The white lillies yield to the wind and hang their heads, acknowledging the passing of a hero. They seem to want to scatter as strong gusts overwhelm the wreath, and as it finally takes off only to land some footfalls away, the sweet scent envelopes me. Farewell, my senses hear. Joy be unto you. I begin to hear the first chords of a forgotten melody, the lyrics beckoning me to a life not unknown.
My father once told me to think of life as a bridge that we all must cross, that even if the crossing is painful and long, the banks of the river on the far side gets closer with each step. He told me to look back once in a whiile, to see the progress I have made. I remember that night as we sat on the roof and he told me never to forget my past and the roots from which I came. I listened quietly until he made me promise.
"Do you understand, Margarid? Our people have been persecuted since the dawn of Christianity because we were the first to accept what others would not. Your grandparents were murdered for belonging to the motherland. Promise me, promise me you'll never forget who you are." He sang me a song afterwards. He was an excelled singer, his tongue expertly rolling the words in his mouth, taking me to that strange land in the East. I have not set foot on my father's beloved country to this day, yet I feel as if I belong to its intricate story.
He was one of the lucky ones. I think it was partly his stubbornness that kept him alive. After all, he was only a teenager who wanted to see the world and live. He wanted to be a musician and travel the globe with his friend. He wanted to know what being rich felt like, wanted the experience of spending money on useless objects just because he could. He wanted to see tigers in India and the bull fights in Spain. He wanted to learn to swim. But I think it was mostly the will to see his father again that kept him walking. The possibility of seeing those wise eyes woke him each morning and allowed his legs to move forwards, although it seemed to him as though he was floating above the sand rather than dragging his feet. By the time he reached Aleppo his mother's body had long been left behind, as so many others' had. His sister Anahit - to whom, according to my father, I am identical - died three weeks after their arrival. And afterwards, when he did not find his father's name on the list of survivors of those who were deported to Turkey, he was forced to learn the fact that his life had been changed drastically and that nothing would ever be the same. He grew harsh and cold living with his aunt during his last years in Armenia.
He stepped on a boat on a cold, foggy morning of 1920 after a breakfast of porridge and stale bread. He and his cousin Hagop both kissed his aunt goodbye and left Armenia behind without a backward glance.
I watch as one of the lillies frees itself from the tangle of leaves and stems. As I bend to pick it up, somebody gently rests their hand on my back. It is my mother, a pale woman by nature, but all the more paler today. Not a single teardrop has escaped her eyes, she shed all of hers a week ago. She is responsible for breaking my father's cemented shell, for teaching him to be what he forgot to be. I stand here now, facing her, and see her pain-filled eyes, but also a sense of serenity and acceptance. I give her the lily and she holds it with both hands.
I look back before closing the gate behind me. I see the shiny granite, smooth and cold. In my mind I read its inscription: Aram Dorian 1900-1978 Loving husband and father. And underneath in tiny letters, Enjoy the walk. Standing beside his words, I glimpse my father waiting for me on the other side of the bridge.