I am getting my heart and soul ready to see the new movie The Promise about the Armenian Genocide.
I want to see this film; I want to see how the directors have crafted our story.
At the same time, I don’t want to see this film. I don’t want to be reminded of the horror that my people suffered. I don’t want to see pictures of this agony on the big screen because those images will stay with me.
Most everyday, I am reminded in one way or another of my ancestors’ story: the story of the Armenian people. I live with my maternal and paternal grandparents’ story imprinted on my soul.
Yesterday, as I was singing my Grandmother’s songs with the oud accompanying me, I was taken back to her childhood — this woman whom I never had the chance to meet and here I am singing her songs and here I am with her in my mind and we are dancing and singing together…this is an automatic response. I can’t help it. I see her when I sing. I see my own beautiful Mama, too. My Mama is a child sitting on Grandma’s lap, learning the ancient Armenian folk songs – the same songs that she would one day teach me.
And there is joy mixed with pain. Joy for the rebirth of a nation and its people. Deep pain for the precious ones who did not survive. Joy for the wonder of Armenians who were able to begin again and pass on life to their children and their children’s children. Pain for those survivors for whom the agony of the past was too much to bear… Joy for the beauty in the lives of the women in my own life. Pain for the suffering each one has had to endure. My grandmothers, survivors of the Armenian Genocide. My Mama, the child of a survivor, and the impact that has had on her life. The joy and pain coexist in my soul. I give thanks for the new life that has emerged out of this broken horror filled past. And I wrestle with the fact that countless Armenians did not survive the Genocide. What would have been their story? That question haunts me.
And undergirding all of this emotion is Grace.
What else but Grace could give my people, my Grandma, a voice to be able to sing again after all they had suffered?