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My Mothers Story

By Kay Mouradian

As a child growing up in the United States, my mother, Flora, would tell me stories of her own childhood in Turkey. She was a survivor of the 1915 Armenian genocide and it was these stories that became the basis for my novel, A Gift in the Sunlight. I would not have written the book however, if it hadnt been for a series of remarkable events that happened to my mother in the nal years of her life. In 1984, at the age of 83 my mother, having outlived her husband and two of her four children, was hospitalized. She was diagnosed as terminally ill with congestive heart failure, and could not feed herself because she suffered from severe hand tremors. Most likely due to the onset of Alzheimers, became confused and did not recognize people she once knew. "Let her spend her last few days at home," her doctor said. There was nothing more he could do for her. With a heavy heart, I brought her home. Her nal moments were near. I did not expect her to survive the night. But I was wrong. As time passed, not only did my mother rebound but she literally recovered! Her hands quieted and no longer trembled and more amazingly, her mind was again clear and alert as if her brain cells had been renewed. Was this a miracle? I watched as she developed new relationships with friends that only recently she hadnt recognized. Strangely, she didnt remember her past associations with them, but remembered everything about them from that point onit was as if she had met them for the rst time. The most miraculous and wonderful part of all of this was that my mother had become more loving. Until her heart attack, her life had been colored by the Armenian tragedy. She was lled with anger and self-pity and dwelt on the horrors of the past. She often talked about her family who had perished at the hands of the Turks. Now, incredibly, that dark shadow was gone. It was as though something happened inside Floras heart, something beyond my ability to understand. I remember

telling friends--with humble humor--that my mother left her negativity on the other side and returned with all her good qualities intensied. I smile, even today, when I think that that transmutation may have actually occurred. My mother had three more episodes. Each time my family and I were told she would not survive without the help of a respirator and each time we refused, feeling she needed to move on if it was her time. But Flora was not ready to die. She had a second bout with congestive heart failure in 1986 which also proved to be a stunner. With her heart laboring in cardiac care, her doctor didnt expect her to survive the night. My cousin, my nephew, and I sat at her bedside waiting for her to transition. My mother had remained unresponsive the whole time when suddenly she began to speak. Do you know why Im still here? she asked, sounding as if she knew a great truth. She looked at my cousin and said, Because you dont have any children. She turned toward me and again said, Because you dont have any children. Then to my nephew sitting farther away she said, And you dont have any children. If I died no one would know. They showed me a lot of pictures. I wondered who the they were. I knew people who had near-death experiences claim to view their lives at the moment of death. Was my mother having 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. My mother 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. Over the years my mother had made afghans for everyone in our family, our neighbors, and our friends. Interestingly, after this vision she began making her exquisite afghans specically for disabled veterans, and I still wonder today if her enlightened understanding at that moment urged her into an act of service for the greater good. She turned her gaze to me. Youre going to write a book about my life. No, Mom, not me, I said. Maybe your other daughter will. Shes the real Armenian in the family. No! You are! she protested And youre going to be on The Donahue Show!

The Donahue Show! In 1986 Phil Donahue was the king of talk shows but my mother, who loved family stories such as Little House on the Prairie, had never watched Donahue. I dismissed that statement as delusion. Then she ended her little speech saying They said it was my choice. The sentence gripped my attention. Did she mean that it was her choice as to whether she stayed or transitioned? I have spent my entire adult life trying to make the right choices and it is never an easy thing for me. Now my mother had made the choice to stay on in deance of her bodys fragile and deathly appearing state. She obviously had more to do before she could let go. I just was not aware of it at the time. Against the odds my mother rallied and a few days later, was released from the hospital. In the middle of her rst night home I heard her stir and rushed into her bedroom. There she was sitting up 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. Its all about love and understanding, but everyones brain is not the same, so you help when you can. Thats what lifes all about. Her face still radiant, she laid herself down and went back to sleep. That is a night I will never forget. The next day she again couldnt move without help. Time passed again and slowly my mother recovered. With each attack and each recovery she became more alert and more loving. After her third incredible recovery her doctor began to refer to her as the miracle lady. Every time she died we thought it was the end and each time she surprised us. Despite this emotional rollercoaster, I have always felt privileged to have been a witness to her amazing transformation, but I was also awed. As her primary caregiver, there were times she was so frail I couldn't leave her side for even two minutes. Weeks, sometimes months, would pass before she regained enough strength to resume her church and senior citizen activities or even merely crochet her exquisite afghans. My mothers fourth encounter with death really stopped me. In 1988 I had gone to Aleppo, Syria, to search for the family that had given my mother safe refuge from the death march into the hot barren Syrian Desert in 1915. I found the one remaining descendant, a woman who was born in 1920, two years after my mother had left Aleppo. The next day I received a call from Los Angeles. My

