Stamatis Moraitis, a Greek war veteran, originally came to America seeking treatment for his hand, which was mangled in a munitions accident during World War II. After spending some time as a laborer in New York, he eventually settled in Boynton Beach, Florida, where he settled down with his Greek-American wife and three children – living the American dream.
When Stamatis was in his early 60’s (around 1976) he began to notice getting fatigued much easier – even having to quit work early in the day. He often would feel short of breath, and noticed that climbing stairs was becoming a chore. His doctor ran tests/x-rays and quickly confirmed that he had lung cancer. Four more doctors confirmed that diagnosis and gave him only six to nine months to live.
Convinced that his fate was sealed, he began weighing the costs of funerals both in America and back home in Ikaria. He explained that a funeral in Florida could cost at least $1,200. A traditional Ikarian funeral would only cost around $200, leaving more of his retirement savings for his wife, Elpiniki (known as Alice). They made the decision to return to Ikaria to be buried with his ancestors in a cemetery shaded by oak trees, overlooking the Aegean Sea.
Once in Ikaria, they moved in with his elderly parents in a tiny home on two acres of beautiful vineyards near Agios Kirikos, where he began drinking wine and “waiting for the day.” In the beginning he spent his days in bed, being tended to by his wife and mother. Eventually, he began walking up the hill to a small, Greek Orthodox chapel where his grandfather once served as a priest, and reconnected with his faith.
After his childhood friends discovered he had returned, they began to visit daily. This involved hours of reminiscing and inevitably a bit of locally made wine, figuring that he might as well die happy.
Over the next few months, instead of growing weaker he was beginning to feel stronger. He would get out of bed during the day and wander around the gardens and vineyards. Eventually, he even planted some vegetables. He never thought that he would live to enjoy them, but he knew his wife would – and he loved the feeling of being outside in the fresh air and sunshine.
Six months passed and he was still alive. He was not only able to harvest the garden, but clean up the family vineyard as well. He began settling into the routine of life in Ikaria. He slept in late, worked in the family vineyards until mid-day, would have a little lunch and nap. Evenings were saved for socializing, drinking local wine with visiting friends or walking to the tavern, staying up late to play dominoes.
As the years passed, Stamatis remodeled his parents’ home, adding on extra rooms so that his children could come and visit. He spent his time tending his 200 olive trees, harvesting for olive oil, and running the vineyard that was now producing approximately 400 gallons of red wine per year.
At the age of 97, he decided to allow doctors to thoroughly examine him and review his medical records and, as expected, he was found to be in good health and totally cancer free. He never took medications or had chemotherapy. All he did was move home and return to the diet and lifestyle of his fellow Ikarians.
Stamatis Moraitis passed away at on February 3, 2013, at the age of 98 according to records and 102 according to him. Ironically, he outlived all five doctors that gave him a death sentence.
There are simple, yet profound lessons here.
- Wholesome, seasonal food prepared with love is potent medicine.
- Spending time outdoors getting fresh air and sunlight is irreplaceable.
- Having a reason or purpose to continue living is essential for healing.
- Sharing quality time with family and friends when sick and recuperating can transform the depressed mind back to a state of wellness, return laughter, and melt away stress.