My beautiful aunt passed away a week ago. I was given the honour of giving her eulogy, and as my colleague Sue said, “It’s the last thing you’ll ever get to do for her.” So Sue, I thought of you before I gave that speech and it took the strength of my grandmothers in heaven to pull it off without crying too much. But I think I did my family proud. What follows is roughly what I said (when I wasn’t ad-libbing) including some phonetically written Armenian in italics.
Sireli indaneek yev paregamner. Shad oouragh em tzer anoushig yeressnerih desnalloo ays dighoor orva intatzgin. Goozem hima kani mi khosk issel Yerchan Morakuyris masseen.
Ankliyerini mech bidi issem vor polor huyrer garenan hasginal.
Welcome family and friends and thank you for coming.
Let me start by saying that there is no way to mention all of the people whose lives have been touched by my Yerchan Morak’s life, so I will speak today about her and the things I loved most.
I was very close with my Morak. My mom and her eldest sister raised their families together, and my aunt was like a second mother to me. My cousins, Herman and Rob, whom she loved so very much, are my big brothers. My aunt’s house was my official second home, and I cherished the time I spent there picking cucumbers from her garden, watching the Young and the Restless, or sneaking off to spots in Adam’s Park to pick grape leaves for her famous dolma. Every Sunday dinner was a festival, a celebration of food and family.
Yerchanig in Armenian means happy. And when she wasn’t worrying, she was definitely that, happy. I’m sure many of you in this room have had the privilege of being entertained in my aunt Yerchan and uncle Levon’s home. You know how much she loved a good party. When hosting guests, she almost never sat down, her nervous, bubbly energy zipping around the room like a tornado. But once the Turkish coffee was served and the dishes in their rightful place, she might sit down for a moment to share some gossip (she loved moughoof) or have a good laugh. Oh, she had the best laugh, throaty and deep, a true “hahaha.” If you were lucky, you might even catch her dancing. How much joy she brought to people when she was having a good time.
She would tell you to watch your weight, but be totally offended if you didn’t take two servings of whatever she had cooked. She was the queen of the shish kebab, the derevi dolma and the midya tava. How many times did I want to go there and write her recipes down! Now all we have are tattered pages of hand-written notes, where meg cavat isn’t a measuring cup that you get at Kitchen Stuff Plus, but that EXACT tea cup that made its way here from Istanbul. Who will make that famous dolma now?
After Yerchan and Levon moved to Canada with their boys, they became the safe harbour that brought various family members to a new life here. Everyone from my mother, to my cousins Sahag and Arshag and my Oski Dayday and Vilma Kergin stayed with her when they first arrived here. They made her a little crazy, she made them more than a little crazy, but this family has stayed together despite all our differences, right up to the end. And so much of that was because of Yerchanig. She was the glue that held the Sildiryans, Comlekcis and Dislioglus together here in Toronto.
When Christopher, Michael and Alex each made their entrance into our family, Yerchan embraced grandmotherhood as though they handed out Nobel Prizes for it. She did what every Armenian grandmother does best, despite her grandchildren’s protests, she fed them until they were FULL! As she got older, her memory fading, her body frail, Sunday visits from the boys were something she looked forward to all week. She was repeating herself a lot in her final years, but I’ve been thinking about it all week and I think it says a lot that when she couldn’t find her words, she would look at us all with a big smile and tell us how much she loved us. My children do a wonderful impression of our Morak: “I love you! You’re so beautiful!” What she saw in each of us was better than anything we could have seen in ourselves.
My aunt always needed to take care of someone. It was the big thing that was missing for her after so many years of taking care of Levon. In her final years, Rob gave her a little white dog names Xylo. The dog was a good companion for her, making sure she got fresh air and exercise, and always making Yerchan (and my kids) laugh. He was at her side right until the end.
She wouldn’t like me to mention her age, so let’s just say she was getting older. Her passing wasn’t a total shock, but I am surprised by how devastated I am at the loss of her. When we lose someone like Yerchan, we lose a part of our history, a part of who we are.
I’m so happy we had one last meal in her backyard on Labour Day weekend, with BBQ kofte and some jajik, the way she loved best. I’m glad we sat around the table at Thanksgiving and let her tell us one last time, just how much she loved us all. We are all so lucky to have had her in our lives. May she be reunited with her beloved Levon, her sister Luiz and her parents Arshaguhi and Sahag, and may she rest in peace. Asdvadz lusavoreh hokeen. Amen.