A family member.
Or so it seemed.
George Danes died on August 4, 2015.
In case you missed the enormous hiccup in the world when that happened.
Two things come to mind as I reflect on George: sharing and food.
SHARING. Throughout George’s illness, passing and services, I couldn’t help but think as I watched his family members, “Are they resentful for having to share him?” So many of us felt we were family. The lawn guy showed up to mow, and learned George had died. He was in tears. The same thing happened with the pool guy. The office assistant at the golf course where George played came to the calling hours. She and George laughed often over internet jokes, sending them back and forth, calling each other to laugh together. When I showed up at the house with food one day before the services began, a family member wasn’t sure if the door had been left unlocked, or if I was “family enough” to have a key.
George’s kids were not jealous of sharing him. Both of his sons eulogized him at the funeral last week. They talked of the humanity they learned from their dad, the way to treat others: value them, listen, care. As people filed through the line at calling hours, these young men consoled their enlarged “family”. Watching both sons with their own children made it clear that George was a model for their parenting. They both stop and listen to their children, looking at them squarely in the eyes. There is a kindness and softness in the look. The children know this. Another generation learns from George.
We all felt we were family. George stopped to spend time with us, to sit, laugh, and know who we were. His sharing was a generosity of affection, interest and concern. Oh yeah, and a healthy dose of laughter, punctuated with a hug.
FOOD. Oftentimes when George stopped to spend time with us, it was over food. The Greek culture is one that centers around food. Food may be the [constant] topic of conversation, or it may be the lubricant that helps to bring out smiles and talk.
Like many Greeks, there was a diner in George’s past history. Great cooking seems genetic. Lamb on a spit? Got it. At your house? I’ll be there. For our family, Athos Restaurant (click here) was the scene for many meals filled with laughter and conversation with George. When he was on vacation, dinner was delicious, but… well… It was a great Greek dinner. When George was there with us, he sat, he talked, he engaged our teenagers in conversation (really!!). He made the meal AMAZING. We left not only feeling like we had eaten well, but that life was great.
George’s son Chris left us with a beautiful image at the end of his eulogy. Chris talked about the hole left in our hearts, the absence of George, his hugs, his laughter, his caring. He told us that we should take our time getting there, but that George would have a table waiting for us in heaven, our favorite foods, a great glass of scotch.
George is waiting to greet us, with laughter, hugs, and listening conversation.
Καλó Ταξíδι, George. Safe journey. I, like many others, look forward to the table you have set for us.
Make sure there are enough chairs.