This is a story that I’ve been wanting to tell for a while now. The story of Joseph came upon me because of two reasons.
One of the inspirations for this story is after reading a book called Ascetics in the World. This is a wonderful little book that consists of a collection of true stories about everyday average people who “each had their character and their personal struggle, but they also had some common characteristics between them: strong faith and great love for Christ.” On page 343 of this book is a short story of a blessed man named Simeon. Simeon was a very simple and uneducated old man, who everyday before going to work, visited a little church and said a simple prayer, “Good morning my Christ, it’s me Simeon. Help me to earn my daily bread.” And every night returning from work he would visit the little church again to pray, “Good evening my Christ, it’s me Simeon. Thank you for helping me again today.” Years passed, Simeon lost his wife and children to tuberculosis, yet he still held on to his faith, greeting Christ every morning and thanking him. When Simeon was an old man, he got very sick and ended up alone in the hospital. After about a month the nurse noticed that no one was visiting him and asked if he had any family. He answered no, but it was okay because Christ came to visit him every morning and every evening. Every morning Christ would visit him and say,”Good morning Simeon, I Am Christ. Be patient.” And every evening He would come to visit and say, “Good evening Simeon, I Am Christ. Be patient.” The nurse was concerned and called a priest to come and visit Simeon. As the priest got to know Simeon, he realized that Simeon was a very simple, gentle and saintly man, and realized that maybe Christ was actually visiting him. Simeon told the priest that Christ came to visit him again that morning and said something different, “Good morning Simeon, I Am Christ. Be patient. In three days, early in the morning, I will come take you to be near me.” Three days later the priest came to visit Simeon again early in the morning, and while they were talking Simeon suddenly froze and cried out, “Christ is here!” And then he peacefully passed away. This story touched me and moved me very deeply. Here is a very touching Youtube video from Be the Bee about Pray Simply, Pray Always. This video also spends a considerable amount of time on Blessed Simeon, and on his simple but powerful prayer.
Another inspiration for this the story of Joseph comes from my own father and father-in-law. Both were very much alike in terms of personality and the way they were brought up. My father lived in America, and my father-in-law lived in Japan, but if they lived closer to each other I’m sure they would’ve been the best of friends. In their old age, they got sick at around the same time and ended up in the hospital.
Both my wife and I were in America, and for various reasons could not go to Japan to see him, but were constantly praying for him. My wife and I visited Saint Nectarios Orthodox church and prayed that Saint Nectarios would help and heal my father-in-law. The church actually had relics of Saint Nectarios, so we venerated them and obtained some holy oil. We sent the holy oil as well a small icon of Saint Nectarios to my father-in-law. My parents in-law were not Orthodox, nor were they religious, but my mother-in-law gave the icon to my father-in-law and also anointed him with the holy oil. One day while my father-in-law was asleep, he woke up and noticed that a priest was visiting him. The priest had a very bright hallow around his head and what seemed to be a beautiful and bright chandeliers behind him. The priest was looking at my father-in-law with very gentle look in his eyes, and suddenly he disappeared. My mother-in-law arrived at that moment to see my father-in-law and he told her immediately what he had seen. He said, “the same priest from the picture was here visiting me! How did he know where to find me?” After my mother-in-law told us what had happened, my wife and I were very shocked with amazement and happiness. We knew that God had heard our prayers and sent Saint Nectarios to visit my father-in-law. The miracle didn’t stop there! My father-in-law, who was not expected to survive, not only DID survive but was making such a quick recovery that the doctors were shocked and said that it was a miracle! So he left the hospital and returned home a changed person. He lived a good and quiet life for the next two years, and cherished his experience with Saint Nectarios and always had tears in his eyes whenever the saint’s name was mentioned. After two years, my father-in-law once again needed to be in the hospital but this time peacefully fell asleep in the Lord. I told my wife that I’m positive that my father-in-law finally met his beloved Saint Nectarios in heaven! May his memory be eternal!
My own father was 89 years old when he passed away, a month before his 90th birthday. Most of his life he was always strong and in good health. But all of a sudden without warning my father had a minor condition and needed to be hospitalized. Unfortunately his minor condition grew into one major problem after another without end. It was a very stressful time for all of us, and we were in the hospital day and night for months. Because my father was very weak, most of the time he was not responsive, and when it seemed as though the end was coming, we had my father baptized Orthodox Christian on his hospital bed. The same priest who baptized me performed the baptism on my dad, and he was given the name of John after Saint John Maximovitch the Wonderworker. Right after my father received Holy Communion for the first time, miraculously he became very responsive. He was smiling and talking to us just like he use to when he was in good health. It was a surprise and joyous miracle!
The last time I saw my dad was the last time I saw him alive. Unfortunately I had to return to work after being gone for so long, and at the time I lived a seven hour drive away. So I had to return home with the intention of returning the following weekend. As I was leaving his hospital room, I told him goodnight. He looked at me with much love in his eyes, and blew me a goodbye kiss. Days later, my brother called me and informed me that dad had passed. It was such a shock. I knew that he would pass soon and I thought that I had prepared myself for this, but no. I knew then that it’s not possible to prepare yourself for the loss of a loved one. That night my wife was holding me as I was mourning for my dad, and for a brief moment I felt a very strong presence in the room. I felt my dad there. I couldn’t see him, but somehow I felt he was there.
It’s been a few years since both my father and my father-in-law passed. Both, in many ways, we so much alike. Because they lived in different continents, they had never met in person, but I am positive that they would have been the best of friends. I always tell my wife that they are now in heaven enjoying a beer together. May their memory be eternal!