TO BE READ AT MY FUNERAL - at Funeral Home and/or at Makaria
Welcome to my Farewell Party for I have already met Hades and I’m about to cross and drink water from the River Lethe or Forgetfulness, as my Hellenic ancestors assumed for a person immediately after his death. But those imaginative ancient Greeks had other rivers for the Underworld as well: The River of Acheron or Sadness and the River Cocytus or Lamentation. As for the rivers Phlegethon or Fire and Styx or Hate, I will not touch them with a 10-foot pole !
Today I bid good bye to my beloved wife, my children and grandchildren and all my relatives and friends, regardless of whether they could be present to my party or not. It is natural to feel sad or even lament as the rivers of Acheron and Cocytus already mentioned imply. However, today I have been recycled as the law of nature orders. Death seems to be part of life too ! My only regret is that by the time I began to understand what life is all about, it passed me by; and today it is over ! Regardless of how natural death is, no one chooses it. In my case, I would never have chosen the distinction to die from anaplastic cancer cell, the rarest form of cancers!
I thank all of you, and all those with whom I interacted in the past and those who may have passed onto eternity, for making my life worth living. I can say that I came, I saw, I acted my part with you, and now it is time to collect my tools, that is my Logos and my Senses, and be biodegraded to the basic elements from which the Creative process started me. As for my personal spirit, that is not in my hands.
However, the spirit that I want to pass on to all of you, and especially to my children and grandchildren, is that of trying to live a balanced life--doing honest work to secure the essentials for life itself, doing good things for others and work for good collective causes. These constitute the basis for any happiness in life. Our eternal Hellenic Heritage and Culture is common for those who carry the biological Hellenic genes and those who only carry its cultural DNA. The unique Hellenic accomplishments in human history and the marvelous Greek literature provide much direction for optimizing life’s goals and processes. It is the source for guidance and inspiration for all civilized persons and serves as a measure for all activities. Hellenic paedeia in all levels ofeducation is the only meansby whichthe depth and breadth of life can be appreciated and its limits further elevated.
As an example of Hellenic Paedeia and how it impacts on our personal lives and the society , its essence can be illustrated by two mountains, as my friend, the Rev. Dr. Demetrios Constantelos, had briefly mentioned in one of his poems: The ancient Holy Mountain of Olympus representing the human intellect, which has made possible the Hellenic or Western Civilization as we know it, and has supplied all of us with countless intellectual and material goods. The second and somewhat more modern Holy Mountain is Mt.Athos, a bit to the east of Mt. Olympus, which symbolizes and represents the goods that come out from the work of the heart. That is, the goods that have come out from the refugee child that was chased out of Jerusalem and eventually was adopted by the Hellenic Culture, that we call Christianity. For our earthly life, this adopted child of Hellenism picked up where the civilizer of humanity Homer and the great playwright Sophocles left off. Both had begun to emphasize the value of love. “ I was not born to hate but to love”, Sophocles proclaims in his Antigony ! It is the marriage of the above two mountains that makes our civilized world go around ! I often find myself thinking that God understands all Languages and Cultures, but prefers the Hellenic thought and its language.
I am thankful in general today, because I’ve beaten many odds in my life: My parents expected me to die within weeks after I was born since I came down with some kind of bleeding dysentery, which was not uncommon in the village. In fact, they rushed to baptize me at our home by bringing the priest and the koumbaro there, because they did not expect me to make it. Later on during the second war, I came down with what most likely was Malaria; but with the help of my family and a kind doctor from a nearby village of Kotylion in Olympia--who provided some of his scarce quinine tablets, during the impoverished and depressed times of German occupation--I eventually recovered. Another life threatening crisis came upon me when I was in my 20s in Appleton, WI, where I came close to dying from a severe infection, after a dentist removed my four wisdom teeth all at the same time and subsequently almost ignored my calls and complaints until I had to be taken to emergency hospital by another doctor who personally drove me there. Fortunately, Dr. Fleming’s invention of penicillin eventually did its miracle. I hope that the Church some day will review its criteria for canonization and include in some category of Sainthood men like Fleming, who, through his penicillin invention, has saved countless millions.
For whatever progress I made in my life as a person and a professional, I’m indebted to those relatives and many others in academia and business world who took a chance on me. To those who implanted me with values and helped me cultivate my background; and to those who sacrificed to bring me to USA, the land of opportunity, as a displaced person. It is indeed a real irony that the death of my mother caused by local anarchist and fanatic communist in 1948, became the basis for my displaced person status to come to USA under the Truman doctrine. How can a son feel about such an unintended sacrifice by his mother? Nevertheless, this irony has always been with me. In USA, I was enabled to develop my life as I could not have done in any other place. I am indebted to my native Hellas and to my adopted USA, for different reasons; they acted synergistically to give me form and a platform for living. It is my hope that my children and grandchildren will see the same spiritual and intellectual treasures that I saw and that they will be resourced by these two unmatched fountains of culture and opportunity--Hellenic and American. Do I have any advice? Who needs advice from a dead man anyway? However, I’m itching to give a couple: One, as mentioned above, is: Read, internalize and live the intellectual and spiritual treasures of Hellas and of the Founders of America. My second advice is: Live, not simply within your financial means, but below your means! It provides for a more peaceful and secure life. Spend less than you are earning!
And now we must part, you to live and I to cross the river of no return. Recalling Socrates in his last moments, only God knows which is best.
Did I speak too long? Well, real laconic I never was. I did not want to make an exception on this day, my last opportunity! It is a bit over 1200 words in each language, according to my computer counter !
With all my love to my wife, my children, my grandchildren, my relatives, my friends, and all of you,