Papken Sassouni at Dzidzernagapert during his first visit to Armenia

Papken Sassouni at Dzidzernagapert during his first visit to Armenia

Editor’s Note: During the funeral service on November 10 for veteran Armenian Revolutionary Federation member, Papken Sassouni, Ara Mgrdichian paid tribute to the late unger. We present his remarks below.

And in a twinkle of an eye I saw everything… Our lives like a jigsaw puzzle complete, had become a total picture of life replete with every remembered moment, nuanced and striking…  And, then, one by one, pieces began falling away, and that is when I, too, began falling with every missing piece…

It is the end of an era and it is the irrevocable beginning of the new. A different kind of new, one bereft of the physical presence of some of those dearest to us, of familiar faces, comforting glances, knowing looks, and the sublime touch. However, this new era is one now infused completely with the deep and true essence of those who have passed. The puzzle we all put together has pieces missing, falling away, disappearing, portending a greater absence to come that we cannot comprehend.

But, the great mystery is mysterious beyond understanding and the greatness of mind and spirit becomes more and more present after the leaving of those, especially those, of epic dimensions. This presence—his presence–grows, now, exponentially in his absence.

As I clutched his hand for the last time, and he mine, I felt that same iron grip, still, and looking into my eyes, I knew, as I know all that is true and real, that he is immortal. I knew the words we exchanged were not near death standards or niceties, but the true promise of seeing each other soon and being always at one another’s service–at the service of our family and cause.

One must understand who Papken Sassouni was to understand who he is, and I know, here, in this hall, so many of you were touched by this great and humble spirit and know, each in your own way, that I am telling you the truth, each in your own way, know who he was, and know who he is now.

Papken Sassouni with his brothers at General Antranig's memorial

Papken Sassouni with his brothers at General Antranig’s memorial

But, you must also understand that my understanding and view of Unger Sassouni was as polyvalent as was his character and great spirit. I saw him first through the prism of a small child, as one of two or three of my father’s brothers–my father who had no actual brothers. And, through that prism shone a beautiful, carved face complete with all the traces of the true Armenian—a father, an uncle, a husband, friend, a brother-in-arms, a true intellectual, and man of high art—all ensconced in nonpareil warmth, compassion, and love.

The strength and certitude he projected were only matched by his smile unleashed. Our relations were prenatal. The progeny of our families—the patriarchs of which, for me, were a triumvirate of sorts—became family, first through the kith and kinship of their parents. Most of the earliest memories are not memories, but documentation of our interactions, photographs of our youth and theirs. Papken Ahm’mo was rarely without his camera, and, if it was not for his commitment to recording these moments, there would be far less to be remembered today and into the future.

Throughout childhood there was Papken Ahm’mo—strong, supportive, protective, welcoming, funny, clever. In adolescence, as the bonds between the families grew, the bonds with my brethren–Papken Ahm’mo’s progeny–grew even more. Our youth was a constant wonder and adventure, much of the time in and around the Sassouni household, and at its gravitational centers were Papken Ahm’mo and Marjho Tanteeg. Their home was filled with beauty and bounty from the most fascinating, cutting-edge technologies that Papken Ahm’mo would bring home from his work at CCI to stunning works of art and design to the most sacred of Armenian tomes and treasures, not to mention the mischief we caused so often.

There were computers at the Sassouni home when computers didn’t exist. As children, we didn’t fully understand that the phone handset sitting in the cloth (or was it velvet?) lined teak box, atop the teak desk, in the main room, facing the windows onto the boundless Pacific, was, in fact, an early 1970’s modem linking the screen on the desk to a CRAY or UNIVAC at some remote location. I remember how Papken Ahm’mo, on the 4th of July, made that screen explode with pixelated fireworks, as well as regaling us with real fireworks in the backyard.

Papken Ahm’mo was always interesting, showing us games, tricks, ways of thinking, beautiful places and objects, keeping us on our toes, and keeping us fierce.

There are so many memories, so many moments, so many facets to Papken Sassouni, that it is a challenge today to present a complete picture of this man among men. However, one thing may be certain above all, or, rather, one thing in particular permeates all things having to do with Mr. Sassouni, and that is no matter the company or situation, no matter the circumstances or severity, Papken Sassouni was that rare breed of human being who was able to comport himself with dignity and grace at all times and to the end, and this capacity effected all with whom he interacted.

