The Boy who sang the Psalms

Ever since the second Sunday of December was designated as “Children’s Memorial Day” in 1997 by then President Clinton, we, via In His Shoes Ministries, have organized services to remember the tragic loss of our children. This year the commemoration falls on the 25th anniversary of the earthquake in Armenia which claimed upward of 25,000 lives. 

There’s the stillness of death on a deathly unliving sea…


As I prepare for this year’s service, my mind goes to all the wonderful children I have met throughout the years and sadly have had to say goodbye to them all too early I’ve sat with them, held their hands, cried with their parents and have felt as if they were my own flesh and blood. Back in the early 1990’s we lost a young boy who would “sing the psalms.” I remember him often and in particular during this time of year when we remember our children.
I just found the eulogy that I delivered at his funeral. It was translated in the Window Quarterly. I post it here on this Armodoxy page, as a simple offering of reconciliation, condolence and understanding….

The Boy who Sang the Psalms

Note: Saro Balabanian passed away at age 7, after a four year battle with leukemia. During his bout with cancer, he earned the affection and respect of his community..

Just about every day we hear reports of children dying in Somalia, Bosnia, Bangladesh or some third world country. Famine, war and poverty claim the lives of these, the young and innocent. As tragic as these stories may be, we have the option of turning the station or folding close the newspaper and going about our daily business. But today’s story is not from a world far away. And unlike other tragedies in this world, we don’t have the opportunity to turn the channel or turn the page. We are facing the death of a young boy, one who has touched so many of us in many different ways. We are standing before the reality we can’t escape, Saro has left us.

Unlike the stories we hear from Somalia and Bangladesh, Saro didn’t die because of man-made problems of famine, greed and war.  In fact he had all the resources one could want along with the love and devotion of very special parents and family. The villain was cancer and after fighting it for a few years, the good guy lost this battle.


Saro was a unique little boy. He always had a smile, even when he wasn’t feeling well. Until his last dying moment, that smile did not leave his face. You didn’t hear Saro complain much
either. Whether a blood transfusion or not being able to play with other little boys, you didn’t hear him complain or frown. He wasn’t too different from other little boys. He loved sports. He liked to play video games. He knew the basketball statistics like no one else. Most of all, he had a positive outlook. He hoped for a brighter tomorrow and was always filled with wonderment about things around him. Saro was a young boy with hope and expectations. His outlook was positive, always finding something good in even the worst of situations. It is
in this light that I wish to present this eulogy today. For if Saro were standing with us now, knowing him, he would want to make us feel good and would comfort us.

But how do we find something good in what happened today? Saro was seven years old. At that age, your biggest concern should be what kind of ice cream you’re going to eat, or which ride you will go on at the carnival. Instead, Saro was confronted with the nightmare of waking up with cancer, of receiving new blood, of rejections and transplants– all things which would scare anyone– but somehow Saro would comfort us all.

Saro grew up with a love for God, instilled by his father Rafi and mother Nora and grandparents. He would recite the psalms. On his last day, he recited Psalm 23: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want…”  
It is easy for us today to look, in our usual cynicism and ask, where was God when Saro needed Him? Why did the God who Saro trusted, let him down? But let us look at Saro’s life through the eyes of innocence that Saro had. 
Where was God? God was there throughout every phase of Saro’s illness. God was working
the miracle of miracles– bringing people together out of concern– in love and respect for human life! God was teaching us the most valuable lesson of our lives — the need to love
and help one another!

It is unusual — we adults think we have so much to teach the young ones, when in reality, there is so much to learn from them. One day, people brought infants to our Lord so that he would touch them and the disciples ordered the people not to. Jesus told them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God
belongs.” (Luke 18:16) And later he tells us that “the angels (of the children) continually see the face of my Father in heaven.” (Matt. 18:10)

We expected and waited for a miracle with Saro. In fact, we received it, but sometimes our senses are too dull to notice it or to accept it. Saro was an angel sent by God, who visited us
and taught us much about life. Saro’s was a short life, but a full life — where he touched and loved us. He taught us. You see, the miracle happened three years ago, when the doctors told
the family that Saro’s life was limited to a few months. Since that time we have seen strength, courage, hopefulness and faith in this young boy. He taught us what it means to believe, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” He taught us what it means, to “have faith as a little child, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” He taught us that there is no fear when you trust in the Lord because you trust in the One who said, “Courage! The victory is mine. I have overcome the world!” 
He taught us that the pure in heart are truly blessed, “for they shall see God.”
Saro’s life became the miracle we expected. God touched us through Saro!We began to believe. We began to hope. We began to pray. We began to realize that this existence is not the end of all things! We saw people crossing boundaries. It didn’t matter if it
was an evangelical church, a catholic church or an orthodox church (Armenian and non-Armenian alike) — communities came down on their knees to pray. As if God were telling us, “Enough of these denominational divisions. I am ONE! My LOVE is ONE!”

Saro was the miracle. Saro was the angel who came and touched us. And whenever we look at the stories of the Bible and see miracles of angels and bright lights — let us never forget that those are not stories which happened centuries ago, but God is working through His people today! Saro was now. And everyone of us who was touched by Saro was a part of the miracle.

Today, we have the comfort of knowing that this life has not ended for Saro, because of the unfailing words of our Lord Jesus Christ: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live!” Today, we bid farewell to Saro with the complete faith and acceptance that Saro lives today, where there is no pain, where there is no suffering, where there is no cancer, in his rightful place with his heavenly father, in the kingdom of all eternities.

In the Armenian Church funeral service we read the passage from the Gospel of St. John — “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Jesus was talking about himself, but we can easily extend this to Saro. Saro is that single seed that has died, but will produce much harvest and fruit. You, me,
everyone of us who has been touched, is now obligated to keep the miracle going. 
Today, when you remember Saro, remember all the pain in the world. Remember the children of war. Remember the children of famine. Remember the children of disease. Remember the need to put an end to illness and disease. Pray for and support the research projects that promise hope for the sick. If you gave blood for Saro, don’t stop giving because Saro is gone. If you prayed, don’t stop praying because Saro is gone. If you visited and laughed with Saro, don’t stop doing so with others in need, because Saro is gone. There are many other Saros who need and deserve our attention.

And when you help these other Saros, that “grain of wheat”– Saro — begins to blossom. It will be evident that our Little Angel, our Little Saro, lives in you through your deeds. And may God bless all of you — family, friends, acquaintances, doctors and nurses. You were all part of the miracle which can now only begin — the miracle we knew as Saro.
~Cupertino, California
June 1993
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