by Thea Halo
One day a friend called me and told me that when he read my book, Not Even My Name, he couldn’t stop marveling at how sweet and forgiving my mother was, even after all she had endured. It’s not an easy feat to put things into focus and stay true to one’s nature after so much trauma. Yet my mother had this wonderful ability to keep things in perspective. It’s not that she forgot what happened. She made a point of remembering even the smallest details so she could one day share them with the world. That’s why she became known as the Yia Yia (grandmother) of all Pontians.
But she was determined not to let her trauma ruin the rest of her life, or the lives of her children. Even though she was so young when she experienced the genocide, she was able to realize the difference between the Turkish people and the Turkish government.
When my mother, the only known survivor of her family, was asked how she could have suffered so much and still not hate the Turks, her answer was priceless and should be a lesson to us all. She said: “Why should I waste my life hating, when there is still so much beauty in the world?” Perhaps that’s why she lived to be almost 105.
Some of her other gems as we were growing up have also stayed with me and I thought I’d share them.
She once said: “Never envy anyone for what they have. Go out and get your own.” I have always lived by that rule.
“Don’t wait until I’m gone before you realize how much you love me.”
“When I see something I want to do, I just have to imagine it, and then I put my mind to it and find a way to do it.”
And her humor was often priceless. When asked how she managed to take care of 10 children, she told the interviewer: “They come and you take care of them. You can’t send them back.”
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss her or think of her. Each spring I am especially reminded of my mother when everything begins to bloom, as they are now. Remembering her love of nature helps keep her in my thoughts and in my sight every time I look out my window and see a bird or a flower… every time I water the fig bushes that I took home from her garden and watch the lush green of their leaves grow, and the tiny nubs of figs mature into fruit. Or I see the tiny leaves on grape vines begin to sprout and grow, like those in her garden, and I know that soon clusters of deep purple grapes will dangle from their spreading vines.
I have come to believe that those we love are never truly gone… that everything that ever existed still exists in some form. I remember when I first realized this as a circle of life. Although it may seem self evident after one becomes aware of it, I remember when I first asked myself what happened to the soil in a potted plant when the roots overtook the bounds of the pot, and the plant became “pot bound.” The soil in the pot seemed to simply disappear. It was as if a light bulb went on in my brain. Of course! The soil became the plant. And when the plant dies, the plant will once again become soil. And the seeds from the plant will root themselves in the soil and become new plants. And on and on, round and round, so that the energy that existed always exists and is simply transformed. The Great Greek philosophers and story tellers knew this so well.
Perhaps like Persephone, the souls of our loved ones simply sleep in the deep, until spring brings their energy back to life in some form. I know that my mother—like all of our loved ones who have passed on to another realm— will always be with us. So let’s speak of them as if they stand beside us, because on our lips, they will never die.
Happy Mother’s Day!