Close-by and Far-away


One father had two sons – the youngest and the eldest, beloved and unloved, close-by and far-away one. The first, the youngest son, was somewhat silly, lazy, and careless, and the second had grown to be strict, responsible, and work-loving. And therefore, it often happened that the unloved brother worked for his beloved counterpart.

And the two brothers lived next to their father, for the time being, grieving from time to time about their mother, who went to God shortly after giving birth to them. Quarrels rarely happened between the brothers, and their harsh father often raised his heavy hand and gaze at the elder, and blamed him in the heat of anger for his intractable character and freedom-loving nature, yet often praised the younger son for agreeing with his father’s opinion.

And days, months, and years passed by in their native village. The elder brother used to wake up early in the morning, going out to the field for sowing, and the younger one was basking on the stove until lunch, but thanks to his accommodating and pleading nature, he often begged his elder brother to do his day’s work for him and at the same time did not contradict his father in anything, and therefore quickly became father’s favorite. To beg another to do your life’s work is not to cross the field or gather haystacks with pitchforks, aye.

And often it happened that the father shouted and swore at his elder son for not doing his own part of the daily work while helping the younger, yet he did not want to hear anything about the laziness and negligence of the younger brother. The affectionate calf feeds from two cows, and the non-affectionate one is left without love and care. And for many winters the brothers grew up together, under the roof of their common house. And thus, their father has aged over the years, and his vitality has noticeably diminished so that he gradually stopped shouting and swearing at his eldest son only thanks to that.

And the long-awaited time has come for the grown-up eldest son to travel to the capital city, to study hard and enter the royal service in due time. The father remained alone with his nearest and closest son, being separated from his distant son even further for many years to come. And a few years later, a letter came to the elder brother from the younger that their father was seriously ill and was already preparing to die. And soon the eldest son returned from the service of the tsar to come to visit his father, to support and care for him. And upon his return, he found their household unkempt and falling apart before his eyes, and his father lying on his deathbed with his eyes rolled up. Two brothers tried to nurse him, but the disease was fiercely strong, and the father was fading before their eyes day by day, and after two weeks or a little less, he gave his soul to God.

Two brothers buried him, trying not to show their grief outside, but wiping rare tears from their eyes. And soon the question of everyday life arose between them about what they needed to do with the farm for now – and it turned out that, according to their father’s will, their entire farm, including the house and cattle, should have gone to the younger brother, and the elder barely managed to scrape together a dozen ringing coins for the return journey. The younger was pleased with the decision of his deceased father, and the elder did not express his opinion about his father’s decision, looking at his younger brother reproachfully in the evenings. These brothers soon said goodbye, wishing each other good luck in life and strength, and again the elder returned to the capital, continuing his service, and the younger started to manage the household that had passed to him.

Many years have passed since then, and the elder brother went to a suddenly started war in order to defend his motherland – and died in a glorious battle, defending his comrades-in-arms from waves of enemies. And the younger one over the course of years has ruined his farm completely and become addicted to alcohol. And from the emotional shock of the war that had begun in the state, and the abundant libations, his heart one day stopped serving him any longer, and he went to God after his father and brother to face his eternal judgment.

And the souls of those brothers appeared before the Judgment of God, following the angels. And the far-away one suddenly became a close-by in an instant. God chose a distant and worthy one and gave him eternal life for the torments of the earthly one, passed with dignity. And the souls of that father and his younger son were exiled back to Earth by the Maker so that in the dirt and hardships of their ways they could truly become close ones – for it is not by distances that people’s closeness to God and to each other is to be measured.