Saturday, November 3, 2012

More St. Demetrios Celebrating

Every year, we give a St. Demetrios dinner to about 20 of our friends at a taverna owned by one of Leonidas’ sisters. This year, for numerous reasons, it had to be postponed from the actual Feast (Friday) until Tuesday evening.

What could be more wonderful than being with so many dear ones all at the same time? And mostg of them are very dear to one another, too. It really was a preview of the heavenly wedding banquet. I felt swaddled in a silken cocoon of love and never wanted the evening to end. Times like this, I want to stay here in Greece forever; but then I remember the dear ones elsewhere. My heart is already very sore and raw from missing my grandchildren, not to mention the rest of the family.

We had been out of touch for over a year with one Kostas, a urologist, and his wife, Helen, so were very glad to see them again. Kostas used to live right next to Demetrios when they were boys.

Helen was seated in such a way that conversation with others was difficult, so at some point I went to sit beside her and try to converse. Half an hour later, I realized, to my delight and shock, that we’d been gabbing, in Greek, all that time and had had no difficulty understanding one another! It was a heart-to-heart, too. Must’ve been some sort of a miracle.

The astonishing thing I learned from her is the accident her husband, Kostas, sustained a year ago. He fell from his balcony to the ground below — thirty feet! He was in the hospital for a month, and in a convalescent home for more months, several bones shattered. He had to learn all over again to walk. To see him now, you’d never know this horror had happened to him. He says he still has pain now and again.

After dinner, the singing began, mostly quiet songs and hymns, starting with the hymn of St. Demetrios and, at my request, “To Thee, the Champion Leader.” For some unknown reason, it’s mostly the men who sing. Sometimes Vasilea joins them, and Mena, rarely. As always, they sounded very good. I sat there thinking, though, that somehow they didn’t quite sound as good as usual, and wondering why. Something just wasn’t as sweet or rich this time; there was not as much harmonizing. Something was missing. It took several minutes for me to realize, teary-eyed, what was missing: Kostas, supplying the bass.

This was the first time the company had sung together since Kostas died (on July 4), so even though it was subdued singing, that is progress, that is healing, that is very, very good.

Demetrios had asked people not to give him gifts; what he really wanted, he said, was a photograph of each of them. So some people brought photographs. But others still brought gifts: a sweater, a CD, and books.

The books are in English—so we can both read them together, was the explanation. Wasn’t that kind of the givers, to think of me as well?! One is the life of St. Arsenios by our local saint, Fr. Paisios, whom everyone but us knew. I’ve already devoured it. The other is a compilation of questions and answers. The questions are posed by the nuns at a convent near here (where Ioannis’ and Mena’s daughter is), where the spiritual father used to be Fr. Paisios, and the answers are his. There are to be, I think, 12 volumes of these questions and answers. No doubt I’ll be sharing some tidbits soon.

Manolis always knows how (and when) to end an evening: he stands up and begins singing, “O Gladsome Light,” and there’s nothing for the rest of us to do but to stand and sing it with him. (At his house, he takes you to his chapel to do it.) And as you are already on your feet, and as that hymn is a virtual benediction, you just sort of have to go home after it. There’s nothing left but the kisses and the hugs, good-night and see you Thursday.

Thursday? Demetrios and Maria’s house, someone said. ?? How are they going to host a dinner with Maria in her condition? (I’m told it isn’t Alzheimer’s after all; it’s something else.)