mother had another attack. I prepared myself for the worst, believing this would be the end. When I saw my mother lying once again in a hospital bed, she tried to smile but was too weak. I dont know why I didnt die, she said. Her voice was barely audible. I wondered also. I wondered if my mother knew something I didnt. I leaned close to her and gently asked, Mom, do you think you will die now? It doesnt look like it, she said, her voice cracking and her face reecting her own disbelief. Somehow, she knew. Two days later, when I entered the cardiac care unit I was astonished to see my mother sitting up in bed, unattended. A day earlier she couldnt even turn her head without help. When she saw me she shouted something in Turkish, a language she hadnt spoken in more than fty years! I was startled. She was lled with energy and animated. But I couldnt understand why she was speaking Turkish. I also felt bewildered as I couldnt understand what she was saying. Mom, I dont understand you, I said, trying to calm her. Speak to me in English or Armenian. She kept shouting in Turkish, and I began to panic. What if she had become delusional and would only continue to speak only Turkish? I wondered if I would lose contact with her forever. I decided I would try to retrain my mothers brain to think in English. Mom, I said rmly Repeat everything I say. I went through the entire English alphabet. She repeated each letter dutifully, as if she were in school following a teachers instructions. We counted numbers and she repeated those in English. But then she started to shout in Turkish again. An occasional English or Armenian word was in the mix. I struggled to understand. The best I could comprehend her yelling was: They took my education! They took my family! Do you know what it was like? I went crazy! She looked straight into my eyes and said loud and clear in English, The bastards!

I couldnt hold back a laugh. Though there were moments when I panicked, other moments like this one were just plain comical. Throughout this wild scenario, even when she was shouting in Turkish, my mother appeared to be joyful. Mom, are you happy? I asked trying to understand this phenomenon. Yes! she said emphatically. Why? I questioned. Because Im awake! she said with authority. I found her choice of word intriguing. I would have expected her to say, "Because I'm alive. But after three recoveries, from what I now call her return from deaths door, I had a suspicion of what might have happened. But these suspicions were just questions, with no answers. Could my mother have crossed over into another plane and witnessed the Armenian Holocaust from a higher, nonpersonal view? Had she gained an understanding of the horric karmic debt the perpetrators would have to pay? Had she been given an opportunity to release her own intense hatred of the Turks? Was that hatred released with the strong expulsion of her anger when she shouted, The bastards!--a word not even in my mothers vocabulary? I'll never know for sure, but I can state for a fact that my dear mother was very loving after this fourth brush with death that she couldnt harbor hatred, even toward the Turks. Love poured out of her heart, like a ower releasing its perfume. Everyone around her felt it. These unusual events made me question much about my own life. At the time, I had dismissed much of my mothers visions or predictions as delusion, especially the part about Donahue. I had no plans to write a book about my mother or the Armenian tragedy that she experienced rsthand. My mind was focused on researching material for exercises that stimulate the bodys chi, and I had been accepted to study at the Acupuncture International Training Centre in Beijing, China. But what was happening to my mother was remarkable, and I began to rethink what she said about writing her story. 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 the heartbreaking scars on my mothers heart and on the hearts of Armenian survivors everywhere. I came to realize that my mothers story needed to be told in detail, including the blessing that was granted to her in the nal years of her life.

Eventually, I set aside my plans to study in China in order to write my mothers story. I was unaware of how difcult it would be to write about this little woman who kept escaping death time and time again and who instead of becoming bitter, became more alert, aware and loving each time. Her amazing transformation during those last ve years of her life taught me a lifetime of understanding. The greatest of these is the fact that when negative matrixes like hatred and anger no longer rule the heart, streams of fragrant love pour out of every cell in the body. She shined like a thousand suns. I knew my mother was being helped by unseen forces. For her to have grown from her rst hospitalization when she did not know who I was, only referring to me as her old age cane, and to have grown so quickly into the person she truly wasan irresistible and loving human beingshe had to have had super human help. My heart tells me there are great and learned souls who care. They live high in the Himalayas, and for many years I have felt a strong bond to those teachers and their chelas. They watch from afar and are quietly engaged. Assuming their energies were helping my mother, I had to understand my role. Was I merely a caretaker? Or was my mothers miraculous transformation a sign of hope for all? As a witness to her growth, was I needed to tell the inspirational story of her unimaginable adventures through a ctionalized memoir of her life? Only time will tell if I have concluded correctly.