was called through his efforts and confirmed what had been said by the first crew. They provided a more detailed explanation of what was happening. It turned out that my mother had been taking a drug all these years, which relieved her pain, but it didn’t cure her. And that drug was toxic—all those years it had been killing her liver, so her liver had failed... My mother was dying of cirrhosis of the liver.

I was told that it was an irreversible process that couldn’t be stopped. They were unable to say how long my mother would survive. But there would be terrible pains, as her liver was not working and the blood was not being cleansed. Every organ through which blood passed would hurt in her body. And I had to get special medications that are usually prescribed to those with cancer and give her these injections myself to ease her pain, which I did.

We informed my mother about her condition. She took it very calmly, saying that she wanted to see and bid farewell to everyone who was close and who could get here. Our relatives came, including my older brother and my grandmother—her mother. My mother had quiet conversations with each of them and said goodbye.

And the pain spread.

Her suffering was visible. Injections were effective for a short period, and then even they stopped helping in her condition.

My mother was in agony. At the moment when she passed away, I was not sleeping. I was reading my evening rule. And it was impossible to sleep anyway; my mother kept asking me to turn her on her bed, looking for a position in which she would have at least some relief. I left the room and suddenly realized that I no longer heard her moans. When I came back, I found that my mother was dead.

Then there were certain procedures required in these cases, and the police and doctors were called. Her death was registered. My sisters and I washed her body. It happened at night and in the morning we started making arrangements regarding the documents and the place in the cemetery; in short, routine preparations before the funeral.

My mother’s body was lying in the room. In the afternoon my friend came to my place. She was a churchgoer who had once helped me integrate into church life. She said that the Psalter should be read for the newly reposed—the first three days incessantly, and then you take turns. And we decided that we would do this and agreed on a rotation. I said I would be the first to read.

I took the Psalter into my hands for the first time, opened it, and started reading. I sat down next to my mother’s body. As I read, I looked up at her face. It had a stamp of pain; the suffering she had gone through was imprinted on it. It was clear to everyone who had seen her that she had been dying in severe physical pain—it left its clear mark on her face.

Reading the Psalter and looking up periodically at my mother, I was suddenly surprised to see tears flowing down her eyes... I was very amazed by this. I kept staring at my mother without looking away. Tears were flowing from her eyes down her cheeks and temples... and at that moment her face began to smooth out. It slowly smoothed out, and a serene smile appeared on it. I called my sisters, other relatives, and my friend, who were at home at that moment, and they were astonished as well. We all watched the quiet joy imprinted on my mother’s face at that moment.

We continued reading the Psalter by turns nonstop. On the day of the funeral, our relatives came and sat down next to my mother. They looked and peered at her features and said in surprise, Galya [a diminutive form of the name Galina.—Trans.] is smiling! How strange! Really smiling!” Since most of our relatives were not religious, I did not tell them about the miracle. Only later did I tell some of them how it all had occurred—it had happened to a dead body!

I reflected a lot on everything myself, going back to this event in my mind. At the moment when it happened, I didn’t understand its significance. It was not until later that I realized it was a clear miracle and the mercy of God.

And then I came to understand the whole essence of the commandment: Judge not, that ye be not judged (Mt. 7:1). I realized that the Lord looks at something else—at the heart, and not at the outward appearance. Over the years God’s mercy had been manifested for my mother and all of us, who are sinful people.

While I was reading the Psalter for my mother, a miracle occurred to me too—the Lord touched my heart and I realized how little I had loved my mother, how much I missed her and wanted to talk about a lot more with her…

My mother’s life had nothing to do with the Church. The only contact with it was her confession and Communion just before her death. And such a death, which showed all the mercy of God! I am grateful to God that this miracle occurred to my mother, and I really believe and hope that the Lord accepted her repentance and had mercy on her.

May the Lord forgive all the sins of the servant of God Galina, and grant her eternal rest!

Evgenia Kalachikhina
Translation by Dmitry Lapa


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