Agios Georgios

This morning I met Kiria Vakis who was on her way to the chapel of Agios Georgios. There might be lonely people on the island, but never lonely saints. I myself each day visit this holy man to say hello, a ritual belonging to the island life. Kiria Vakis strongly believes that our Agios Georgios is a pretty good saint who listens especially carefully to the people. That made me think.

I was a great smoker; not a packet-a-day, but some 10 to 12 cigarettes a day. It was biological tobacco grown by Native Americans (Mohawk). I could say that I smoked for a good cause: the profit from the tobacco went to the Indian reserves. This was enough to justify my puffing heavily while climbing up the hill each day, on my walk with the dog. When I then heard my lungs screaming I intended seriously to stop smoking, each and every day. But as soon as I got home, the cigarettes beckoned so strongly, that I had to struggle to first have a decent breakfast before lighting a cigarette. And then I even started to hassle Agios Georgios: ‘Will you help me stop smoking?’

Well, Agios Georgios decided to give me a hard lesson and answered my prayers: an aneurysm kept me three weeks in a hospital in Athens, chained up to oxygen masks, tubes and other hospital paraphenalia. This is the way I quit smoking. The people smoking on the balconies and in the street seemed to live on another planet: I was not even jealous anymore.

Thanks to my smoking I also was a strong snorer. I could have kept awake an entire village, had I lived in a small community. But our closest neigbours live out of hearing distance. My snoring was so heavy that my breathing regularly stopped: a clear sign of apnea. Here is my second benefit: the snoring, along with the smoke of the cigarettes, went high up and got lost in the heavens.

I maybe should have had it better organized, because the only thing they haven’t altered is my little old-lady belly. Strange thing is that half of it has shrunken, the other half still hanging a bit to the front. It is like they started working on it, but halfway through ran out of time. It doesn’t look at all elegant. I also do now have a scar that runs from under my breasts all the way down, so I can forget about my bikini this year, if I do not want too many curious looks at a body that has been split in two. I bought some tankini’s that also can hide my crooked hanging belly.

Even though I now have some hip swimming costumes, I have not yet been swimming: some say that the sea is still too cold, others say it is as hot as in August. My toes, having already had the pleasure of taking a bath in the sea and thought the temperature of the water was nicely warm, but I still am a bit hesitant. I am afraid that I will fall or that my scars are not yet waterproof. Or am I too shy to wear a tankini?

Swimming is the only thing that is still on my bucket list. I can go up the stairs to sleep in my own bed, I eat a lot better, I can nearly bend to the ground, I can shower, water the garden, drink alcohol, go to a restaurant, all things that used to be so ordinary. However, I still feel a bit shaky and the summit that my lungs should be able to climb without any problems has not yet been reached. It all goes slowly, but at least I can enjoy the island again.

It is clear that my body still needs time to recuperate, while psychologically I have processed it already. I clearly miss cigarettes after dinner, or when I am a bit nervous. Giving up cigarettes is not that easy, but I will persevere. Stopping smoking via an aneurysm was a very draconian method. I count my blessings each day when I pass Agios Georgios to thank him. But for the moment I won’t be asking him for any more favours.

PS: When I came back to the island I got a great and warm reception by many people. I thank everybody for their concern, flowers, cards and messages. That helped me a lot to work hard to get better and to leave the cigarettes out of sight. It is going well. Thank you all.