Tribute to Suzanne Sabih on the occasion of her passing

by Jack McLean

July 2000

Dear Friends:

I feel very privileged to have been invited to share with you in this celebration of Suzanne’s life. My memories of Suzanne go back some twenty years, and even though my contact with her was far less regular than that of a member of the local community, nonetheless, the impact of Suzanne’s life, in the brief moments that we shared over the years, remains strong.

Today as we recall Suzanne’s earthly life, we remember above all the qualities of spirit manifested by this great soul as she sojourned among us. For is it not especially these qualities of soul, manifested in her deeds, that remain as her eternal legacy, bequeathed by one whose life has touched us all in such a profound and lasting way?

Suzanne was a born leader and teacher, one who sought knowledge and who was firmly grounded in the power of the truth. We can all recall on occasion hearing that earnest voice of protest, the voice that arose from the depths of Suzanne’s strong moral sense, her keen awareness of the necessity of respecting the bounds of propriety, dignity, and justice. Her declaration of faith in Bahá’u’lláh, and the tenacity of her belief, in a time when the world little cared for, ignored or derided such a Glorious Being, is an eloquent testimony to her perceptive, crusading, pioneer spirit. In one respect, it was her protest against the world’s negligence of all that is good and great, honest and true.

Suzanne had a rare quality of spirit, not possessed by all — the quality of striving. One sensed that Suzanne strove to go beyond, in everything she did, to make of the ordinary and everyday gesture something extraordinary, to endow it with a new life and vitality, with that special beauty and radiance which she so dearly loved. Whether it was a song or meal, her generous and frequent offerings of flowers, the act of teaching, the many daily cares and preoccupations associated with being a mother, visiting friends, assisting them or praying for them, Suzanne desired to make any act she performed a special act, something that touched the heart to make it memorable.

And what she did, she did with all her heart and soul. She was, as French speakers say, entière, wholehearted and devoted. There is, to be sure, something of the artist — and indeed of the heroic soul — in this striving of soul and spirit to make the ordinary and everyday act memorable and immortal. And so it is. For Bahá’u’lláh assures us — and I quote His words: “The reward of no good deed is or ever will be lost.” And in the very lines that follow, Bahá’u’lláh writes these words that might have been written for Suzanne: “Blessed, art thou, doubly blessed art thou! Thou art reckoned amongst those handmaidens whose love for their kin hath not prevented them from attaining the shores of the Sea of Grace and Mercy. God willing, thou shalt rest eternally ‘neath the shade of the favours of the All Merciful and shalt be assured of His bounties.”

It is this remembrance of her ability to overcome, to transcend the many cares of life, its burdens and sorrows, that will bring us joy in our celebration of Suzanne’s life. For we know that she had this capacity. Nothing could prevent her from entering into the love of God and the love of her friends. And this was her joy.

Dear Friends! There is many a mystery and a wisdom in the untimely passing of a loved one. Each one of us is called to discover the meaning of that mystery and wisdom. But let me share with you what Suzanne’s passing has meant to me. It is just this — the power of the immortal soul. I say “just this,” but really in this power lies, all at once, our hope and confidence, eternal happiness and the secret of our salvation. Suzanne’s passing has brought home to me, in a more profound way, the nobility of the station of the human soul, a power and nobility that was so palpably felt at her funeral, vehicled through the tender, moving and loving tributes of her family and friends.

Again I quote Bahá’u’lláh: “The movement of My Pen is stilled when it attempteth to befittingly describe the loftiness and glory of so exalted a station. The honor with which the Hand of Mercy will invest the soul is such as no tongue can adequately reveal, nor any other earthly agency describe. Blessed is the soul which, at the hour of its separation from the body, is sanctified from the vain imaginings of the peoples of the world. Such a soul liveth and moveth in accordance with the Will of its Creator, and entereth the all highest Paradise.” We can all of us be supremely confident and happy today that Suzanne lived in such a way as to be worthy of the blessing of these wonderful words!

In closing, I want to share with you one special gift I received years ago from Suzanne. Suzanne understood very well the meaning of the occasion and she had the gift of being able to render the occasion worthwhile and memorable. For her, these occasions were little acts of worship. But of the many gifts that I have received over the years, it was one of Suzanne’s that I recall especially, made now even more precious by its association with her.

It was during Ayyám-i-Há, Intercalary Days, the last few days of February when, once a year, Bahá’ís prepare for the Fast and show charity to one another and to their friends. During these festive days, years ago, we received a brown envelop in the mail from Suzanne. When I opened it, I discovered that it was the Long Healing Prayer. At that time, this prayer was not available in French. Suzanne had taken the time to copy out this lengthy prayer by hand, and to offer it to us for this occasion. Along with the handwritten prayer was enclosed her gift of pressed flowers. Someone has said: “Greater than the gift is the spirit in which it is given.” And greater still is this gift when it comes from the heart. How many of these deeds there were over the years, how many tender expressions of love.

I remember especially today Fasci, Sasha, Sarah and Ena. You can be truly proud to be Suzanne’s children. You are the beautiful flowers that she lovingly raised in the garden of her heart, the lasting testimony of her motherly love. The lessons she taught you and the example of her life will serve you well all of your days. You will always be proud to call her Mother.

    In loving remembrance,
    Jack McLean
    Ottawa, July, 2000

Comments are closed.