Inside an arena of heartache and recovery, one team stood out during the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in my hometown.
It’s a team I was able to put together in a fight against cancer the weekend of June 10-11. To the many who joined me in my mission, a BIG thank you. I want you to know that your support and friendship are the biggest incentives of all as I go about my challenges these days.
And like the Massis, as it’s called in Armenia, the message continues to reverberate throughout history: “If people work together, they can move a mountain.” We had T-shirts printed up with a photo of Ararat I had taken during a visit, done in red, blue, and orange script.
Three generations were seen wearing the jersey on the track at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, with children helping to spread the word. My grandkids were ambassadors of their own rite.
It was comforting to know that people cared enough to join my entourage. Among them were Heather and Ara Krafian, along with their four girls. We walked together in cadence with the other participants that evening. I stood by her in illness. She reciprocated in my behalf.
There with me every step of the way was Gregory Minasian, who showed up with his son Richard. Others from the Armenian community joined an assortment of friends and relatives in giving our team added sustenance.
I’ve been on teams before, even organized a few along the way, but nothing meant more to me than this one. A man’s ethnicity becomes his inspiration and we must keep it polished, otherwise it will tarnish and decay.
“Where’s Mount Ararat?” a number of folks inquired.
I tell them it’s a Biblical mountain in Armenia where Noah landed his ark after the great flood of 40 days. I tell them it is sometimes considered the birthplace of the human race.
In my visits to different schools providing genocide education to students, we often bring up Mount Ararat in our presentations. We test the students on their knowledge by asking what famous boat landed on the peak of Ararat.
More often than not, we’ll hand them the answer by introducing Noah. The answers have stretched the gamut from the Santa Maria to the Mayflower. One student even blurted out, “The Titanic?”
Ararat has always been the object of my affections. As a student at the Mekhitarist School of Vienna, a priest once gifted me a painting of the mountain. He happened to be an accomplished artist and wanted to give something of himself when my sojourn there ended.
I kept that precious piece of art in my bedroom, and it even joined me in my new home upon marriage. Today, it maintains a vigil as a reminder of our strength and dynasty in nationhood.
During my first trip to Armenia in 2006, I began my elusive search for Ararat. After a week of disappointment, there it appeared, clear as a bell, right outside my hotel room at Ani. Depending on what side of the building you were located, the mountain came to you in beckoning call.
I saw it again shortly after that at Zvartnots of all places with the monastic ruins in the foreground. A number of street vendors were there peddling their artwork of the vibrant scene.
Once again, the mountain came calling during another trip in 2011 and served as the subject for a Christmas card one year. I took the liberty of superimposing the inimitable Datev Monastery between the two peaks, which wound up prying upon a viewer’s curiosity.
Some even took offense to it, “toying” with a sacred mountain and making it incredulous to the viewer. I didn’t mean to enhance it any, just give it another perspective.
The picture I used for the T-shirts was the mountain without the monastery; it stood on its own. Another team used a mountain for a logo. Not Ararat. It was actually a Walmart team that chose “Life’s Climb” with another offering.
Twice over the decades, I’ve mulled over the possibility of hiking Ararat (16,853 feet) with a team but never quite proceeded. Three friends managed to scale the mountain and couldn’t boast enough of its majestic setting.
The snow-capped scene of the Khor Virap Church in the foreground remains another classic piece in my art collection, thanks to a world-class photographer who also gifted me the work.
It did me proud to bring this part of my heritage to a public gathering, especially one so genuine as my battle with cancer. May the strength of Ararat guide me toward ultimate recovery and give others around me the motivation to work together in unity.
Only then can we move a mountain.
Source: Armenian Weekly Mid-West