Stella Leventoyannis Harvey

The great use of life is to spend it for something that outlasts it.” William James

My father used to say, when God came calling, a person had no other choice but to heed the call. While that is true, my father died the morning of October 9th on his own terms, in his own home surrounded by memories of the life he’d built and lived. Pictures of my mother, his three kids, his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren were on the dresser in his room.

He looked at those pictures every day with a pride that was beyond limit.

I am without words to describe the devastation I currently feel. But what has helped me has been my memories of Dad and the incredibly thoughtful notes I’ve received from family and friends after they heard of his passing.

My friend, Bessie Livanou said, your Dad was one of those few, those very very few people I have and will always consider to be my personal heroes. A man who defied the forces of nature coming from Egypt to Canada ready to deal with whatever this new faraway unknown place threw at him. He was a sheer force of nature bent on getting there, making his mark, succeeding. And so he did.

Others have spoken about his generosity, his sense of humour, his charm, his vast knowledge of world history and politics, his inclusive nature, which was strengthened by his command of five languages and his incredible strength of character. Yup, he was all those things and more.

But for me he was just my dad, the man who told me he couldn’t go to sleep until his brother and sisters were safe at home. He was also the man who held my mother’s hand when they were out walking, who took care of her when she got sick, refusing any home support, despite the fact he’d never in his life learned how to cook or do any housework. But he did whatever he felt was the right thing to do.

He was a good brother, husband, father, friend and man; my aunt Lula and my cousin Stella said when I told them my father had died. Others reiterated this over and over and over again.

Was he without faults? He was human. So absolutely not. He carried on sometimes as most Greeks do when things didn’t go his way, when his children didn’t listen or pay attention in school. That booming voice scared me at times, but I have come to realise it came from a place of love.

He was argumentative too. When I took him for walks in his wheelchair, he would ask me several times if it was his turn to push me in the chair so I could rest. A couple of times, I’d say, no not yet Dad, but when he persisted, I’d say, who is the 90 year old around here?

I guess you have a point, he replied and sat back to enjoy the scenery.

I am very, very grateful I spent the month of September with him. We took him on many walks in his wheelchair and sat talking in his garden (his favourite place), the lawn wonderfully green, the trees in bright colour and my mom’s roses in perpetual bloom. And because of his eye surgery, he could see all of it. 

Mostly I am thankful to have had George Vasilis Leventoyannis and Sophie Michel Fawzi as my parents. Because of them I grew up with family stories, traditions, newspapers and debate. This along with their generosity, protectiveness and love rooted me and instilled a deep sense of pride in my culture and history, and a deep respect for others. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

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