The Virtue in Suffering

September of 1922 on the Aegean Sea: The diminutive bodies of two newborn twins, a boy and a girl, are dumped over the side of a Greek ship. Their mother sobs quietly on deck. Somewhere on the Anatolian mainland, her husband is being transported to a prison camp. She is weak from hunger, and bruised from the savage beating she received the night before from a Turkish soldier. For the second time in her life, she has been driven from home and had her entire family taken from her, and she is only 17 years old. Her name is Eva, and she is my great grandmother.

A full account of Eva’s story of surviving the Armenian Genocide was written by my uncle Bernard and published in the LA Times Magazine in 1992. At 10 years old, she and her family were forced from their village and marched many miles south into the Syrian desert. She watched her mother die outside of Aleppo, and her father and sister were separated from her, never to be seen again. Her situation was so dire that being sold into slavery, where she worked in an Arab home, can only be described as an act of divine providence. And yet, as she recalled these horrors for my uncle while sitting in her living room in Pasadena, near the end of her 84 years, she concluded,

“I’ve had a good life. I wouldn’t change anything.”

The astounding humility and grace with which Eva accepted her life seems perfectly symmetrical to the magnitude of torture she faced. The events that emptied her expelled all vanity and purified her.

It is because she was taken to such desperate lows that she was bestowed with such magnanimous depth.

It is because she was separated from her husband that they were able to remain ever faithful after being reunited. It is because she was robbed of her first two children that she was able to love the five that followed so dearly. It is because things looked so grim early on that she was able to look back toward the end and conclude, justly, that it was good.


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