I recently filed a lawsuit against the owners of a business that was responsible for my client’s injuries. After a copy of the lawsuit was delivered to the owners of the business, the owner’s insurance company hired an experienced defense attorney — I’ll call him Joseph — who has been a trial lawyer for more than 45 years.
When Joseph contacted me, I mentioned to him that the last time I talked to him was more than 20 years ago, when we were both involved in a court case in Knox County, Illinois. I asked him if his old law partner — I’ll call him George — was still around. George was a very successful, high-profile attorney who was respected by all the attorneys and judges in Central Illinois. In response to my question, Joseph said that George had died in March of this year.
After I finished my phone call with Joseph, I looked up George’s obituary on the internet, which stated that George was 82 years old at the time of his death. The obituary indicated that George had been married four times and at the time of his death, his fourth wife was living in another state. George’s obituary outlined all of his achievements, which were numerous. There was a visitation that took place on a Saturday morning, followed by a private burial. The obituary did not mention any type of religious service or the name of the person who was going to officiate at the service.
Later in the day, I called a local attorney — I’ll call him Michael — who is a few years older than me. I knew that Michael’s first job as a lawyer was with George’s law firm. I asked Michael if he knew that George had died. He said yes, and told me that he had gone to George’s visitation. He told me that he worked for George’s law firm for five years. He said that George consistently brought in more revenue to the law firm than any of George’s three other law partners.
I asked if there were very many people at the visitation and Michael said that he was shocked because there was hardly anyone there. He said that he only knew two people who were there — George’s son and George’s brother. I asked if George’s wife was at the visitation and Michael said that she was not there and that he had heard that George had been separated from her for several years before he died.
When I hung up the phone, I thought about my wife’s father, Dumit Ghantous, who immigrated to the United States from Lebanon in 1956 with his wife Anna and their 3-month-old daughter Georgette (who later became my wife). At that time, Dumit was 26 years old and was an expert tailor who specialized in creating custom-made suits. The day after he and his family arrived in Peoria, he was offered a job at Magic Tailor in Peoria, even though he could not yet read, write, or speak the English language. Three weeks later, he was offered a second job at Schradski’s Clothing Store in downtown Peoria. While working two jobs, he and his wife Anna opened a tailor shop in their home.
Dumit died in 2016. He was 85, and he left behind his wife of 60 years and his four children. His funeral Mass was at St. Philomena Church in Peoria. The visitation was held at the church the day before the funeral, between 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm, and an hour before the funeral Mass. During the visitation, there was a constant flow of people. I stood in the receiving line with Georgette and several members of the Ghantous family. A young doctor who came to extend his sympathies told me the following story about an experience he had with Dumit:
Last year, Dumit came to my office for an appointment. When I reached over with my stethoscope to check his heart, he noticed that a seam on the inside of my suit coat was torn and in need of repair. When he saw the tear, he asked me to take my coat off so he could take it home with him and repair the seam. I told him that he didn’t have to do that and that I would stop by his house at a later time and drop it off. He insisted that I take my coat off, so I did what he asked and handed it to him. When his appointment was over, he left my office and returned 40 minutes later with my coat. He told the woman at the front desk why he came back to the office and she escorted him back to my office. He showed me where he sewed my coat, and I couldn’t even tell that it had been repaired. When I tried on the coat, he marveled at how great I looked. I tried to pay him and he refused to discuss payment. He told me that he appreciated everything I had done for him and he wanted me to stop by his house so he could measure me and make a custom suit for me. He assured me that he would not charge anything for the suit. I never got a chance to follow up on his offer.
After the doctor told me about what had happened, he said that he loved Dumit and was going to miss seeing him at his office.
About 20 minutes after the doctor told me his story, a group of six or seven women came through the receiving line. They were from a different doctor’s office and had just gotten off work. They told me and Georgette how much they loved Dumit (yes, they used the same word that the doctor had used to describe his affection for Dumit). The women then went on to tell us about how every time Dumit came to their office, he was like a great beam of sunshine that brightened their day.
Later in the evening, a man in his early 70s told me the following story about Dumit:
When I was a young man, I spent four years in the army. After I returned to Peoria and began working, I bought a new suit and a couple pairs of pants. I went over to Dumit’s house to have the suit and pants altered, so they would fit me. When I returned a few days later to pick up my clothes, I asked Dumit how much I owed him. He told me that he was not going to charge me. He said that it was the least he could do for me because I had given up four years of my life so I could help protect our country and his family from harm. He thanked me for serving in the military and told me that anytime I needed work done on my clothes, it would be an honor for him to do the work for no charge.
