Thursday, February 29 2024
Sunday, March 03 2024

Nick Pantazes Eulogy

Nick Pantazes funeral took place at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Washington D.C.untitled

The last part of Nick’s earthly life when he was admitted to the hospital around the beginning of the journey of the Great Lent season started with great hopes to rid him of some of his reoccurring health challenges.

This journey was filled with many surprises and unpredictable twists and turns of events. At the end it turned out to be a thought provoking and challenging story. 

I never knew back then, and I imagine that you too never fathomed either that at the end of Nick’s hospitalization we would be coming together here today to hold his funeral service.

But today’s gathering and Nick’s story reconfirms one more time the truth of the biblical revelation about the transient earthly human life; “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more” (Psalm 103:14-16) 

Reflecting on my earliest memories of meeting Nick for the first time, I remember the day when a letter came to the church office from the Leadership One Hundred. It stated Nick’s name as one of the leadership members who were part of the parish.

The name did not ring a bell and at the time I had only been in Daytona Beach a short time. I called him to introduce myself as the new priest of Saint Demetrios.

He was in Maryland. In his soft speaking way and gentle tone he told me that during his next trip to Florida, he would invite me to bless his house and we would meet.

My impression of him after we met is the same impression that I have of him today. Nick was a kind man, very respectful of the church, the hierarchy, and all of the clergy.

I never heard him say anything negative about any clergy regardless of their struggles and difficulties. He was compassionate, soft, and always seemed to find excuses for them when their weaknesses and shortcoming were brought up. 

He loved the church and all the parishes that he belonged to during various periods of his life. He respected any and all of his fellow parishioners in these parishes regardless of the size of their effort and contribution in support of their parish.

He never compared himself or his efforts to others. He did not consider himself better than anybody else. He was just happy to be able to help in carrying out the mission of the church.      

Our last private conversation took place on a Saturday during a breakfast shortly before he was hospitalized. He was a little bit anxious about the potential outcome of his surgery.

We spoke about repentance, faith, reliance on God, and surrendering our worries and needs to God’s providence and care.

I still remember Nick’s last sentence as we bid farewell to each other. Nick said that he hoped that God’s opinion of him would be favorable and his eyes would see him as a person who did more good than bad.

At that moment, I clearly realized in my heart that Nick was relying only on God’s mercy. It was his only hope and he knew not to expect any salvation to come to his aid from anywhere but from God.

The story of his many days hospitalization was another series of events filled with puzzling questions. Every time that a prayer was said for him, Nick’s health would report a wonderful progress and impressive improvement, which would be followed shortly after by even more and worse regression than the previous time.

The impact of the heavy medications, his fatigue, or his induced unconsciousness did not seem to stop him from reacting positively to the prayers and the sacrament of the holy unction. 

It was amazing to watch how Nick’s body language reflected his awareness of the prayers around him, and to reveal his eagerness to be anointed by the holy oil, and to be surrounded by a lot of prayers.

The last day when I saw him at the hospitable, one day following Fr. Michael’s visit from Maryland, as I drove back to Daytona Beach on that sunny day under the clear blue sky of Florida, I was puzzled and deep in thought.

God, I said in my heart, why is it your will for Nick not to get well. Did we not pray enough? Were our prayers not fervent enough? Were we lacking the faith as we prayed? Did not our combined faith tally up to the size of a mustard seed? Or did you have another intention that we are not aware of?

As these questions and more echoed in my heart, for a moment I felt a peaceful and gentle presence around me. I thought I sensed a sweet and tender voice that made me understand that God truly looked favorably upon our prayers, and this is why Nick’s health would improve every time after every prayer.

God did that to let us know that every whisper that everyone uttered during these days anywhere, whether at the hospital, at Saint Demetrios, at Saint Constantine and Helene, in Greece, and elsewhere was heard and echoed loudly in God’s ears.

Then I remembered the story of Litsa’s hospitalization in Greece and Nick’s frequent visits to the chapel at the hospital and his prayers. I knew in my heart that Teddy and Eliana’s last prayer was answered. Before I left the hospital, we had held hands together asking God to grant us understanding.

At that moment it became clear to me, or so I felt, and thus, I can speak, that Nick’s regression was an answer to his own prayer. Several years back Nick begged God for Litsa’s life and plead with God offering his own instead. His prayer was strong and genuine. It took priority over our prayers.

I felt peace and joy inside my heart. I glorified God for granting us our request and for revealing to us the knowledge of the mysteries of his wisdom. God is loving and fair. He fulfills everyone’s needs in a way suitable to their various conditions and circumstances.

The next day I received Nick’s news of passing away with gratitude and thankfulness to God. But, I pondered upon the news as it is the season of the Pascha.

We are still celebrating Christ’s resurrection and victory over death, but we still suffer from physical death. How can these two contradicting realities coexist?  

I found the comfort in the healing words of Jesus Christ. The Lord said, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:23-24).

Our physical death is not the real death, which the bible cautions us not to fall into. The physical death in Christ and With Christ is a passage from this transient existence to the eternal life.

The scary state of death is the eternal death that people can become subject to if they choose to separate themselves from God and dive into Hades.

Just the thought that there is no day or light in hell is horrifying.

Death according to the revelation of Jesus Christ is being in the state of an unceasing and continuous darkness. And the worst type of suffering in hell is being inflicted with the disease of despair.

Jesus cautioned us from the torments of hell that are worse than any death, and are incapable of causing death. As a matter of fact, in hell, death is very much desired as much as life is desired on earth as it is a comfort to die, but it cannot be found.

Inside my heart all various thoughts and questions disappeared. There was peace within me knowing that Christ through his resurrection has led us to paradise and to the eternal life instead of leaving us alone to our own fate, helpless to sink into hell.

Nick had the wonderful opportunity to prepare for his departure. What a blessing to have time to reflect and to repent! What an awesome gift to be able to confess, and to receive the holy sacraments!

Nick had anything and everything that a man would wish by his deathbed. He was engulfed with love and tender care this entire time, prayers were offered for him by many faithful people in various places. Several priests and friends had travelled from far and nearby to stand by his bedside to pray for him.

I want to salute all of you who are present here and those who could not travel to be with us today as all of you were Nick’s heroes and guardian angels this entire time.

I know that I would not be speaking wrong if I told you that Nick had appreciated all of your thoughts, prayers, and good wishes.

I pray that the risen Lord Jesus Christ would pour out his divine grace into your hearts, and to plead with him to shield you with his mercy.

May all of you find comfort and serenity in your life and continue to walk steadily on the narrow path toward salvation and the blessed and joyful eternal life.

May God grant rest to the soul of his servant Nick and place him in a place of comfort and blessedness with all the saints and the righteous. Xristos Anesti. Alithos Anesti.