We came to be with Mena, newly widowed, and (originally) to see whether Demetrios might be able to help save Kostas. That latter was not to be, but we have spent most of our time with Mena. Please pray for her, as she is having a difficult time. She finds that the words of faith she is accustomed to say to others in their bereavements are of no comfort to her. She cannot, for the time being, beieve in Resurrection and paradise. We've been to Kostas' grave three times, the latest last night, when Mena went to tend the flowers, throwing out those that had wilted, and to light the oil lantern, and to wipe or sweep away imaginary dust on the marble marker. She hopes somehow her care will help Kostas, as if he needed helping. What it will do, of course, is bring him even greater joy, since it is an expession of her love. As Mena points out, Kostas was much more to her than a husband. He was also to her a first cousin - or so she thought until a few years ago when she found out she had been adopted. (Kostas knew all along; he remembers when his mother and her sister brought Mena home from the orphange.) He was also Mena's childhood friend. He was also a kind of teacher to her as to everyone around him, sharing, as another friend said, his simple but profound wisdom without sophistry. He was a great example to one and all, and a kind of anchor in this troubled world. He was closer to all of us than a blood relative, much more to Mena than just a husband. In short, if Kostas is not with his Lord, then frankly, it's hard to think there's any hope for the rest of us. We spent several days with Mena at her country home. Her new air-conditioner, Demetrios' gift in tribute to his closest boyhood friend, was finally installed on Tuesday evening, and by Thursday morning (our last day there) we had finally learned how to operate it, thanks to George and Pelagia, who stopped by on their way to their vacation home in Hakidiki. Never again will we spend a sleepless night cooking in our own sweat. The new inverter cools the whole house very nicely. Not that we will ever come to Greece again this time of year if we can help it. The temperatures have been around 110 most days, and the days when it was less, it was still in the 90s. Demetrios is tan; I am red and freckled and my hair is a couple of shades lighter. We look forward to the cool weather in England, even if it is rainy! There has been some joy, too, of course. Leonidas and Ianna invited us on Sunday to the baptism of their granddaughter, Natalia, who is 11 months old. She didn't cry through the whole baptism until they were ready to dress her, when she obviously felt she'd had enough stuff done to her for the time being. Once laid on the dressing table, she returned to her usual good cheer, clapping her hands as if in deight. Then she never fussed through the chrismation and tonsure and all the rest. Even though she was teething, she smiled all the way through to the end of the reception. While visiting Mena in the country, we had two swims in the beautiful, clear, warm sea and although I wasn't quite in the right mood, it didn't escape me how lucky I am to be able to do that. Mena and I both found it therapeutic, emotionally. There is something very soothing about the wide open water and being submerged in nature and the sunshine and lying on your back and being gently rocked by the undulations that, in the Aegean, pass for waves. Demetrios managed to strike up a good friendship with 13-month-old Aexis, one of Mena's grandsons, while I resumed an already warm friendship with his older sister, Christina. We read a story and played Monster and put curlers in her hair and drew pictures; Demetrios says I learned more Greek from her than any other way. She's very patient with my stumbling language, although seemingly puzzed by it. Manolis and Vasilea invited us, together with another couple, to their house for dinner one night, where we sat out beside their gorgeous pool and watched the bats skimming over the water to catch insectss. That was an evening of mixed emotions. It felt good to be with them again. We shared our grief over Kostas; we didn't sing after supper the way we always have in the past; we hadn't the heart. The other couple were another Demetrios and his wife Maria, who has Altzheimer's. It was sad to see her husband having to cut up her food for her and hand her the fork from time to time. It was heartening to see how he did it, with so little apparent concern, not making any fuss about it, displaying no grief, as if it were normal and a matter of course and not in any way making Maria feel uncomfortable. Besides the death itself, Mena has all the aftermath to deal with. One complicating factor is that Kostas left no will. Imagine that, a lawyer with a heart condition, not having a will. He was in the process of drafting one, but was conflicted about who should get some of the furniture. It's been 20 years since I've seen the upstairs of his apartment, but the downstairs has little, if any, furniture his children will want. Neither has his house in the country, with he possible exception of an enormous antique dining table. In the absence of a will, says Mena, Greek Law gives the widow 25% of the estate and the rest goes to the children. Demetrios is spending today in Katerini visiting his brother, Christos, whose emphysema has progressed to a horrible degree. He can't climb two stairs, or walk 10 yards, without stopping for breath and he finds driving difficult. Demetrios had a confeence with Christos' doctor, who wants to hospitalize Christos for a couple of days to run tests and see if it's time for him to have extra oxygen. Christos has agreed to do this, although whether he actually will isn't clear. The oxygen will only make him feel more comfortable, no more. Greece is dying. There is no possible way, now, for her to be an independent, sovereign nation in the foreseeable future, barring divine intervention. (And if you are thinking to yourself, "Thank God it's not my country," you are being far too naive; this is a warning fo all of us.) Every other shop is closed. Pensions are being further cut. Taxes are still rising. And the same old government that has betrayed Greece is still in control. Well, they aren't, but their backers are. The Church, because she is speaking out, will be targeted soon. Much courage will be called for, and much prayer. Hints from Helen: If you want to have Christian faith but find you cannot, start today doing all you can to find God; and be assured that if you persist, He will find you. If you have no Last Will and Testament, make one today or tomorrow. Don't put it off. Don't do that to your loved ones. You never know. If you smoke, stop. Now.
September 1: The Ecclesiastical New Year
4 hours ago