Monday, December 12, 2016

"Come All Ye Faithful..."

Holy Trinity Cathedral
"When we get there, I don't think we need to stay too long," my wife said. I thought to myself well what's the big deal. It's kinda rude just to show your face and then, run!

"Okay, whatever," I acquiesced.

When we arrived at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in New Orleans, which I later found out was first Greek Orthodox Church in North or South America, the parking lot was almost full.

About two Saturdays ago, I moseyed over for a cup of coffee and some abuse from the gang at Gus's restaurant, but there was no one or cars to be found as is usual. There was an envelope taped to the locked door of the restaurant. I wasn't sealed so I decided to open it up and see what was the reason for everyone's Saturday no show.

Written on a torn, half sheet of yellow ledger paper by a local landscape gardener, Steve Smith, was his condolences to the owner, Gus Michailakis. The first thing that crossed my mind was that Gus had complications from his inner ear surgery and passed away. 

I was not the only friend who shared that concern.

Sketchy information from close friends who spoke to witnesses said that on Friday night, with little or no warning, the eldest son, George, left the kitchen where he was working and went into the men's bathroom to end it all. George was the eldest son with a history of mental illness. One shot was all that was heard. 

Naturally, chaos ensued. The restaurant wasn't crowded at that time, but patrons poured out of the door into the parking lot. The local police showed as did the ambulance. Out of respect for the family, none of the patrons asked and little information was divulged. At this point, one week later, the details of his death don't seem so important.

Waiting our turn to see George in repose, I noticed in front of me, the neighborhood friend Therese and I ran into as we walked to the church. She stood in front of the casket with tears in her eyes. I looked around to see how precious friendships really are and what a simple neighborhood eatery means to a community. If only George could have understood the important part of his being alive and the out pouring of love that was shown at the crowded church.

I turned my head back towards the casket to notice that, our friend, Debra, touched George's hand which was surrounded by a crystal rosary. Her doing so reminded me of seeing our son in his casket and touching his hand. A hand, though still rather childlike, was a talented hand. Little hands that we had to hold so he wouldn't scratch himself from the many food allergies that plagued him most of his life. Soft hands that could easily grasped a double play ball or tap an errand throw of a football back into his arms. Talented hands that could build and paint model aircraft as well as create marker and charcoal and pastel art. 

The same hands that later would nervously pat me on the head as he passed by never knowing quite how I would receive it, were now cold and gray. It has always stuck with me. As our turn came up to pay our respects, I could tell Therese was beginning to have a hard time coping, for George was Brian and Brian was now, George. But when she met Pam Michailakis, in the receiving line, both mothers hugged and fell into desperate tears. I really don't know what was said or commiserated. I'll never know what it means to share one mother's heartbreak with another mother, but I could tell Tee was already exhausted.

We sat in a pew for a moment or two trying to regain some composure, then we walked back to the car. Starting it up, I slipped a Christmas cd into the player. The first song to play was,"Oh Come All Ye Faithful... It was then that I realized the "twenty minutes" was probably more than enough!

Copyright 2016/ Ben Bensen III

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