Herman of Alaska
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THE DEATH OF FATHER HERMAN
The time of the Elder's passing had come. One day he ordered his disciple, Gerasim, to light a candle before the icons, and to read the Acts of the Holy Apostles. After some time his face glowed brightly and he said in a loud voice, "Glory to Thee, 0 Lord!" He then ordered the reading to be halted, and he announced that the Lord had willed that his life would now be spared for another week. A week later again by his orders the candies were lit, and the Acts of the Holy Apostles were read. Quietly the Elder bowed his head on the chest of Gerasim; the cell was filled with a pleasant smelling odor; and his face glowed, and Father Herman was no more! Thus in blessedness he died, he passed away in the sleep of a righteous man in the 81st year of his life of great labor, the 25th day of December, 1837. (According to the Julian Calendar, the 13th of December 1837, although there are some records which state he died on the 28th of November, and was buried on the 26th of December).
Those sent with the sad news to the harbor returned to announce that the administrator of the colony Kashevarov had forbidden the burial of the Elder until his own arrival. He also ordered that a finer coffin be made for Father Herman, and that he would come as soon as possible and would bring a priest with him. But then a great wind came up, a rain fell, and a terrible storm broke. The distance from the Harbor to Spruce Island is not great - about a two hour journey - but no one would agree to go to sea in such weather. Thus it continued for a full month and although the body lay in state for a full month in the warm house of his students, his face did not undergo any change at all, and not the slightest odor emanated from his body. Finally through the efforts of Kuzma Uchilischev, a coffin was obtained. No one arrived from the Harbor, and the inhabitants of Spruce Island alone buried in the ground the remains of the Elder. Thus the words which Herman uttered before his death were fulfilled. After this the wind quieted down, and the surface of the sea became as smooth as a mirror.
One evening from the village Katani (on Afognak) was seen above Spruce Island an unusual pillar of light which reached up to heaven. Astonished by the miraculous appearance, experienced elders and the creole Gerasim Vologdin and his wife, Anna, said, "it seems that Father Herman has left us," and they began to pray. After a time, they were informed that the Elder had indeed passed away that very night. This same pillar was seen in various places by others. The night of his death in another of the settlements on Afognak was seen a vision; it seemed as though a man was rising from Spruce Island into the clouds.
The disciples buried their father, and placed above his grave a wooden memorial marker. The priest on Kodiak, Peter Kashevarov, says, "I saw it myself, and I can say that today it seems as though it had never been touched by time; as though it had been cut this day."
Having witnessed the life of Father Herman glorified by his zealous labors, having seen his miracles, and the ful- fillment of his predictions, finally having observed his blessed falling-asleep, "in general all the local inhabitants" witnesses Bishop Peter, "have the highest esteem for him, as though he was a holy ascetic, anti are fully convinced thdt he has found favor in the presence of God."
In 1842, five years after the passing away of the Elder, Innocent, Archbishop of Kamchatka and the Aleutians, was near Kodiak on a sailing vessel which was in great distress. He looked to Spruce Island, and said to himself, "if you, Father Herman, have found favor in God's presence then may the wind change!" It seems as though not more than fifteen minutes had passed, said the Bishop, when the wind became favorable, and he successfully reached the shore. In thanksgiving for his salvation, Archbishop Innocent himself conducted a Memorial Service (Panikhida) over the grave of the Blessed Elder Herman.