For fifteen years I served in the church at the city clinical hospital No. 70 in Novogireevo. There were a lot of needs, and I did not have enough time or energy. One day, I came home being exhausted and heard the phone ringing. A woman on the phone started talking quickly, crying and persuading me to come to give the Communion to her relative. She was in a coma, at death – cirrhosis of the liver. “Come, give her the Communion or perform the Sacrament of Unction, please!” – she asked with tears, so sincerely.
– Okay. She’s a believer, isn’t she?
– No, she’s not a believer.
– How then can we give her the Holy Communion? It is impossible against one’s will …
– But she understands nothing: she’s in a coma! – she said with incredible simplicity.
The woman began to talk about the misadventures of her relative absolutely sincerely, without hiding anything: “She is an atheist and has been drinking all her life, therefore she has cirrhosis of the liver. She spoke horribly about the priests and the Church, moreover, if she found out that I was calling you, she would … Anyway, we have to take this opportunity, Father, until she regained consciousness!”
I understood that it was impossible to perform the sacrament in that case, but her begging words and fervent faith haunted my mind. I agreed to come, but I did not understand well what I would do with such a patient.
I found her all alone, abandoned by everyone. The doctors diligently cared of other patients, but no one paid attention to her. They knew me in intensive care, I served there for many years, so the nurse immediately asked: “Father, whom have you come to?” When I said the name, they pointed to the very bed, adding somehow indifferently that there was no opportunity to help. I had a little bottle of oil from a holy place’s vigil lamp with me. I could not unction her: it is a sacrament, and she was not a believer, even though she was baptized in childhood. I decided to anoint her with oil at least. I read a prayer for the sick from the euchologion, made a sign of the cross over her, anointed her and left.
The next day this woman called me again. She thanked me, and I heard from her voice that she was very calm. I thought: “She probably died. Now, most likely, she will ask me to serve commemoration service. ” But the conversation turned in the most unexpected for me way.
– Could you come to give her the Communion? She regained consciousness and asked that a priest be brought to her: she wants to repent.
I was completely amazed.
– Is she in intensive care now?
– No, she was transferred to the ordinary ward.
I came. You can imagine how shocked I was when I saw her, yesterday’s patient with no chance of recovery, standing in front of me in the hallway. She greeted me friendly and said that she was waiting for me. Then she began to tell me that after she came to, she learned from the doctors about my recent visit. Then she asked to call me in order to talk and, if possible, partake of the Communion. I took her confession, and it was a surprisingly sincere remorse of a person who was entangled in life.
A week later, I returned to her again. She partook of the Holy Communion again, and then she was discharged. Then the woman who called me with a request to help told me: her relative went to church for a year, read the Gospel, was ill, of course, but often partook of the Holy Communion and prayed tirelessly. Liver cirrhosis did not go anywhere, but the Lord gave her a one-year reprieve – time for repentance. They lived in a different area, far away, so after three meetings at the hospital, I did not receive any more news about her … until the day I was asked to serve commemoration service over her.
Such stories are a great consolation for those who have despaired of bringing a loved one to God. I confess that I did not have much faith in the healing of the sick when I came to her with the oil. But, perhaps, it was the faith of her relative – a simple, sincere, childishly naive woman – that gave her a chance for salvation. Faith without thousands of “buts” by which we sometimes just block the path for the Lord.