Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Living a Long Time

As we end one year and move into the next, I think it's only natural to want to make it to the end of another one, and so on.

Here is an excerpt from an article on people who tend to live a long, long time. The whole article may be read here.

The bottom line is that drinking wine and taking naps is good for you.

Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.
After enlightenment, eat pizza and drink beer.
 - Me


The Island Where People Forget to Die

In 1943, a Greek war veteran named Stamatis Moraitis came to the United States for treatment of a combat-mangled arm. He’d survived a gunshot wound, escaped to Turkey and eventually talked his way onto the Queen Elizabeth, then serving as a troopship, to cross the Atlantic. Moraitis settled in Port Jefferson, N.Y., an enclave of countrymen from his native island, Ikaria. He quickly landed a job doing manual labor. Later, he moved to Boynton Beach, Fla. Along the way, Moraitis married a Greek-American woman, had three children and bought a three-bedroom house and a 1951 Chevrolet.

One day in 1976, Moraitis felt short of breath. Climbing stairs was a chore; he had to quit working midday. After X-rays, his doctor concluded that Moraitis had lung cancer. As he recalls, nine other doctors confirmed the diagnosis. They gave him nine months to live. He was in his mid-60s.
Moraitis considered staying in America and seeking aggressive cancer treatment at a local hospital. 

That way, he could also be close to his adult children. But he decided instead to return to Ikaria, where he could be buried with his ancestors in a cemetery shaded by oak trees that overlooked the Aegean Sea. He figured a funeral in the United States would cost thousands, a traditional Ikarian one only $200, leaving more of his retirement savings for his wife, Elpiniki. Moraitis and Elpiniki moved in with his elderly parents, into a tiny, whitewashed house on two acres of stepped vineyards near Evdilos, on the north side of Ikaria. At first, he spent his days in bed, as his mother and wife tended to him. He reconnected with his faith. On Sunday mornings, he hobbled up the hill to a tiny Greek Orthodox chapel where his grandfather once served as a priest. When his childhood friends discovered that he had moved back, they started showing up every afternoon. They’d talk for hours, an activity that invariably involved a bottle or two of locally produced wine. I might as well die happy, he thought.

In the ensuing months, something strange happened. He says he started to feel stronger. One day, feeling ambitious, he planted some vegetables in the garden. He didn’t expect to live to harvest them, but he enjoyed being in the sunshine, breathing the ocean air. Elpiniki could enjoy the fresh vegetables after he was gone.

Six months came and went. Moraitis didn’t die. Instead, he reaped his garden and, feeling emboldened, cleaned up the family vineyard as well. Easing himself into the island routine, he woke up when he felt like it, worked in the vineyards until midafternoon, made himself lunch and then took a long nap. In the evenings, he often walked to the local tavern, where he played dominoes past midnight. The years passed. His health continued to improve. He added a couple of rooms to his parents’ home so his children could visit. He built up the vineyard until it produced 400 gallons of wine a year. Today, three and a half decades later, he’s 97 years old — according to an official document he disputes; he says he’s 102 — and cancer-free. He never went through chemotherapy, took drugs or sought therapy of any sort. All he did was move home to Ikaria.


walt said...

"...something strange happened..."

Once diagnosed with a serious (very) condition, I altered my life and in a year or two the docs could no longer find it. They were perplexed, reticent to say anything.

I said, "Surely in some cases people must get better?" And the doctor turned away from me, looking wistfully out a window. "We have no studies," she replied, "that show that people can get better." I thought to myself, "I'm standing right in front of you -- study me!"

Or, study Moraitas. Study health, rather than just pathology. Meantime, I'm here, working on the Lenten Challenge, and presumably Moraitas is still working in his garden. Exceptions aren't the rule, but at least should be factored into our understanding.

Rick Matz said...

I turned 55 on my last birthday. The way I see it, 55 is half way to 110.

The Strongest Karate said...

My grandmother is 80 and still retains all her mental faculties. Has had 3 strokes (one was major, decades ago), died on the operating table on two separate occasions, and was given 6-12 mo back in 2006 when her 2nd kidney failed. Every time she checks in w/ her docs he tells her he cant understand why she's still here. Nana is a real badass. But Nana also has had many doctors using every tool at their disposal to keep her kickin.

I say all this to say that I am of two minds when it comes to terminal diagnosis.

Part of me, which staunchly believes in the power of science, technology, and human ingenuity says that when it comes to cancer, take the chemo.

The other part of me, which recognizes we are a long way away from the technological singularity and are thus, presently limited in what we can study, quantify, and "prove", says that one can radically alter their lifestyle to defy terminal diagnosis.

Rick Matz said...

I think that if you become ill, you have to be lucky enough to be in front of a doctor who recognizes what is wrong with you and knows how to treat it.