The father of my dear friend Gregory Scratch, the priest John Scratch, died in Ottawa in the early hours of Sunday January 15, 2006.
I remember him mostly by voice, since we used to talk on the phone whenever he called Greg at our shared house in Vancouver. I was puzzled at first at why someone I had never met, living all that distance away, would ask to converse with me merely because I was a pal of his son. After a few talks I gave up wondering and just accepted his love -- for that of course was the reason -- a broad mind and a huge heart. I never got to know him very well, and we met in person only once, but these characteristics of openness and good will are, in my experience, reflected in all his children -- who dropped in and out of Vancouver to visit their dear big brother fairly often. (A favourite moment from one visit was the younger John Scratch acquiring a beer for himself in a restaurant -- even though he was only about 15 -- because he looked the waitress right in the eye and requested a "Czechoslovakian Pilsner"! That, I thought, as the drink was duly delivered, was style.)
I envied my friend his large and loving and funny family. But the more Orthodox I have met in my life the more I have come to realize that Matushka Suzanne and Fr John were in a sense the parents of an even larger family -- the archdiocese of Canada. I know I felt that parental tenderness even at such a distance; how much more so those close to them. And now Fr. John will be missed keenly along with his wife. God grant that we complete our race with even a portion of the love, humour, and yes, even style, of those beloved and loving god-parents in Christ.
God, lover of souls, swaying considerate scales,
Complete thy creature dear O where it fails,
Being mighty a master, being a father and fond.
(from In the Valley of the Elwy --Gerard Manley Hopfins)