Repose of Katherine Swanson

On Thursday, August 24, in the early morning hours, the Lord ended the earthly life of Katherine Swanson, the widow of Archpriest Martin Swanson, the founder of St Basil the Great Church in St Louis, Missouri.

Till a little bit over a year ago, the Swansons lived their lives as they had done for several decades, with St Basil’s parish being the focal point of their existence. Although their age was taking its toll on their activities, the changes seemed to be gradual and it looked like that tendency would continue for years to come.

This all ended when Fr Martin suffered a stroke in July of 2022. The recovery and rehabilitation process first started well, but then it seemed to have reached a plateau. The stroke was such a shock to his wife, that she, being already 87 years old, suffered a heart attack and had to undergo a quadruple bypass surgery. The next blow for her was her husband’s death which came unexpectedly on September 20 of the same year – the eve of the feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos.

The last time Katherine was in church was for her husband’s funeral. From that day on, her room at a local Assisted Living facility became her new home which she almost never left.

Soon she was diagnosed with cancer in her lower gum. Because the removal of the affected area would involve a major reconstruction of the lower part of her face, she refused the surgical intervention. Longing to be with her late husband was the thought which was often on her mind. Those who visited her would hear from her: “This morning I thought I would die. But, I guess, it is not time, yet”.

While she could – with the cancer making her partaking of foods more and more difficult – she would receive Holy Communion every few weeks. Last time she communed was about two weeks before her repose, with the Holy Unction served over her a week before. When her departure from this world seemed imminent, the Canon for the Departure of Soul from the Body was read. After three days, during the Dormition Fast, the Lord took her soul. Unforeseen circumstances prevented Archbishop Peter from leading the Funeral service for the newly-departed Katherine. The local clergy: Archpriests Sergii Alekseev and Radomir Chkautovich, Priest Thomas Nicholas and Deacon Ephraim Galloway conducted the Funeral. Just as Fr Martin’s Funeral took place during the days after a Theotokian feast, so now his life companion was laid out on the same spot with the clergy again wearing blue vestments, it is being the afterfeast of the Dormition (the parish rector saw the importance in serving the Funeral in the same blue vestments which Fr Martin used to wear). St Basil’s choir, under the leadership of Carol Surgant, sang powerfully and, yet, prayerfully, while many parishioners – far outnumbering the relatives and non-parish friends of the deceased – solemnly prayed for the repose of their beloved sister in Christ.

After the Funeral, the earthly remains of the newly-departed Katherine were transported to Holy Cross Monastery in West Virginia, where she was buried the following day next to her husband – which was her wish since they were parted almost a year ago.

May her memory be eternal!

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