After the church service, friends and family commented on the softness of Father Lesley’s voice and not being able to hear the eulogy clearly.
Father Lesley started with a beautiful introduction and summary of our mother’s life along side the strength of migrant women of her time. He eloquently spoke of their endurance. I apologise for not being able to recreate his every word, but he did go on to read the eulogy we had given him and this I can reproduce.
Our mother was born on the 20th of May in 1929 in a tiny village Yeraka in Zaraka, Lakonia. She migrated to Australia on the 26th of December in 1957 where her fiancé, Nicholas Lafkas awaited her. They married and had four children: Athanasia, Theodora, Constantinos and Panayioti within six years.
Life in the earlier years was not easy like the life of many migrants. Very little education in the homeland and confronted with a language very different to her own. Intermittently, while raising her own children and post, she babysat many a child becoming a ‘mummy’ and ‘Yiayia’ to children other than her own. She loved children and children gravitated towards her. Our younger brother, Panayioti, was born with a severe illness and died at four and a half years old in 1969. It was at this time that her stoicism illuminated. Her husband needed to work many shifts to maintain the household and during this time a substantial part of her life and Peter’s was in and out hospitals; at a time without the convenience of cars and three other children in need of care in a small basement terrace in Birchgrove (and not the Birchgrove of today). She lost her husband only 5 years later in 1975.
Upon Peter’s death she got a job with Jack West, a company that produced sails, life jackets and flags. She was proud to have contributed to the making of the sails that won the America’s Cup II in 1983 for Australia.
Our mother was a true Spartan and true to her hero, Leonida. She named three pets after him that sadly disappeared relatively soon after joining the household. She had an open heart and the door was open to all. The kitchen bench accommodated all; from family and friends to recent migrants and refugees from across the globe. In her limited English she welcomed those who were about to share common experiences. She would say, ‘there’s nothing better than having a coffee with someone over a chat!’
She loved the outdoors. The sea. The mountains. The bush. The fields. She maintained a garden throughout her years in Russell Lea. She also liked a bit of adventure and tried to fulfill this desire as best as she could. It was from 60 onwards that she truly missed her spouse.
She had an amazing sense of humour. She would say, ‘he or she who can not laugh, does not know how to live’. Family and friends often comment on her cackle that stayed with her right till the very end.
In her last years , our mother had dementia. She had become aware of her condition and after a few difficult years accepted her fate. She did always say, ‘we take the blows that come our way. Her philosophies of life and her sense of humour and wit were a part of her until the very end. She still made us smile, laugh and ‘step back and think’. She continued to appreciate her coffee with company whether at home or a cafe. She also continued to appreciate a day by the beach, water or picking fruit in Richmond. During these outings her colour and demeanour illuminated. This illumination provided those looking after her with stoicism and strength. I apppreciated the years I took care of her. It opened my eyes and my heart.
Our mother was sent to hospital on Tuesday the 23rd of April around midnight. We were told she had 24-48 hours to live. However, she lived through the Holy Week of Easter. We had a little ceremony with her come the night of the resurrection. She died seven days after admission fighting without life support until the right moment. When it finally came she quietly slipped away. ‘Aiovia i mnimi tis’- (no Greek on my iPad yet)
Lastly, our mother had faith and it is through this faith that she believed and loved Jesus, Panayia, and God. She did not fear. She believed! She believed in the goodness in humans and that this defeats all. In May, 2010 when she had begun to get disoriented, she stopped going to church which was an abode for her at least twice a week. She rarely missed a Saint’s Day and partook in overnight rituals. When asked why she was no longer going to church, she’d reply, ‘I have fulfilled my faith in that way and I will now continue from my home’. She continued to say her prayers through her years with dementia. It was only in mid 2018 that she had begun to forget the ritual of doing so.
She will always be remembered and loved!
Posted by Theodora Lafkas 14/05/2019
Posted by Michele Lombard 06/05/2019