A Definite ‘Up’ Day

In recent posts I have shared stories about how I am a babbling idiot or that some Russians are mean. So I think it’s time for a happier recollection of a pretty great day I had.

A couple weeks ago I spent a few days volunteering at a children’s hospital (one that I visited with the youth conference in July). There wasn’t too much I could do there being pregnant and the hospital having recently transfered many of the kids to a new location, so eventually we all realized it was best that I stop, but this story is from before that.

To get to the hospital I would take a half hour ride on a metro, wait for a mini-bus thing (called a marshrutka) and take that for about 40 minutes to the last stop. Marshrutki can be kind of unpredictable as far as departure times go. My second day going to the hospital the wait for a marshrutka was incredibly long. Nothing was coming. And the line is outside. And of course it was freezing. And a few minutes in to the wait it was drizzling. And my umbrella was at home. Thankfully my coat is waterproof and my schedule at the hospital wasn’t strict, so I was ok waiting. Just a little nervous since I am now two people and not just one.

A little old couple was standing behind me in line. They were using this martrushka in this particular area for the first time. After a while of waiting, the little old lady looked at me and politely demanded that I stand with her under her umbrella. She generously held it over us as she told me they had never used this marshrutka before and she wondered what was taking so long. Unfortunately I couldn’t shed any light on the situation since this was only my second time and the first time I took it, the marshrutka basically came right away. Our conversation topic basically stayed the same the entire wait, but it was pleasant none-the-less.

When the marshrutka finally came, I sat behind the couple. Before exiting, the little old lady turned around and said she wished me much happiness and health. A very sweet wish to offer someone you only ever spoke to about a mini-bus and the weather. I smiled and returned her sentiments. And of course thanked her for her kindness.

I arrived at the hospital to spend another afternoon sitting with Lydia. A woman who takes care of a 9 year old boy in the hospital. Kyril was abandoned by his birth mother and adopted. While riding a bike he was hit by a truck and severly injured. Incomprehensibly, his adoptive parents chose to also abandon Kyril who was now lying in a hospital bed, unresponsive, but alive. Lydia was assigned to him and for a very long time never left his side. When we came to the hospital in July, one of our parcipants was able to relieve her for the first time in weeks so she could go take a walk. Kyril is doing much better now than he was in July, but he still cannot speak, control his movements, or get out of bed. I pray someday he can run around and play like little boys his age. And I admire Lydia for her dedication. She has a life and a family of her own, but she gives it all up to support Kyril. She loves him as one would her own child.

I knew this day was her birthday because I overheard her telling someone the last time I was there. Despite the fact that I didn’t know her that well, I wanted to bring her something. The only thing I really had to give her was a little paper icon copy of the Kazanskaya Mother of God. I had just received it a few days prior after venerating the icon itself. The icon was in Moscow for the Kazanskaya Feastday (November 4th, new style calendar). Andrei and I were fortunate to go to services that day at the Kremlin where the Patriarch was serving and the icon was present. Later, the icon was brought to an Orthodox “Expo” and that’s where I had the opportunity to venerate it. To be able to do this while pregnant was especially significant for me. After venerating the icon, they handed me the paper copy. My plan was to take it to the hospital with me when I, God willing, give birth in April. Knowing that Lydia, in her situation, would not have the opportunity to actually venerate this majestic icon and I did, I decided this would be my gift. She deserved it much more than I ever could.

I had no idea how much it would end up meaning to her. She told me that what she wanted for her birthday was to buy an icon and to be in church. Although it didn’t exactly happen that way, it turned out that the hospital priest came by to give Kyril Holy Communion and blessed Lydia for her work. Then I came and gave her an icon. This was enough to fulfill her birthday wishes. Her intense gratitude and tearful joy was incredibly humbling for me.

It definitely was one of the best gifts I ever gave.

And a pretty great day in Moscow.

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