Yiayia Margo Kiriakes Eulogy
“Save me, O God, by your name; vindicate me by your might, Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth” (53:1). These and more prayers & pleas for mercy were uttered daily by Yiayia Margo. Only recently did she give away her prayer book set, she sent it to me in a suitcase when she no longer was able to read. Yiayia Margo, a woman of little education, not accomplished as the world defines accomplishment, knew in her heart and understood through the marrow of her bones what the learned people could not perceive through their minds, achieve with their diplomas, or conceive in their brains through their high education, and intelligence!
“I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.” (Luke 10:21) Jesus said attracting our attention to an important fact that simplicity of heart, purity of life are the keys to perceiving and understanding Godly ways and communicating with Him.
There must be many women in today’s society who would be inspired by the example of the life of someone like Yiayia Margo and benefit from her innate wisdom. With all the difficulties that she faced in life, widowed twice at a young age, losing to death one of her sons, raising her children as a single mother, ran and maintained a business, and was able to maintain and keep her family and extended family together.
What was the secret of her endurance and why was her mental health not damaged? Very simply put, I believe the answer can be found in her constant prayers, the divine grace she drew from the life and the holy sacraments of the Church, and the presence of the saints that surrounded her!
Yiayia Margo is a great example to all of us. We can learn from her about the replenishment of energy that kept her stamina refilled, and kept her going through life with integrity. It is worthwhile to contemplate about her prayerful and private moments when she came daily to the church by herself, to quietly care and maintain the oil lamps. Yiayia Margo ensured that the oil lamps that represented and carried the prayers of all the parishioners stayed lit without interruption.
Yiayia Margo without seeking any acknowledgment for many decades served the triumphant saints whose icons are found on the walls of this church and behind the holy altar. She lived those intimate moments and did this service while being hidden from the public eye.
Knowing these details about Yiayia Margo is no longer a reason to wonder why and how she drew energy and was sustained during the many turbulences and tribulations of her life. Yiayia Margo was not only the anonymous and unknown soldier that quietly cleaned behind the altar. She was also an undercover philanthropist that cared for many people in need in many ways for many years. Some of these stories might be known to us by now, but only God knows how many other stories are still unknown or might never come to the light.
One story is very revealing of how Yiayia Margo with her simplicity and without reading one article about stewardship was a living example of stewardship. As the iconography of the church was in process of completion funds were needed, Yiayia Margo gave a priority to the completion of the icons of the church over the much needed project in her own house.
God has given every community a few hidden, quiet and anonymous soldiers of His, whose presence most of the time is not obvious, but their prayers and examples in life help the community to advance closer to God and become more understanding and obedient of His precepts and commandments.
Yiayia Margo was such a person even though and according to her own testimony she was not always the person we knew in her later years. She evolved from a rough edged character over the years to a very sweet person with a shiny face. It did not take Steve Xynidis too long in his later years when I got to know him to show me the scars in his hand and to tell me with laughter many times the story of how those scars came from the burns as a result of his mom punishing his unruly behavior. This particular aspect of her life is worthy of special attention, as it gives all of us a great hope. Regardless of what walk of life we come from, and despite the lack of many needed elements in our character or our roughness, we still have a great hope to evolve into the person that God desires of us, or wants us to be.
About a year and a half ago Yiayia Margo was present by her son’s side and said her prayers as we supplicated God to release his soul, and shorten his agony. What a remarkable endurance in the face of such great pain for a mother to sit by the bedside of her dying child, to calmly accept his passing away, and not to utter one single word of anger against God or to question His decision.
There are many valuable lessons and many great blessings in Yiayia Margo’s life that all of us can benefit from to learn how to alter our ways of life and synchronize it with God’s will, to become more concerned about our eternity, not to be distracted by the concerns of this transient world, and not to be fooled by the deceiving desires of the bodily pleasures & earthly wealth. And thanks be to God, for all the love that all of you have shown toward Yiayia Margo either during the time when she needed extra care, or during the time of her hospitalization, or even after her death.
At this moment I would like to conclude with my favorite passage from the holy gospel on the lips of the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Corinthians where he says, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” Amen