Monday, November 10, 2008

For Maman

When Sen. Obama's grandmother passed away the day before her grandson was elected President of the United States, his touching tribute to her was a reminder of how much we are indebted to others, and how much they sacrifice to give a better life to others. It reminded me of my own grandmother, whom we knew as Maman.

My mother's mother embodied pure love and pure devotion for her family. I can't imagine a second of her life that wasn't dedicated to those around her.

Through the cruelty of geography and geopolitical conflict, we rarely spoke with my extended family, and we only saw my grandmother three times in the past 30 years when she came bravely across the ocean to see us.

My mother was the eldest of seven children, I was the first grandchild, and my older daughter was the first great grandchild in the family. Although all were loved, we symbolized something much larger for my grandmother: we were the embodiment of hope for the next generation.

Four years ago, my grandmother was dying of cancer on the other side of the world. We were visiting my parents for Thanksgiving, and they were about to go to Iran to be with her.

I do not read or write Farsi, but my parents do. I wrote her the following letter as my thank you to her, which my parents delivered for me. Four months later she was gone.

As Thanksgiving approaches, it is good to not only remember those you are thankful for, but also to remember to let them know.


I hope that this note finds you and the family well. My apologies that for all the education and I learning that I have been blessed with in my life, this "be savad" [illiterate person] is not able to write to you in my parents' tongue. I have imposed on my parents to graciously translate the note for you.

The family is all together this year in my parents home, with the added blessing of [my sister's] children crawling around, playing and laughing, and enjoying their time with their cousins. With 11 of us healthy and happy and enjoying each other so very much, it is a special blessing and a reminder of the many many things we are so grateful for.

For all that we are and all that we as a family have accomplished, not a day goes by where I don't remember and celebrate the incredible foundation that we have built our lives around.

That we have had the opportunity to do what we have done is amazing, but that opportunity would have meant nothing if we did not have the strength of spirit and character to make something of it. We may be standing tall, but it is only because we are standing on the shoulders of giants that have given so much to us. It is my hope that we will be able to repay our debt by helping our children reach even higher still.

As I think of the forces that influence my life, for me the Ataii family [my mother's family] represents what it means to be a warrior: strength, resolve, a commitment to justice, and integrity in doing the right thing. It also represents what it means to be a poet: joy, empathy, a sense of humor, a deep commitment to those in need of our protection, and an emotional connection to the people and world around us.

The combination of the warrior and the poet is remarkably unique and vital. The pieces together represent far more than the sum of their parts. Together, they create a light and aura that commands the attention and respect of those around us.

I would like you to know that the spirit of the warrior and poet is strong within our hearts, and not a day goes by where that spirit does not shine brightly and impact all that we do and all the people we do it with.

Even at this early age, I see the same dual fire burning in [my daughters]. The warrior and the poet is strong within them (potentially very strong). We will do our best to cultivate those fires as they find their own way through the world.

In this country, they say the eyes are the window to the soul. As we walk around town as a family, it is common for strangers to stop and stare in wonder at [our daughters'] beautiful eyes. Not only are their eyes beautiful, but so is the joy and humor and love of life and incredible depth that dances within them. Although the wind may have blown the seed far far from the tree, we tell everyone that our daughters have their great grandmother's eyes. We may not live in the same part of the world, but please know that you can see them through me, through the gorgi eyes I got from you [my grandmother was originally from Gorgistan province].

Please give our love, respect, and affection to the family. Although we look forward to fate and circumstance to allow us to be together again, not a day goes by that we are not together in spirit.

November 25, 2004

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