Finding long, lost ‘family members’

PORTLAND, Ore. — We went to church this morning.

It was just any ol’ church. It was at the church where I grew up. Where I was baptized. They call it Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral these days. We knew it then only as the “Greek Church.”

We listened to the liturgy. We heard lots of chanting, prayers, a short Scripture lesson from the priest. Then we had a short reception in another room, part of which was to honor my uncle, a longtime church member who turned 90 this weekend.

But while we were meeting and greeting some lovely folks who came up to wish my uncle a happy birthday, I met two women; they are sisters.

Their names were Cathy and Kiki. One of them is in her mid-90s; the other is a bit younger and I won’t venture a guess.

They told me their father worked in the same bakery as my grandfather, my Papou George — who was the father of my uncle and my late mother.

“Oh, we knew your mother so very well,” Cathy told me. “She was such a lovely girl.”

I asked them their last name. “Delastraty,” they said. “Oh, really?” I replied. “My godmother, Katy, is a Delastraty.” Of course, they responded, “She is our first cousin.”

“Excellent!” I said. Then I told them about how close Katy and I have remained over many years. You see, in the Greek Orthodox tradition, the godparent becomes a sort of surrogate parent, or perhaps a supplemental parent. Tradition holds that if something were to happen to one’s biological parents, the godparent would step in to take over rearing you.

Katy never had to fill that role. But she remains a part of our family. My wife adores Katy and her husband, Christ … and they adore her, too.

So I told Cathy and Kiki about my understanding of the godparent/godchild relationship within the church.

“So … that means we — you and I — are family!” I exclaimed.

This trip back to the city of my birth, thus, has revealed a family connection I didn’t know I had.

What a wonderful discovery.

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