By Dr. Kay Mouradian (Guest Contributor)
My mayrig and I had an endearing relationship. She never interfered with my life, never held me back from exploring or living in many parts of this glorious planet and I always returned home. My mayrig lived by a philosophy that you hold by letting go. Pretty remarkable for this small 5-foot woman who survived the Armenian Genocide, whose life had been colored by the horrors of the past and who dwelled on the loss of her family who had perished at the hands of the Turks.
In 1988 I went to Aleppo, Syria, to search for the family who had given my mayrig refuge. Incredibly, I found the one remaining descendant. Born after my mother had left Aleppo, the handsome woman knew all about the 14-year-old Armenian girl, Flora, who had cared for her two sisters. Delighted to meet me, she gave me a gift I still cherish today–photos of her sisters, her mother and of her father, a kind man who treated my mother as one of his own.
The day after our extraordinary meeting I received a call from home. Mayrig was back in the hospital. I immediately left for Los Angeles. With her heart laboring in cardiac care, her doctor did not expect her to survive the night. Three of us sat at her bedside, waiting. Mayrig had been unresponsive. Then she started to speak.
“Do you know why I’m still here?” she asked, sounding as if she knew a great truth. She looked at my cousin and said, “Because you don’t have any children.” She turned toward me and again said, “Because you don’t have any children.” Then to my nephew sitting nearby she said, “And you don’t have any children. If I died no one would know.”
“They showed me a lot of pictures,” she continued.
I wondered who “they” were. I knew people with near-death experiences claimed to view their lives at the moment of death. Was my mother sharing the same kind of vision with whoever “they” were?
She looked at my cousin. “Your mother was there.” His mother had died thirty years earlier. She mentioned seeing an Armenian family who was a karmic mirror of her family and told us prophetic things that would happen to members of our own family. Two of them have already come to pass.
“They showed the afghans,” she said. She had made afghans for everyone over the years; relatives, neighbors, my friends, her friends, and my sister’s friends. Interestingly, after this vision she made them specifically for disabled veterans.
She turned her gaze to me. “You’re going to write a book about my life.”
“No, Mom, not me,” I said. “Maybe your other daughter will. She’s the real Armenian in the family.”
“No! You are!” Then she ended her little speech with, “They said it was my choice.”
Now, that sentence gripped my attention. I’ve spent my adult life trying to make right choices, and it is not ever an easy thing and now my mother had made the choice to stay on in defiance of her body’s fragile and deathly state.
Against the odds she rallied, a few days later she was released from the hospital. In the middle of her first night home I heard her stir. I rushed into her bedroom and turned on the light. There she sat in bed, her face absolutely radiant. She gave me a huge smile. “Do you know what life is all about?” she asked, not waiting for a reply. “It’s all about love and understanding, but everyone’s brain is not the same, so you help when you can. That’s what life’s all about.” She smiled, laid herself down and went back to sleep. I will never forget that night.
The next day she again couldn’t move without help. I had dismissed much of her vision on that hospital bed as delusion. I certainly had no plans to write a book about her or the Armenian tragedy. But I began to read about events that happened in the Ottoman Empire during World War I and became overwhelmed. I had not known the depth of the Armenian tragedy, and I began to understand my mother’s heartbreaking scars and those of Armenian survivors everywhere. Now I knew my mother’s story needed to be told. But at the time I had no idea that years later I would meet a filmmaker and he would turn her story into a documentary.
Dr. Kay Mouradian is an educator, filmmaker, and author of My Mother’s Voice, a book depicting her mother’s story as a victim and survivor of the Armenian Genocide. She also wrote, narrated, and co-produced My Mother’s Voice, a documentary based on her book. She holds a doctorate in education from Nova Southeastern University and holds degrees from Boston University and UCLA.