John Politis Eulogy
Fr. Joseph’s Notes for the Morning Funeral Service for John Politis, February 17, 2009
The death of any person always comes accompanied by two sides.
The first side is visible and most obvious, and that is the sadness that overwhelms the people who are connected to that event. People feel the impact of a person’s death in their own lives and react to it, regardless of how well they knew the person. People react to death with sadness, even if they never met the person at all.
The other side is not so much obvious and can be easily missed. But this is the side that brings along with it the blessings and the grace of God that are poured into people’s hearts invisibly, that work within people’s souls to heal them and bring them understanding and illumination.
Yesterday, as part of celebrating John’s death during the Trisagion prayer service, I shared with you how and when I met John for the first time, how extremely cordial he was with me, and how much love I found with him and around him.
It is true that John’s passing into the eternity on one hand means losing his company and the good times that we had together, and this is the sad side that I referred to.
But there are tremendous blessings and lessons that accompanied his death and came because of it.
John’s illness and death proved to me for one more time, and I am sure to you all as well, that goodness is still a very dominant reality in our lives and in our world today. Goodness may be hidden from our sight at times, but certainly it is not lacking or absent completely.
Let me give an example to make that point better understood. The number of people that I saw coming to the hospital and to John’s house, their genuine care and love, and the many different initiatives they tried to take on their own to help in any possible way, are indications of how much goodness people carry inside their hearts. Then, I would ask, is this not a great blessing that God has given to us through John’s death?
I want to direct your attention to this important point, because one of our sufferings as a society today is the perception that goodness is lacking in our world. Due to many factors, we are led to believe that goodness has become a rare phenomenon in our world. We are led to believe that people surrounding us will not choose to do the right thing.
This false feeling, in turn, causes us to doubt the effectiveness of God’s work in people’s hearts and souls. This false feeling and these false doubts become a reason to distance people from each other. It creates unnecessary division and dichotomy among people.
But with an occasion like John’s illness and death, when so much goodness becomes visible and apparent to our eyes, these false doubts are seriously challenged, and we are reassured of how much goodness people still have and always will always have in their hearts.
John’s illness and death is one strong assurance and a positive factor that can help us from being misled. It can prevent us from doubting the power of God’s work and His positive and good impact inside people’s hearts. These preceding days have shown all of us how people’s hearts can be transformed into an unceasing source of love and goodness, and this is a great miracle being performed right in front of our eyes.
Personally speaking, these past days strengthened what I have already known and believed about the amount of goodness that is stored inside people’s hearts. It assured me for one more time that God is always at work in our lives at every single moment.
When things look gloomy, it does not mean in any way that God is not at work in our lives. When we are overtaken by despondency, God is still working, but for various reasons we cannot see His work in our lives at that moment. For example, if the sky is overcast with clouds, it does not mean that the sun is gone. The sun is still shining brightly and warmly above the clouds. The clouds are hiding it, but its presence can still be felt, and once the clouds are gone, it becomes clearly visible again.
The other lesson that I was blessed to have learned through John’s death is how much we all are connected to each other, whether we are conscious of it or not. There is a strong and important bond of love that ties us all together, even when we seem not to know it or realize it. Affirming and strengthening this bond becomes necessary and obvious during the time leading to death. When people are about to depart, having the opportunity to see the people they know and love, many times even the persons they have special affection for in their hearts, is an important part of the dying journey.
Assuring the bond of love and doing away with any hurt feelings is an important stage of this journey as well, that prepares the person for the eternal journey. People come together and bid the person farewell, giving the person serenity as they complete this journey.
Therefore among the variety of prayers of our Orthodox Church, there is a very special prayer to serve the needs of a person in the stage of dying. The priest will be joined by other family members to pray and to beseech God to ease the exit of the soul of that person. This prayer is such a powerful prayer, and it looses the person’s soul through beseeching God’s grace to release the person from any sin that is held against him, or from the impact of things that he might have brought upon himself by being engaged in magic, sorcery, falling under a curse, or other things.
This prayer is very powerful, and very rarely a person will remain much longer after it is offered. For the person to linger after that and for the soul not to exit into the eternity, there has to be a reason.
After we gathered together at John’s house and offered a series of prayers to ask God to make his exit peaceful, serene, and free from much pain, to my surprise, time was passing by, and John was still here, as if he did not want to go. I was perplexed as to the reason and as what to do next, as there were not too many solutions available.
A bit late into the evening, we sat around the kitchen table and were speculating as to what was preventing John from letting go. I asked around if he had seen everybody that he might have wanted or needed to see. The general consensus was yes, although there was a “but” that followed. His five-year old granddaughter Audrey had not been there to see him the last few days, due to his declining health. Can she talk to him on the phone, I asked? Without any delay, Cindy, her mom, got on the phone. Thankfully, even though it was late, Audrey was still awake, and she put on the speaker. Audrey told her papou that she loved him. Not many hours later, John was no longer a citizen of the earth and had become a citizen of the heavenly dwellings.
John had come to a point where God, in His eternal and unfathomable wisdom, placed a final period on his life. We need not change it into a question mark; rather, we need to celebrate it joyfully and learn many beautiful lessons from it.
The lesson that I will leave you with that we find in the example of John is described very well in what the Saint Cosmas Aitolos taught:
“We all, my brothers and sisters, should have two loves: love for God and love for our fellow human beings. It is natural to us to practice these two loves… Just as a pigeon needs two wings to fly in the air, in the same manner, my brothers and sisters, need to have these two loves, for without these two loves