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  • Reverend James Squire

A Service in Celebration of the Life of Dr. Mona Mahboubi

This blog and Facebook post is for Mona’s friends, and her EA and Princeton classmates who shared her journey, and her colleagues at Georgetown Medical Center who weren’t able to be present or watch the zoom video yesterday. I was pleased to see familiar faces from EA and to greet the classmates of Mona and Neysun from Princeton who were present. Dr. Kevin Fox was present from Penn who was Mona’s doctor and was also my wife’s doctor. The ballroom at the Inn was full.

The Mahboubi family followed the Bahai faith. It was founded in the 19th century that teaches the essential worth of all religions and the unity of all people.

Four people spoke including Neysun. I was struck by something that Dr. Eric Stern, an Assistant Professor of Infectious Disease at Georgetown, said when he reflected the following: “Mona loved the outdoors. They were a metaphor for her life. Hence, she would walk three or four miles between her residence and the hospital.” Dr. Stern then said in his comments, “When I was with Mona, I would ask myself, Could I ever hope to be that kind?”

No matter what faith perspective that we have is that not the question that we all should be asking? But take note. It is a question that is raised when we meet that kindness in another? It doesn’t fall from the sky. Regardless of our faith tradition, our journey in life with the people we meet should cause that question to be raised by those we encounter or that others ask in encounters with us. In my tradition, there is that song, “They should know we are Christians by our love…” Do they? Mona was that vehicle and vessel for her faith to have others including me to ponder that question with the same kind of hope.

Below are my words representing the Episcopal Academy.

Address On the Occasion of a Memorial Service for Dr. Mona Mahboubi at the Inn at Villanova on February 26.

Mona is an Episcopal Academy graduate who is defined by the word “frontier.” We think of frontiers as on the edge of a settled part of a country or, in Mona’s case, it also means to seek the outer limits of knowledge and achievement.

It stands to reason that she chose a quotation of Louis L. Amour, an American novelist of western frontier stories, for her Episcopal Academy Senior Yearbook page. Her chosen quotation from him reads, “the trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast and you miss all you are traveling for.”…”and you miss all that you are traveling for.”

One of Mona’s chosen frontiers pushed beyond the ordinary to excellence in all that she did at our school. When I saw her making her way down a hallway, she always had her books embraced as precious cargo in front of her symbolizing the reverence she paid to learning, always leaning forward, always with a gentle smile, and always with a “hello.” I can still hear her voice. We expected great things of Mona and she lived out those expectations with a self-fulfilling prophecy that she would make her good, better, and her better the best that it could be.

Ben Read, class of ’44 at EA, was a highly regarded state department official, whose classmates sponsored the Ben Read Scholarship and Lecture. Mona won the award and traveled to Gambia West Africa to participate in health-related service projects there. Then her global interests in medicine took her to New Zealand, and multiple times to the Himalayas to rural clinics. “Mona didn’t miss all that she was traveling for.” Her vision was local and it was global.

At Princeton for her Senior Thesis, she chose another frontier of Gender Inequality Within the HIV Aids Community. I also read about her work in her research to see the anti- inflammatory characteristics of the dandelion. Who would think of such a thing? Mona would!

On her various trails, she carried herself with such grace and dignity, something that we saw as a signature trait while she was at EA. I attribute that to her living out our school motto, Esse Quam Videri, “to be and not to seem to be.” She took her authenticity on all her trails to new frontiers whatever and wherever they happened to be.

We cannot forget her kindness, respect for all, and firm gentleness based on her faith and on the influence of her family. Who could not feel proud to be a human being learning from the way the Mahboubis live their lives. She carried that with her always in all ways. She mirrored her faith and the gifts of gratitude bestowed upon her by Saroosh, Soheila, and Neysun.

Mona’s passion was global health. I asked Neysun if Mona knew of the work of Dr. Paul Farmer, Co-Founder of Partners in Health, a great global health physician who battled disease in third world countries, most notably in the hinterlands of Haiti where EA has relationship with a school there. He died just one year ago almost to the day of Mona’s death. He was just 62! Neysun said that she had regarded him with high esteem. If that is the case it is because he spent his life on the frontiers where some others would not go. I believe that Mona must have been a kindred spirit and a believer in his words defining another frontier when Farmer said, “The idea that some lives matter less than others is the root of all that is wrong with this world.” “Mona has not missed all that she was traveling for!”

I believe that Mona was well equipped to battle a frontier that she didn’t choose, her battle against cancer that attempted to define her but could not. She learned of her disease sitting in the backyard of her home when she and her family were celebrating her completion of her residency.

I close with words of Louis L. Amour that would describe Mona’s new frontier as a bookend between her EA Yearbook quotation, her hyphen if you will, when her life here on earth ended. Amour wrote, “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.” Mona has embarked on another frontier. She will be comfortable there for she has spent her life on the trail seeking the outer limits of knowledge and achievement and caring for those who needed her healing skills. She started that trail at the Episcopal Academy and ended it at Georgetown Pediatrics before moving on to the higher calling of her faith.

But she has left a legacy for all of us…for her family, friends, colleagues, and her students because she will continue to lead us down a trail, a path, if you will, with that question that lies before us, each and every one of us, “Does this trail, does this path that we are all on have heart?” Mona answered it in the affirmative.

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