By John Sanidopoulos
At around 10:00 AM this morning, 28 July 2016, my maternal grandfather Vasilios Boustris passed away at the age of 86 from complications with lung cancer.
He was born in 1929 in the Peloponnesian village of Krestana, near Olympia. Orphaned of both his parents at the young age of 8, he and his older brother and two sisters lived in extreme poverty during the German occupation in Kalamata. After the German occupation came the Greek Civil War from 1946 to 1949, and he managed to survive by living in the mountains with members of the Greek Communist Party, and with other boys his age would search for and clear out land mines.
In his younger 20's he met and married my grandmother Vasiliki, who was from a mountain village of Kalavryta, and was working as a maid in Kalamata, and there my mother Panagiota and her three younger siblings were born. In 1968 he contracted tuberculosis, which had no cure in Greece at the time, so to save his life he came to America for treatment accompanied by my mother. The next year the whole family moved to America to find a better living, specifically in Brighton, Massachusetts.
He is survived by 1 sister, his four children, eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Though my grandfather Vasili was not a church-going religious man, having not been raised that way, he was a believer that embraced Orthodoxy with reverence. As an example are the following beneficial stories he told me when I was younger and some events that happened later in his life.
The Holy Unmercenaries Kosmas and Damian
1. One of the joys of his childhood was going to see the monks at a monastery dedicated to the Holy Unmercenaries Kosmas and Damian. There the monks taught him to perform a "miracle". They stripped three thin pieces of a paper napkin, folded each one in two, placed a fork by the handle part inside the folded part of the napkin, and wrapped each of the strips of paper around the uppermost part of the handle of the three forks. After saying various prayers to God and the Holy Unmercenaries and doing the sign of the Cross over the forks, he unwrapped each fork slowly and the fork would no longer be within the folded part of the strip of paper, but outside it. It would usually worked about 70% of the time, by my reckoning. Though I believe this is more of a magic trick than a miracle, he wholeheartedly believed it was a miracle when he did it, and he was in awe over it. He truly believed the monks had taught him to perform a miracle through the power of the Holy Unmercenaries. He always remembered their feast day on November 1st. And though I have also done this many dozens of times over the years, I personally have never been able to explain how it works.
Haralambi the Fool for Christ
2. According to him, one day during the German occupation of World War 2, the Germans gathered the men in the center of Kalamata. Among those present was my grandfather. A fool for Christ named Haralambi, who lived on the streets of Kalamata as an ascetic and evangelist, also came, but he payed no attention to the orders of the German soldiers; he walked through the crowd and kept on walking. The Nazi soldiers began yelling at him to stop, but he kept walking courageously as if going about his daily business and would not even turn around. When the Germans saw his disobedience they opened fire on him with machine guns to make an example of him. All the Greeks of Kalamata who reverenced Haralambi, including my grandfather, were amazed when they saw that not one bullet touched him, despite the Germans being experienced gunmen. The Germans were dumbfounded and went to capture him. When they saw he was an ascetic, they let him free.
Whenever my grandfather related this story which he saw with his own eyes and which is recorded by others in Haralambis' biography, astonishment would come over his face. Many years later, after I read the biography of Haralambi, I told him some extra details that he did not know. When Haralambi later went to the various houses on his daily route, people would ask him what happened. He would then reach into his pocket and show them a handful of bullets. He would say that the bullets bounced off him and ended up miraculously in his pocket. When I told my grandfather this he fell silent with awe.
Saint Irene Chrysovalantou
3. The following was written by my sister Vaso Christopoulos concerning a miracle of Saint Irene Chrysovalantou relating to my grandfather:
"In 1995, my grandfather, Vasili, who lived near us in Boston, was diagnosed with lung cancer. I was 21 years old and planned a vacation to Greece for that summer. During his chemotherapy treatments my mother Panagiota, who has a special devotion to St. Irene Chrysovalantou, had given her father, my grandfather, the monthly periodicals she received in the mail from Saint Irene Chrysovolantou Monastery for him to read since they were written in Greek. These periodicals were filled with miraculous stories of healings through the prayers of St. Irene. He was very moved by these and found faith and hope from reading the stories. He asked that when I visit St. Irene's Monastery to give them a donation from him and buy him an icon of St. Irene as well as a "milo" [apple].
I arrived in Greece and decided to just have a relaxing vacation by myself and visit family, allowing myself no burden of having anything planned. During my stay in Athens I visited with my Aunt Popi from Menidi and I had the beautiful opportunity (I believe) to be part of a miracle of St. Irene Chrysovolantou. It was a very hot summer afternoon. I spent the day at my aunts house relaxing because of the heat. There weren't many neighbors or family around that day. I had taken an afternoon nap as I usually did, but that afternoon was different. I woke up from my nap with an extreme urgency to go visit the monastery immediately. I didn't question myself nor did I care about the heat or how I was going to get there, but I got up with a mission to go immediately. I remember telling my Aunt Popi and cousin Demetri: 'I MUST go to the monastery right now!' Without question, they agreed. My cousin Demetri had a long day at work, but simply said: 'OK let's go, I will drive you!' I went with the monetary donation that my Pappou Vasili had given me, and upon his request I prayed before the icon of St. Irene for his recovery of the cancer, spoke to two nuns about my Pappou Vasili, and they assisted me in lighting a candle on his behalf and gave me the milo, an icon and their monthly periodical to bring back to him. I knew I had to call my mother and tell her the task that my Pappou asked me to fulfill was complete.
I called my mother in Boston from my Aunt Popi's house the very next morning when I woke up. I remember telling her the details of my visit to the monastery and at the end of the conversation she gasped and questioned me again to clarify if I really went the day before. I told her yes. Apparently during the time of my visit to the monastery it was also the same time that my Pappou was visiting the doctors to get the test results of his on-going cancer treatments for the lung tumor. The results came back clear of all traces of the tumor. Our family firmly believes that this was a miracle of St. Irene and I have the humble honor of being a part of it. I tear up just by the thought of this."
The story does not end there, however. In early 2016 my grandfather's was diagnosed with a more severe form of lung cancer, and there was to be no recovery. In April of 2016 he was brought to a hospice to pass away. While there my mother anointed my grandfather with oil from the monastery of St. Irene Chrysovalantou, and the next day he had a sudden and unexpected recovery. He returned to his house, mainly confined to sitting on his couch, unable to lie down. I noticed next to him he had the monthly periodical of St. Irene my mother had given him. Three months later he returned to the hospice, this time with a surety that he was to die. This was Monday the 25th of July. Although he was expected to die that day he hung on, though partially unconscious most of the time. On the 26th of July, seeing that my grandfather had not yet passed, I figured that he would pass on the feast day of his beloved St. Irene Chrysovalantou. He finally passed away at 10:00 AM on Thursday the 28th of July, which is the feast day of St. Irene Chrysovalantou, a patron saint of my family because of various miracles and a special love we have for her. As he was about to passed the nurse, who is not Orthodox, had placed the icon of his patron saint Basil the Great which was near his bed on his pillow next to him and asked St. Basil to take his soul, which indeed happened within minutes.
May his memory be eternal!