The capacity to listen and be listened to, to respect and be respected, to embody the true meaning of civilization and humanity, with a hard-found patience, empathy, and openness— that was Papken Sassouni. Even when we were young and burgeoning, he would let us talk with fervor and verve, knowing full well what we were yet to know. He had the capacity to allow all people, including those closest to him, who he loved so dearly—which is no small feat—to find their own way and place in the world, to explore and be curious, to live and struggle, all with his unique brand of subtle, refined guidance—felt, but never overbearing, an almost invisible wisdom imparted.

I feel this rare capacity was fueled by his own limitless consciousness as a man—a true human–and an Armenian, eternally committed to the cause of life, of living, and of justice, with all that entailed. There was something calming and courageous in his demeanor, a true leader that made you feel not just accepted, but that you mattered, and you wanted to be better for it.

I admired Unger Papken for a great many things—his intellectual acumen, his discerning, yet understated sense of style, his great base of knowledge and clever mind–the list goes on. But, I loved him for even more. His sense of discipline and commitment in theory and practice must have been the bulwark of his great accomplishments and his great love. There were so many good things that were a daily practice for him. He was a man, a creator, who knew that all big things—ideas, actions, causes—come from the small, that what we give our time to—in ourselves and others—is what is nurtured, cultivated, and brought to fruition.

He knew that faith is action. And, that faith was particularly poignant in his lifelong service to the Armenian Cause and the ARF, just as it was to his family and his many friends. Unger Papken’s service to his nation’s cultural, political, and social life in the diaspora and homeland is vast and well documented. His activities were not only exclusive to the great ARF family of organizations and institutions, but ran the gamut of Armenian and non-Armenian life, and that, in itself, is a testament to his ability to successfully work with diverse groups and cultures. It was an honor to work with him, to speak and confer with him, and seek his opinions on organizational, historic, and community matters. Even during the darkest moments in our recent communal and organizational history, Unger Papken was one of the few individuals with which I could truly converse, and I always looked forward, with great anticipation, to his advice and counsel. Unger Sassouni was and is a man respected by all segments of our society and was somehow able to transfer his father’s sacred millennial fire to his family, extended family, and a whole nation in straight lineage from the mountains of Sassoun. Unger Papken’s eldest son, Garo’s ARF Gunkahayr (Godfather) was my father Unger Mgouch , and my ARF Gunkahayr was Garo’s father, Unger Papken—happenstance or fate, depends on one’s perspective, but the transgenerational interstices were always strong and kept growing. Unger Papken, our fathers and their friends—you know who you are both living and passed on–they were Musketeers, Knights, of sorts, living among us. They led and served by example. They may not have divulged the extent of their service and deeds before shaking off this mortal coil, but their true selves showed through and were evident in all they did and all they pursued.

Life away from the battlefield can be difficult–sometimes impossible–for true warriors, however, Unger Papken Sassouni was able to adapt and negotiate the tumult of a “not-so peaceful” peace with aplomb and grace, fighting the good fight whether in meeting halls or on far-off shores. He never sank to the guttural levels in which many are mired, but always raised the bar in every situation. These men of thought and action—of the head and the hand—these men of Medz Haik, were fortunately able to witness the Independence of Armenia and the liberation of Artsakh they so loved and whose cause they served unwaveringly, body and soul, before their passage from this plane.

And, now together, with Unger Papken standing point, they wait like eagles perched in their high nests, soaring skies, awaiting the legacy bequeathed to us, and to us alone, to manifest again, to weaponize our faith in action and love, so they may witness, on high, the liberation of the their bedraggled western Armenian home.

The cycles continue from ancient ancestors to Garo Sassouni, the Elder to Papken Sassouni to Garo Sassouni, the Younger, and Kevo and Maral, to Armen Garo the youngest, until Mher finally comes out of Akravakar and the wheel of time halts and we shall walk with them, again emerging, from Mher’s door, Unger Papken, Toor Gedzagee in hand, leading the way from Sassoun, immortals all…

“We pray for mercy for Dzovinar…
Forty mercies for Sanasar…
We pray for mercy for Baghdasar…
Forty mercies for Deghtzoun Dzam…
We pray for mercy for Keri Toros…
Forty mercies for Tzenov Ohan…
We pray for mercy for Medz Mher…
Forty mercies for Armaghan…
A thousand mercies for stalwart Davit…
Forty mercies for Khantout Khanum…
We pray for mercy for Pokr Mher…
Forty mercies for Kohar Khanum…
And, a thousand mercies—hazar voghormee
Unger Papken Sassouniee Haverjh hokeen
Sassno medz dahn…
Voghpam merelots…
Peganem shanter…
Kochem abroghats…


Source: Asbarez
Link: Unger Papken Sassouni: A Man Among Men

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