Yolla Ghandour, a Syrian-Armenian Catholic and mother of three, lives in Aleppo, Syria, which saw some of the worst fighting of the Syrian civil war. She talked to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) about the death of her 19-year-old son, Krikor, who died in the fighting.
“There were five of us: my husband, my two sons and daughter, and myself. Our financial circumstances worsened as a result of the war. My husband and Krikor lost their jobs because the area where they worked was dangerous; it was shelled by militants. To cover necessities, we relied on our savings. It was a difficult time.
“A week before he died [on April 16, 2014], Krikor came home to visit us because an uncle had passed away. While getting ready to leave again, he turned to his father and said, ‘I am going back to death.’
“On the day he died, we spoke on the phone, and after the call ended I had a strong feeling, like a premonition. I prayed to the Virgin Mary: ‘Please don’t test me. You tasted from this cup; please don’t let me experience the same pain.’
“That night I received another call. They told me that Krikor was wounded, and that he’d been taken to a hospital. I rushed to his side, praying to St. Sharbel: ‘I have given you my son. I do not want to find him dead.’ But, inside, I was nearly sure that he had died.
“After his death, I struggled with St. Sharbel: ‘I don’t love you anymore. I begged you to keep my son alive, and you didn’t.’ Then, about 10 minutes later, I looked at the saint’s face in a painting we own and said to him: ‘I can’t keep myself from loving you. But promise me that you will be with my son.’
“As Christians, we believe in the resurrection, and after a few months of reflection on life in the kingdom of God, I learned that the dead see, hear, and feel us. And I found that I could be proud of my son, above all else.
“When we face life’s storms, we must stand like a strong tree, roots fixed deeply in the ground. Our roots must be planted in God; we must weather change and grief with trust in His love.”
From 2011, when the Syrian civil war began, through 2018, Aid to the Church in Need has supported the pastoral and humanitarian mission of the various Churches in Syria with projects totaling more than $36 million.