“The Lord’s Grace where it will blows”
22 Ιουλίου 2010
There was this couple, truly and utterly devoted to God;
People who have decided to abandon their lives to His hands. And He blesses them with both of His hands. They find themselves in the path of Elder Porfyrios, the well known enlightened, contemporary saint, who embraced every detail of their lives. He shields them from every danger and protects them from every threat, his prayer smoothes out every obstacle. The Lord gives them five children, two girls and three boys. The elder one is Eve. She is a talented wise little kid, prudent as an adult. Early maturity is depicted on her face; a heavenly personality. She is sweet tempered and loved by all. She draws people to her but at the same time she gives the impression that some distance and respect should be observed. At twelve, she looks like a true angel. Her parents inwardly think: “For those who love God, everything contributes to their benefit” and offer their thanks to Him. My Lord, what a blessing!
Suddenly one day, while Eve crosses the highway outside her father’s office, a runaway car brings havoc to the easy life of the family and sends the child first to the hospital and then to the “place where there is no more pain, no sorrow but endless life”. Eve, without so much as realizing what had happened, finds herself in the arms of the Lord, while her parents are thrown into the abyss of the uncalled for pain. It was as if they lost sight of the Lord. When everything goes well, the Lord is kind, but when everything turns suddenly and unexpectedly upside down, then His non existence is certain and not his absence.
Fr Porfyrios is standing by with a great deal of sympathy, but discretely insists upon faith on the Lord’s immense love, expressed with such kindness, faith and love, which dissolves any doubt about His wrongdoing. Life suddenly goes uphill. Instead of being inspired by an angel on earth whom we can touch and feel, we can now only trace him with our wounded faith and our injured prayer.
The years go by. The other children grow up and occupy their mother’s life with their progress and their virtues and their father’s existence with the humility of having bowed to the Lord’s wishes. They come to rely on their second girl: Despina. She is completely different from Eve. She is a hyperactive child, always smiling with whatever is shinning or has anything to do with happiness, hope, pleasure and the brilliance of a carefree innocence. One looks at her and realizes that one is looking at the spitting image of the ‘people who will inherit the earth’, at a reflection of the future citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. This sort of people seems to have no relation with sin, sickness or death. When one approaches them, one forgets about anything negative, dangerous or dark. One becomes totally calm and serene, unless of course one is the mother, who has suddenly lost an Eve from her arms, an angel from her horizon without ever being able to comprehend it, since once she held wrong beliefs and now she must harbor the correct disbelief. Then, in one’s happiness, one discerns the relentless sign of the Kingdom of God, the Byzantine severity of God’s image, which does not smile without reason, but fixes His gaze on each and every person in the whole world with assurance.
On a nice spring morning the whole family finds itself at a small monastery in Hpeiros near the border. A friend of the children and the family is becoming a monk. He too is a little playful, but a simple and warmhearted person. His looks like a big, happy child, despite the harshness of his monk’s attire, the sudden change of his disposition and the intensity of his absolute monastic vows, which he so truthfully gave. He gets to play with the kids. They play with him, Despina goes crazy. The whole atmosphere brims with happiness and an even larger grace. Everything is so huge, so beautiful and so godly, that nothing can poison this pleasure. It is impossible!
But, nothing is impossible. Four days after the ceremony of the ordination, while in Athens I receive an mind-boggling call, from a common friend, a dentist. Hold on to something, father, he says. You will not believe what you will hear.
What’s up? Tell me. Despina had a simple toothache at the right hand side of her mouth. It was a usual thing; we said we were going to have a look at it upon their return from Hpeiros. I took an x ray and I am almost certain that she has am osteosarkoma at the lower mandible. I cannot believe it. I have been trying to prove myself wrong but I cannot. I knew what that meant: An extraction of the lower mandible, its replacement by a rib or a bone from the hip, invasive therapy and a quality of life tragically hopeless. The survival rate is less than 10%. It is better to go, than live like this!
I could not accept that the Lord, whom I also believed in, would allow such a development. Therefore, I timidly asked the dentist.
Could you be wrong? Should you repeat some tests? How is it possible that a simple toothache be caused by an osteosarkoma?
Such a diagnosis, he said to me, is easy to make, but has very bad prospects. I called in case you could help so that they can leave immediately for the States. We must not delay even for a minute.
It hasn’t been long since I had met with a similar instance in the States and I had helped the family with translations and the various consultations. My heart would break every time I would look at the child, a blond kid of seven, who became a sore sight. Thousands of questions would hammer me, hundreds of different emotions would yell inside me, and I felt like I was going dizzy more than any other time of my life. That child in the end didn’t make it. He had to go through a very painful time span of a few months of a so called ‘life’, tearing his parents apart and proving that not even the very best of medical science could help him.
