By Marineh Khachadour
I am not a religious person and have devoted a great deal of effort in my life to free myself from moral and ethical conundrums concerning life and death that culture and society impose upon one. But a certain kind of serenity embraces me when I visit my father's gravesite and spend a few minutes sitting in silence and gazing at the sea of green around me after burning frankincense and arranging flowers on top of his grave.
I miss my father's presence in my life. He appears to me randomly - when I am driving, washing the dishes, or just before I close my eyes for the night: the transparency of the skin on his forehead, the graying wisps of hair behind his ear, the shape of his fingers, all so real and familiar - just like my own.
Other than a lifetime of memories, the laughs and the tears, the love and the anger, the appreciation and the resentment we have exchanged over the years, there is a common denominator that binds me to my father. It is the physical matter that makes us. His DNA is in every cell of my body, and in the process of disintegrating from a form that is familiar to me to a handful of "dust" that nourishes the grass and the trees that adorn his resting place, he has passed on our shared DNA to them. My father, in a way most tangible and familiar to me, lives on through the soil and the vegetation that so benevolently host his remains, the same ones that are a host to the thousands of other humans from many different ethnic and cultural backgrounds resting at the Forest Lawn National Cemetery in Universal City, California.
I walk around and straighten up the potted poinsettias and miniature Christmas trees that the heavy rain has knocked over the night before on the gravesites of Vartuhi Chakhmakchian (1926 - 2007), Avedis Rostamian (1934 - 1994), Maria Elena Ramirez (1949 -1987), James Kennilworth, Jr. (1956 - 2015), and Jean Louise Hagerty (1945 - 1997). I feel a certain kind of kinship to them all, one bound neither by religion, common language, traditions, or ethnicity, but merely the soil that hosts all of their DNA along with my father's.
I leave the cemetery with a renewed sense of appreciation for all life on earth, the most precious Christmas gift of all