Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 13, 2018. Worship celebrations at the Elgin-Portland Pastoral Charge were extra special, as we had Mikayla Johnston come and share with both churches her award winning public speech entitled, “Leaving a Legacy”.
Following the services, my sister, Choughik and I headed out to Markham to attend the memorial service of a colleague of mine who passed away in April, in the Boston area, from cancer. He was originally from the Armenian Evangelical Church of Toronto in Markham but had been working within the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America as a pastor for youth and young adults, in the New England area of the United States. I had wanted to go to the Celebration of Life that took place in Boston (April 18), however my schedule did not allow me to do so.
The late Rev. Dr. Ara Jizmejian and I were colleagues from the early days. Back in the day (late 80’s, early 90’s) when Rev. Dr. John Mokkossian trained youth leaders at his house in Salem, New Hampshire, Ara was one of the youth leaders in training from Toronto and I was from Montreal.
When I decided that I will be able to go on May 13 to Toronto, I contacted a few friends to meet for supper before the memorial service. I also contacted my cousin in Cambridge, so that we can meet on Monday morning and celebrate the joy of welcoming the new addition to our family, her seven-week old son, Asher. Something inside of me was reminding me that death does not have to have the last word, we must make this life abundant as much as possible through God’s Grace. It is a lesson indeed to learn that how we handle our thoughts determines our actions and how we carry out our life determines how we shape the world. By God’s Grace all worked out and I met a few of my friends before the service and made plans to meet my cousin Monday morning for breakfast.
At the memorial service, many of the youth members of the church shared how Ara had showed them how to nurture their soul by working on having a close relationship with God; how to stand up for Truth; and how to make the life of Jesus their own. I came out of that service thanking God for someone who has planted an orchard with the seeds of Love of Jesus, towards God and towards the other, so that this world can be a better place. It has been truly a blessing to have known Ara as a colleague, but most of all, as an instrument of God’s Love, no matter how short his life was.
The next day, I met my “new” cousin – seven-week-old Asher and his older sister Ayla who is almost three. When I saw both come in the restaurant with their mom, my heart just leaped in love and tears started to roll down my cheeks. It made me think what a gift it is to be able to see them. Of course, Ayla was a bit nervous at first and did not want to approach us, she had not seen me for over eleven months; but she worked up to the challenge and started to play with us after a few minutes. As for Asher, being a little baby suffering with colic, he cried a lot, however, at times, he smiled even with tears in his eyes and on his cheeks. He reminded me that smiles are possible even amid heartaches of life.
Friends, these two realities of life became so true for me on May 13th and the 14th, that I had to share these thoughts with all of you; because often we forget about the smiles that are possible and just concentrate on the heartaches of life.
It is an inescapable reality – this life is temporary – however we cannot just let life pass by us, we need to think of the circle of life and leave a legacy of love to this world, like Mikayla said. Our actions determine what kind of legacy are we leaving behind – it all begins with our thoughts that define our actions, and our actions define the shaping of the world.
Yes, we do know that this physical life is temporary, but Love lives forever. The life of Rev. Ara was cut shorter than we anticipated; and often there are infants that die earlier than we expect. We do not have to leave our homes to hear about these infant deaths, we can see this reality on the news; either infants dying in hospitals because of illness or dying while they are playing on the streets of the Middle East; or other parts of the world. But in all of life, we need to remember, all that we do and say, MUST come from Love, work through Love and Leave a Legacy of Love – as the fountain of Love never dies nor forsakes us.
Thanks be to God. Amen.