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Gov. Jerry Brown grants terminally ill abbot's burial wish

SACRAMENTO -- Abbot Archimandrite Theodor Micka was awakened on Tuesday morning by his fellow priests with some good news.

Gov. Jerry Brown had signed legislation allowing the ailing 76-year-old abbot, who has terminal cancer, to be buried on the grounds of his Alameda County monastery.

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"I'm in really high spirits now," Micka said in a phone interview. Despite ongoing chemotherapy, he said, "I have strength that is almost superhuman this morning."

Micka has spent decades developing an Orthodox Christian monastery in Castro Valley, buying the first plot of land in 1979. In addition to daily prayer and study, Micka and other monks have planted trees, tended gardens and stacked stones for walls.

"I want to be part of the earth again," Micka said. "That's why it's important to be buried here at the monastery. It's a place that I've labored in, both spiritually as well as physically."

Because the law requires the deceased to be buried in cemeteries, Micka needed an exemption to be laid to rest at the monastery. A legal clinic at the Stanford Law School and Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), whose district includes the monastery, pushed for legislation granting that exemption.

It wasn't lost on Father Stephen Scott, who helped create the monastery with Micka, that the governor who signed the legislation considered becoming a priest himself before entering politics. Brown spent four years studying at a Jesuit seminary before attending UC Berkeley and Yale Law School.

"He probably understands what a sacrifice the abbot must have made in his life," Scott said.

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Twitter: @chrismegerian

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