The one year memorial or repose of the soul service is a big deal in the Armenian Church as was the forty day service after the funeral. Hereafter, we should be doing it once a year. Probably in another time, say twenty years ago, or in another place, let us say the "old country," we might have dutifully done just that. I am certain in the case of my Father In-Law, my Mother In-Law will observe this tradition and when she is gone my wife will follow suit.
I am much more haphazard in my observation of such rites and traditions. That does not mean I do not take it seriously. It is probably the part of our religion I take most seriously. Officially, I have Hokehankists on special days and when I remember. In 1988, I dragged everyone to church in Detroit on the first Sunday in October. It was my paternal Grandfather, Aram Gavoor's, 100th birthday. I thought it might be a good day to remember him. I was kind of excited about it. Other family members came along with me and we even went out to dinner afterwards. It was very nice. If I had not thought of it, I do not believe anyone else would have suggested it. But, that was the last time I did that. I really ought to get on an annual schedule.
There is a poem by the Armenian poet Bedros Tourian who was born in 1852 in Istanbul and died from tuberculosis at 22 in 1872. In his short life, he earned a place in the pantheon of Armenian poets. My favorite little bit of his was from a poem titled My Death. It sums up pretty much how I feel.
But, if my grave remains unmarked
In a corner of the earth
And remembrance of me fades away,
Ah, that is when I will die.
We have to remember. I have to remember. Otherwise, people that I have known, loved, and admired will truly be dead.
There is another Armenian poet, Vahan Terian (January 28, 1885 – January 7, 1920). He was born in the Armenian region of Jahavkh which is in Georgia. In his short life, he also earned a place in the ranks of Armenian Poets. I particularly liked one of his poems Farewell Song in which he gives a twist on the message that Tourian wrote of:
I am going to a darker earth, a remote land, I will not come back,
Remember me well in your hearts, I say goodbye, farewell.
My maternal Grandmother surprised one day late in her life. She called me close and told me that she wanted me to read this very same poem at her funeral. I did it dutifully but also with a heart simultaneously full of that odd Armenian mixture of love and joy while also weighed down by a sense of loss and pathos.
Remember me well or then I will really be dead is a powerful thought. I remember Bedros Tourian and Vahan Terian when I read their poems. I, of course, never knew them. I also remember my grandparents, great aunts and uncles, my sister Laura, and great-grandparents all but one of which I never knew. I remember my wife's relatives equally. I remember people I grew up with.
It is very important to keep the memories of our deceased relatives in our minds as much as our busy lives will allow. Beyond that, it is also important remember others that were key or important in ours lives.
I believe what Tourian wrote, one is not truly dead until no one remembers them. Perhaps that is why I seem to quietly and silently focus on the otherwise ignored. I should have Hokehankists said for them whenever I think of them.
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Please see http://thissideoffifty.blogspot.com/2010/12/december-2010-another-eventful-year.html to read more about my Aunt, Uncle, and Father In-Law.