Nora Armani, standing, with the late Nora Ipekian Azadian

Goodbye Dear Friend and Mother

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By Nora Armani

“Nora, we lost Nora.” Edmond’s email message was short, crisp, clear, yet characteristically poetic. Nora Ipekian-Azadian, my namesake, my friend, my inspiration, my ex-mother-in-law, and my now-mother, was no more.

It was not the news I had not expected to hear; only I wish I never did. She was, after all, well advanced into her late 90s and lived a long fruitful, and inspiring artistic life. She gave so much to so many through her teaching that spanned more than one generation and with her example she blazed a trail for us all to follow in her footsteps.

Nora was exceptionally larger than life. She was radiant and lighthearted, not letting any mishap shape her life or define her. Instead, she always saw the positive side of everything and spotted a silver lining even in the most adverse of situations.

I learned a lot from her at first by briefly observing her from a distance, but this did not last long as she left the Armenian community in Egypt, where I grew up, to embrace a new life with her soulmate Edmond Azadian in America. Later, fate brought me closer to her when I had the privilege of becoming her daughter-in-law as I married her son Gerald Papasian. During those years my apprenticeship continued and my admiration of Nora grew exponentially. She became my confidant, my guide, my friend, and my inspiration.

Our first encounter, unbeknownst to me, had taken place much earlier when at the age of 10 and 11, for two consecutive years, Nora had awarded me the first prize in poetry recitation in the competitions held at the Armenian Artistic Union club in Cairo. Years later she told me that she had said to her fellow jury members, referring to me, “She is a promising talent and would go far with the right guidance.” Fate had it that the guidance Nora was wishing for would come from her own son when only a few years later Gerald would direct me in my first play on that very same stage at the Armenian Artistic Union in Cairo. And thus had begun my long artistic journey in which Nora Ipekian-Azadian had played an important part along with her husband, Edmond Azadian.

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I remember our Detroit years with fondness. As new immigrants, the anchor Nora and Edmond provided helped us in our integration into our new hometown of Detroit. Although about a year after arriving we moved to Los Angeles, the frequent visits prompted by performances or family occasions offered me many opportunities to grow, develop and flourish enveloped in her unique artistic aura. I always considered Detroit and the Azadian residence hometown and home; and Nora a loving and giving mentor.

When my own mother, Arminé Ekserdjian (née Basmadjian), an artist and violinist in her own right, passed away at the young age of 62, Nora said to me, “Now I am your mother.”  And years later, despite my no longer being married to her son, her sentiments towards me never changed. She was my mother. And I, her daughter. I was Bzdig (little/junior) Nora, and she was Medz (big/senior) Nora.

We often compared our lives and found many parallels. It is strange that the resemblances were much more visible and pronounced between our lives as the two namesakes, than between my life and that of my own mother’s.

Fate had manifested itself when my mother, admiring Nora and her courage as a woman, had named me after her and after Ibsen’s heroine, as if to make up for the fact that she herself had put aside her own aspirations of becoming a concert violinist, having instead opted for married life and motherhood.

I remember how my mother had cried when she found out that her brothers in-law had unbeknownst to her, sold her violin along with the bric-a-brac of the apartment from which they were moving. Why had she not brought it with her to her married home, still baffles me today. Her tears had signaled the closure of an artistic journey and a dream.

A few days ago, Nora Ipekian-Azadian left this world quietly in her sleep. As I said goodbye to her through my tears I promised myself that this would not be the closure of a journey but the continuation of one. I had made a promise to my mother to continue the artistic journey for both of us. Now, I have to continue the journey together with my two mothers, and for all women who sacrifice art for motherhood.

Nora left this world, but her artistic legacy, her love, and her spirit will forever inspire those who she touched and will fill the hearts of all those who knew her for her generosity, compassion, and understanding that she so effortlessly shared with immense elegance.

As fate has it, our lives have once again crisscrossed and now we are going together on another journey, this time to Egypt, as I have taken it upon myself to transport part of her cremains to Cairo, in accordance with her wishes.

As I write these lines, the photo of a little girl I have often seen in her home flashes to my mind. It is Nora Ipekian-Azadian in an affectionate embrace with her dear grandfather Mihran Damadian. Her cremains will find the warmth of that embrace again, as she is laid down in her final resting place with her parents Shake and Aghassi Ipekian, next to her beloved grandfather Mihran Damadian, and her favorite poet Vahan Tekeyan whose poetry she excelled at reciting.

To quote Tekeyan, “Ինչ մնաց, կեանքէն ինծի ինչ մնաց…ինչ որ տուի ուրիշին տարօրինակ այն միայն։”

“What remains to me of this life, what remains? Oddly, what I gave to others. Only that remains.”

Dear Nora, what you gave to so many in such abundance over nine decades will be your legacy as it continues to enrich their lives and the lives of generations to come.

Rest in Peace for there are many who love you and who will cherish your memory for as long as they live.

 

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