This is a letter I wrote when I heard that my mother’s sister had died. She lived for 94 years, many people have lived shorter lives, but she was well and clearheaded until the last months. I know not much about her, not so much as other in my family knows, but anyway I tried to see her as the sister of my beloved mother and how those two persons had lived and planned and survived the dangerous times of the 20th century (1900-numbers). So I wrote this in a letter to my cousins and grand-cousins:
It makes me sad to hear that Aunt Marie has died.
She was the last of my mother’s siblings, and she was the
youngest; my mother would have been 104 years old today, and
Aunt Marie was 94 years old as far as I know.
I know she was sick and I know that she has lived a long life,
I know that death is the only sure thing in life, and I know
that people at the hospital tried to help her.
I am sure that hospital staff have done the best they could.
Yet it is sad that she died in pain, being hospitalized for
pneumonia, having broken her hip and being too weak to have
The one consolation I have is a letter from before Christmas
wherein she told me that she was treated well at the Glen Post
Acute Care Center, and that it was kind people, who even tried
to learn a word of Armenian.
That made me think about her life’s travel. I think she was born
in 1922 in Tehran, but maybe it was Beirut. If that is the case
the family would have lived there 1920 and a couple of years.
There were thousands of Armenian refugees in Beirut, and grandad
would possibly had good business there.
I am sure, Catherine, that you can tell more and correct me.
It was not until recently that I found out that Aunt Marie’s
Christian name was Siroush, and that it was my mom, Nelly, also
known as Hamasaspuhi, who found that it would be such an advantage
for her siblings to have international recognizable names. So
Siroush became Marie.
In the mid 1920’ies Aunt Marie was living in Paris, Issy Les
Moulineaux, with her teen-sister Nelly, her teen brother Donald
and her brother Henri. When the economy forced the family back
to Tehran around 1930 she was still a child, and she grew up
in Tehran with her family and her loving cousins, Zaven and Vahik.
Vahik and Marie were in love, so mom told me, and when some Sunday
there was a family gathering the two cooing teens were late, very
very late, but the family waited with the dinner ready and never
Eventually they got married, Marie taught English, and Vahik worked
two jobs if I remember, and they saved for a house. Zaven
designed the most wonderful house and they had it built in
northern Tehran, with a pool, and a lawn.
When Mom, my brother and I visited mom’s parents and siblings in
Tehran in 1965, it was Marie who opened her doors and invited us
to stay in their home.
But then illness struck Uncle Vahik, who died in spite of best
medical treatment available. I don’t know how Marie managed, but
it was not so easy, and got worse in 1979, when the Ayatollahs
took over Iran.
I remember Aunt Marie visiting and telling that her fashion
magazines had been censored with black speed-markers. I remember
her worry about Armond who could end up as cannon fodder; lorries
with warriors rounded up young men and sent them to the Iraqi
border where they without any training or weapon would die.
Thousands of young lives ended there. So Aunt Marie came to
Denmark and asked for help – however, the Danish Government
would not allow Armond to stay in Denmark.
The alternative was Spain, and later – with help from lawyers –
a US permit was obtained. Aunt Marie was worried about Armond
and moved to US. When my mother visited US in 1990 and again
once or twice later the siblings were once more assembled.
I remember Aunt Marie visiting in Denmark and saying that my home
was so nice. She is the only one to have said such nice things
about my home.
When Aunt Marie heard that my mom had died, she asked me if
I would continue to write letters and tell about the family, she
missed her big sister. I did so, I had to be encouraging in my
letters, she was obviously sad to have lost her husband, her
siblings, and lately her oldest son. My last letter was from
January and I don’t think she ever got the letter because she was
admitted to hospital with pneumonia and later with broken hip.
My heart is heavy, I remember how kind Aunt Marie was when others
criticized me as a young man, I remember her encouragement, and
her love for her family. May she rest in peace.
Love and hugs to you all./Donald
I have been reluctant to add some more pictures, not knowing what would do most justice. I don’t have pictures of the fine house, which Zaven designed for the family, but here at least is a picture from 1965 – I know because i’m in it and it was only that year I visited Tehran; my mother kept going there, and later they met in Denmark and US.