It is a rare occasion of late that I read an uplifting article. The papers today are filled with deficits and defaults, wars and sanctions, babies dying from lack of good drinking water and food in the 21st century, genocide, fratricide – the list goes on and on.
So this will not be one of the those articles. This will, I hope, be an article to restore and re-invigorate some of our core priorities.
A couple of years ago I read about a man named Stamatis that restored my faith in the positive side of life and reminded me of what I already, instinctively, knew – that when you live, love and eat well, when you lead an honest and stress free life – you live long.
In short – Almost 40 years ago Stamatis Moraitis, a native Greek from the island of Ikaria living in New York, was diagnosed with lung cancer and was given nine months to live. He didn’t want to receive expensive chemotherapy treatment preferring to spend his last months of life peacefully with his wife Elpiniki and saving the money that would have gone to his medical bills for Elpiniki. He was born in Greece and he wanted to be laid to rest in his native Ikaria, in the cemetery of his ancestors under century old Oak trees and with the breeze of the Aegean Sea.
When he arrived in Ikaria he spent a few weeks recuperating in bed with the care of his mother and wife. Everyone expected him to worsen but strangely enough Stamatis started to feel better. He got up and planted some vegetables in the garden. He started to take long walks in the village and visit friends from his childhood days. He reconnected with his faith and went to church on Sundays. He enjoyed a simple and traditional Ikarian diet with his family, mainly vegetables, fruits, legumes mostly from his own garden, goats milk, olive oil, honey and wholesome Ikarian bread. Most meals were accompanied by a little wine and good friends. The ritual of drinking Greek coffee in the morning and after the afternoon siesta was also followed religiously. He even planted some vines in the garden wondering, as he did so, if he would be around the following season to reap the harvest and make his own wine.
The island of Ikaria is famous for its laid back way of life; locals stay up till the early hours and wake up late. Most shops open after 11 am and close around midnight. Clocks are unnecessary and you will rarely see or hear them. No one needs them. Life goes on without them. The island also has one of the largest percentages of centenarians in the world!
All of this just accentuates preconceived knowledge – that a diet based on the staples of the Mediterranean Diet, low to no stress, the presence of love, friendship and compassion and spending a couple of hours a day doing something that you love leads to a satisfying and sometimes long life. It’s that simple folks!
I just read that Stamatis Moraitis has died. 37 years ago he left New York City a terminally ill patient and stepped into the unknown. He took a leap of faith. He thought he was going back to die but he went back to live. “Every night I would walk to the tavern to meet my friends, drink wine and play backgammon until midnight and wonder why I was still alive?”, he said. What he did 37 years ago was the biggest risk of his life and it defied science. But it saved his life. Stamatis died a peaceful death on the island he loved so well. He was 102 years old and he lived well with principle and faith.
I will remember his story for a long time to come.