Another man who was in his 80s came to pay his respects. I knew who the man was. He was a very successful businessman in the community. Here’s what he told me:
When I was in my 40s, I had a friend who purchased a new suit and needed a tailor. I insisted that he go to Dumit. He followed my advice and he later told me that after Dumit took all his measurements, Dumit asked him, “Did you know that your right leg is a quarter of an inch shorter than your left leg?” He answered, “No, I did not know that.” Dumit then told him, “That’s okay. I’ll make sure that your pants fit correctly.” My friend then told me that he had always wondered why his pants didn’t fit right and that he was never going to go to anyone else for tailoring.
Another man who came to pay his respects told me that there was something special about Dumit that made people want to be in his presence.
Almost everyone who approached me had a story about how Dumit had touched their lives.
When I was growing up, I enjoyed hearing stories about my mom’s dad, Harry LaHood, Sr. He was the grandfather that I never knew. He died three days before I was born. He was 49 when he died, and he left behind his wife of 26 years and his six children. During the funeral Mass, my mom started having contractions. While Mom and Dad were at the cemetery, Mom’s contractions became more frequent. After the burial service was finished, she told my dad that they needed to go to the hospital. I was born later that day and my mom named me after her dad.
When I was a teenager, Mom told me that at her dad’s visitation, she lost count of how many people told her, “He was my best friend!” She said that throughout the entire time she was at the visitation, she kept thinking, “How could all these people think that he was their best friend?”
Last December, Louis (Louie) Kouri, a 93-year-old member of the Lebanese community in Peoria, passed away. When he died, he left behind his wife of 65 years and his five sons. At the end of Louie’s funeral Mass, his oldest son, Dr. Tom Kouri, gave a eulogy for his dad. One of the things that Tom said stuck with me. I wanted to share the exact words that Tom used, so I went back and listened to a recording of the eulogy. Here’s what he said about his dad:
As the years went by, my brothers and I started hearing stories about Dad’s generosity. On Christmas Eve, there was a local businessman who was in the area for the complimentary Christmas buffet [at Louie’s restaurant]. [The man] was saying that he had a tough year, and he wasn’t going to be able to provide a Christmas for his family. Dad went around the bar to the cash register, grabbed several hundred dollars, gave it to the man and said, “The mall is still open.”
He paid for high school tuitions, college tuitions, medical bills. Just last week, we heard from a gentleman who said he had to travel emergently, and dad gave him his credit card.
Now, these acts of kindness are not the measure of the man. The measure of the man is that he never told anybody that he did these things. We only know because the individuals told us. I’m sure there are more. He once told me when I was younger, “If you ever know somebody who needs help, you should help them, and you should give as much as you can, but you don’t tell anybody. You know you helped them. They know you helped them. If you tell somebody else or put your name on the donors’ list, you didn’t help that person. You bought advertising for yourself.”
Over the years, I got to know Louie Kouri. He was a very successful businessman, but success in the business world was not what was most important to him. He viewed his success as a necessary tool that he needed so he could support his family and help others who were in need. He did not use his success to impress others. He used it to help his family and friends.
It takes effort for a person to readjust their schedule, set aside the time to get dressed up, get in their car, and drive to a funeral home or church so they can wait in line to extend their sympathies to the family of a deceased person. It’s easy for people to talk themselves out of going to a visitation or a funeral, especially when it’s for someone who is not an immediate family member.
When I read George’s obituary and saw how many wives he had gone through, and then heard from the local attorney that hardly anyone showed up for his visitation, I was upset with him. He was a man whom God had blessed with numerous talents, abilities, and opportunities to touch the hearts and minds of other people, but he focused more on worldly rewards than on people who were in need.
I’m not judging George here. I’m only sharing my observations. It is my hope that he had the faith that was necessary for him to enter into Heaven. My purpose for sharing this information with you is to point out the significant impact that three “ordinary” Christian men had on the lives of the people they came into contact with. Their lives were a testament to the golden rules that our Savior passed on to all of us: “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
What will people tell your family members about you after you die? Will they even bother to show up for your visitation or funeral?
Incredible story Harry. I good friend told me a similar story about his own father. He did a lot of similar gestures to help people and taught his children not to boast about it. He even went as far as telling them not to reveal what sacrifices they were making for lent. Thanks for the beautiful story
It’s always good to hear from you Rich. We tend to get too wrapped up in our own issues and lives to pay attention to the small acts of kindness we could be doing when we come into contact with other people. Even a simple compliment to the person behind the counter of a business can make their day brighter. It doesn’t cost us anything, but it can make a big difference to the person who is on the receiving end.
I hope that all has been well for you and your family.