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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 6 May 2017
OPINION 22 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 6 MAY 2017 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Greek identity and the deathly hallows JOHN VITHOULKAS The Apotheosis of Epirus is a truly beautiful piece. It speaks of a man who has passed, Giorgos Konstantinidis. It captures a life begun in an impoverished time in the town of Konitsa, Epirus; a life enriched by the gently evolved values and traditions of his local community; a life abruptly transplanted into an Anglo-Saxon city and culture. His ability to remain proud of who he is is spoken of with love. His strength to retain his identity when many were letting theirs go for fear of appearing to live in the past is admired. It is a moving, fitting tribute; a carefully drawn portrait of a man of the migrant generation; a beautiful description of an individual life begun in a Greek town and ended in an Australian city. Beyond its beauty though it directs our attention to a question that touches us all: in death, what do we leave behind? The generations of the revolution and world wars were visited regularly by death and they developed a clear answer to this. My grandfather was a man of these generation. He fought in World War II. He worked hard. He raised a family. He buried three children under the age of two. He had few words. I remember sitting for hours under a fig tree with him. He played with his κομπολόι in silence, then a memory would spark a story. On one occasion he asked me to walk with him. We walked into town and sat at his tavern, Καρπέτας, the place he went after he finished work but before he came home. He bought a flask of wine and said to me 'Ενα όνομα αφήνουμε' (‘We only leave one name behind’). He said nothing else that day. This was the wisdom he learned in his community. Our bodies will leave this world in an instant. They will be here; talking, creating, planning as if eternity is theirs, and then they will not be here. Our name however will continue. Every time a person is reminded of us they will speak our name. A Name. This we leave behind. That grandfather has passed away now. We will make no new memories. But he exists every time I think of him. In death we leave behind memories. Time passes innocently when we are living, but when there is no more time, when there are no more moments, memories of the past amplify. Instances resonate, fragments capturing the person that was and giving us the contact we need. We leave memories to comfort the living. Highlights of time spent; time we wish we had more of, but highlights we are glad to have made. Memories that will resonate forevermore. Memories. This we leave behind. Death is the end of the individual; a person existing and then no longer existing. But our existence is not buried with us. We live alongside friends, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, children and grandchildren. Our lives are part of something greater and continue to exist through our imprint on this world. We are part of a continuity of existence. We are individuals but the bonds we share create and shape. We are tied to our loved ones. We influence them and help them become the people they are. And they continue once we are gone. To them we leave our ideas and our traditions; what we consider important, what we consider worthwhile. We leave them to carry what we believed in, to cherish and protect it. Values. This we leave behind. In Ο Καραγκιόζης προφήτης (Karagiozis the Prophet) the new pasha discovers that in the turbulence of his father's passing and his becoming the pasha some staff were unpaid for work completed. Not wanting his father's name to be linked with ill words and his memory tarnished he promises to pay all debts owing by his father. In life we care for those who have passed. Αἰωνία ἡ μνήμη (‘eternal life’) chants the hymn at the end of a funeral service. Μνημόσινα (the memorial service) will be held. We want our loved ones to be remembered. We want our loved ones to be spoken of well. We want our loved ones lives to have mattered. We are all mortal beings. Old age and the beyond will come for us, as it came for those who walked before us. And just as our ancestors did, we will choose how we meet it. It is now our responsibility to stand tall and to stand well. In our life we will cultivate our name. Will we be fair people? Will we create memories? Innocent moments together. Moments of happiness that will bring comfort? And will we share our values? Will we stand for what is important and let our loved ones know what is in our hearts? This we sow during our lives. To our loved ones our names will echo, our moments will continue, our values will shape. In death we leave much behind.
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13 May 2017