This past weekend my family suffered a great loss. Our dearest Vladika Lavr passed away in his sleep. I never know what to say about such things - therefore I would be terrible at writing eulogies - but I felt that I needed to write something about this wonderful man. I remember him from as far back as my memories will go. As children we spent hours, days, years in his presence.
For those of you who don't know, I am a child of a reverend. It's a long story, but Russian Orthodox Reverends are allowed to marry, have kids and drink (I felt this last one was especially worth mentioning - especially for those that do know me). Regardless, I spent alot of time at the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY due to my father's profession. The monastery is the coolest place on earth (or so I thought when I was young and I still find it fascinating to this day). Once upon a time the monastery had an actual working farm (they have since sold off most of the cattle, fields, horses, etc.) and as children we got to work with the monks milking the cows, or aiding the bee keeper in the apiary, or cleaning the barns (not my favourite task). It was great fun for kids, such as us, that grew up in the centre of a relatively large city. Not only that but Jordanville is literally in the middle of nowhere New York - where the livestock out-number people and a staple vehicle is green and sports a yellow deer on it. The monastery is surrounded by beautiful rolling hills, woods and farmland. Most of our visits included sleeping in the woods behind the monks quarters (which, I am certain, is where my love of camping came from).
Essentially growing up at this monastery was how we became close to Vladika Lavr. In turn when he came to Rochester he stayed at our home with his "entourage" bringing us candy and telling stories of his travels across the globe. He was like another grandfather to us. He had, in my lifetime, gone to become the head Metropolitan of the Russian Church Outside of Russia - which, to the dismay of my family, doesn't really mean alot to me. It never made me view him any differently. I always thought of him as just a wonderfully warm, sweet and kind man. Regardless of how I view the church or Russian Orthodoxy - he never treated me differently. I view my religion highly in terms of it's cultural influence and I am certain it has a great deal to do with who I am today, however I do not truly follow any one religion or see one as better than another. No matter what my views, he never looked down upon me - and that I think speaks innumerable amounts of his incredible character. This Friday my family as well as hundreds of people from across the world will travel to Jordanville to pay our respects. He will truly be missed.