"Throughout there was a strange bitterness..." ~ Jane Eyre
A flourless chocolate cake sits on my counter; I made the cake with Ghiriadelli bittersweet chocolate and Grand Marnier.
It will be dessert tonight after the Passover Seder at J. Sarah's house. I have been a part of her family's Seder for at least twelve years now, sitting with them and eating choroset and horseradish to symbolize the bittersweet night that is Passover.
Easter and Passover are my favorite holidays, yet, at the same time, they are also holidays that invoke a deep sadness for me. I embrace the overwhelming joy both celebrations give me with minute tears resting in the corners of my eyes throughout the week.
The last time I saw my grandfather, Krikor, alive was Easter Sunday.
We had visited my grandparents house that morning. He was sitting in the sun on an armchair by the windows in his living room, in a robe. He was smiling, despite being tired from chemotherapy. When we said goodbye, he got up. This moment plays like a movie in my mind, with every detail in tact in my heart and my brain. We had a long hug, and he squeezed me, and I told him I loved him, and he said he loved me too, and we said Happy Easter, and I said I would see you this week at my show (he was going to come see me as Dream Laurey in Oklahoma! at Wheatley). My grandfather's voice is still sharp in my ears, with that accent of his that I loved so much.
We said we would see each other.
We never saw each other again.
The last time I was able to talk to my grandmother, Anoush, was Easter Sunday.
She was lying terminally ill in the hospital. She loved flowers, so we brought her Easter lilies. As she lay dying, she met my brother-in-law for the first time. As sick as she was and as tired as she was, I saw her perk up and remember the small gleam in her eye knowing my sister was dating a "good Armenian boy." My grandmother was honestly very cute in that moment of examining my brother-in-law with approval despite the severity of her health. Despite her grogginess from morphine, she was still coherent. In a matter of a few days, she would be in a medically induced coma.
We told each other we loved each other.
We never spoke again.
The last time I saw J. Sarah's grandmother Rita alive was Passover.
J. Sarah's family is my second family, and her grandmother is, by far, one of the best women I have ever met. In the future I will dedicate a post talking about her, but not today or the tears resting in the corners of my eyes will become active and cease to stop this morning. Rita was another grandparent to me; she was loving and nurturing and protective. Passover Seder recipes at J. Sarah's house came from Rita's mom. Two years ago we sat at Seder, completely crowded at the table despite the two tables! Rita was with her grandchildren and great grandchildren in good spirits despite a very difficult winter. She had battled pneumonia in the previous months and was now on oxygen. Still, she was strong and a true fighter, and there was extra excitement in the air that night because she would be celebrating her 80th birthday with her family in two weeks. Of course I would be stopping by.
And Rita, too, sat in an armchair in the house. I leaned in, kissed her, she squeezed my hand and I said, "Rita I will see you at your birthday party!"
I never saw Rita again.
Tonight I am excited to celebrate Passover with J. Sarah's family once more. I am going to help Nelle cook this morning, and I am looking forward to seeing everyone else this evening. I can't wait to eat, of course, and I can't wait to read the Haggadah.
There is a part in the Haggadah where we remember the dead. It is a bittersweet moment in the night. In that moment, I can't think of anyone else but Rita. Last year we mentioned her name, and I know we will again this year. We also pray for peace in the Hagaddah, and in that moment I know I will think of D.R. Another bittersweet aspect of the holiday this year.
On Sunday I am excited to celebrate Easter with my lovely family. Since it is Jack's first Easter, we are doing an all-out Armenian Easter. Not only are we making the leg of lamb, but Robin and I are making shish kebob. There will be dolmas and beurek and cheoreg and baklava and pilaf and patlajan. I have to pack my jesveh and make soorj for everyone, too.
After all, we are doing this in the former home of my Grandpa Krikor and Grandma Anoush.
And I will hug my nephew, Jack Krikor, and tell him I love him and sit with him in the same corner of the living room where my grandfather did, kissing my nephew in a bittersweet moment. Bitter because I would give anything for my grandfather to have met his great-grandson, but sweet because I really believe that he has already seen him and knows him.
Both Easter and Passover are about faith, love, hope, and rebirth. So long as we have faith when we are sad, love those with us and those who are already gone, hope that there will be peace for all in this world, and remember that the circle of life is a blessing because of the young generations that follow the old, than the bitterness will cease and all will be sweet.
I wish everyone peace this holiday season. May it be sweet.
*Note: The Cross in the photo is an Armenian Cross. The Seder Plate is actually made by Armenians! There is an Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem. Armenians and Jews share a history of oppression, yet we are two cultures that emerged from our suffering stronger and with an undaunted spirit.*
Reader, welcome to my life.
- Name: ThursdayNext
- Location: New York, United States