This scenario was being repeated now. They would go to the States with the best of hope, possibly to the best doctors in the world and would return with only a few possibilities. They would travel with a naturally looking, but sick child and would return with someone at whom one cannot bear look at the best of times …
The father, that heroic man, learnt the whole truth. The mother was only told a few things. They immediately went to Fr Porpyrios, their granddad, as they called him, to get his blessing. And he, a naturally sympathetic man, expresses great agony and stress. His intuition only left a very small window of hope. They had to leave at once. It seems that inside his heart, together with his immense loving anxiety there was a small spark of hope. This would emerge as an incitement to leave immediately.
Within a week both parents took the child and went to the States, to Ohio. What a terrible journey! Anxiety mixed up with expectation, despair entangled with hope. The fear, that even when one can do the outmost could be proven to be totally hopeless, resembles a knife which tears the wound apart and makes the soul hurt more than the body. Their only consolation was Fr Porfyrios’ blessing and the little window of hope…
Everything happens quickly. Three days after their arrival, the operation is scheduled. The tests were repeated, the diagnosis was confirmed and the doctors told them everything as it was. This is what the law and the mentality says over there.
On the day of the operation at 4.10 in the afternoon in Greece, my phone rang. It was the mother.
How are you father? I cannot take it anymore! They just took Despina to the operating theatre. They told us it could last 7 hours. I am going crazy. Yesterday, they showed me how to feed her. They gave me a small case with tools, because they said that I would have to force her mouth open myself. They also showed me another child, which had been operated upon last week, and I almost fainted. I cannot take it anymore, father. I cannot. Please pray for us. I have also been calling Fr Porfyrios but he does not answer his phone. I only hope that he is praying for us.
I remain silent. What could I say? I must have said something of course, but I cannot remember. It must have been something like a string of proper words which do not even have a spot of power or life.
I put the phone down. It was 8.15 in the morning in Ohio. She had asked me to pray. What shall I pray for since I have no hope, no belief, since Fr Porfyrios is praying? What shall I say to God? Doesn’t he know? Doesn’t He see our drama? If His love did not succumb up to now, why should He do it from now on? How can I beg if I do not believe? I am embarrassed. Nevertheless, I picked up my prayer rope and asked for the Lord’s mercy for all of us. I think this was easier since my mind did not get mixed up with thinking. However, had I been God and was seeing such a spiritually deprived priest praying, I would feel sorry for my Church because it has such miserable people in its ranks.
Time passes without me realizing it. At 5.20 the phone rings again. It was the mother.
Father, they are going to bring her out in a while. In the end it was nothing. She got away with a simple tooth extraction. They told me it was a kokkioma, which is not that serious. What does that mean? Do you know? I don’t. I hope they tell me the truth. Please try to speak with Fr Porfyrios, since we cannot find him on the phone. He would know.
I expressed verbally my pleasure, but inside me I was totally unconvinced. It is utterly impossible, I thought. There is no such a possibility.
I call my dentist friend and tell him what had happened. We talked about it for a while, we put our thoughts and suspicions together, and concluded that: The diagnosis was so clear both here and in the States, and the difference from the kokkinoma so great and obvious, that they must have decided that the situation was so grave as not to warrant further action. The mother was so distressed that she would not take in the truth and someone drummed up this story. We thought that unfortunately the situation was far worse that what we had initially believed!
We decided that my friend should call Fr Porfyrios, just in case he had talked with the girl’s father who might have given him a more objective view of the situation.
The doctor picks up the phone.
Fr Porfyrios answers and replies: “We went through fire and through water but You brought us out into a wealthy place”. In the end it was nothing. They just extracted a tooth and both she and we are now ok. Now we must give thanks, nothing else.
What happened, pappouli? Did her father call you?
No. I didn’t speak to anybody. I prayed and I just turned on the phone from the silent mode, as soon as I found solace. Despina is fine. If you speak with them, tell them not to hurry back, but to stay for a week and go sightseeing. Instead of finding a tumor they found a cyst. Instead of removing the whole lower mandible, they extracted a wisdom tooth. Instead of tasting death, we all had enjoyed a unique experience of a miracle. A miracle performed by God: a miracle, which God wouldn’t have performed, if it wasn’t for Fr Porfyrios.
Despina got married as soon as she graduated from High School. She has many children now and she is well known for her kind heart. She is full of life and faith. Her whole life is a miracle. She has everything. She is only missing a… tooth. However, since it is inside her mouth, it doesn’t show. Had it shown, it would have made her even prettier. It would indicate not what is, but what it reflects: “God’s grace goes where it will blows”.
Source: Metropolitan of Mesogeas and Lavreotikis, Nicholaos: “Where the Lord is not revealed”. P. 37-49.