August 8, 2009
Posted: 1743 GMT

Atlanta2009 050

On assignment in Syria in the autumn of 2005, I found myself in Aleppo, my family’s ancestral hometown. I took the opportunity to visit my then 91 year-old grandmother, Nana Berine, my mother’s mother and my only surviving grandparent.

She’d been a petite , thin person her whole life. Since my grandfather’s death ten years earlier, she rarely left the house and had become even frailer, a whisper of a woman. Family members and her children – three daughters and a son including my mother – visited her regularly; my uncle daily.

In Middle Eastern households, the elderly traditionally stay home until the end. And so Nana Berine, still healthy enough to shuffle around the house, read the newspaper daily, watched Turkish television, and was tended to and cared for by a great number of family members.

That evening in 2005, exhausted with work and travel, I fell asleep on Nana’s couch. When I woke up a few hours later, Nana Berine had covered me with a blanket and wedged a pillow under my head.

“It’s good to sleep,” she said, in her nightgown, sitting in her usual living room chair. “It means you need it.”

Berine Gorani was born April 30, 1914. Throughout her life, first as wife to my grandfather Assad, then as mother to her children, then as grandmother to my twelve cousins and me, she always gave of herself with joy and love.

When my grandfather, a lawyer and author of Syria’s civil code, served as minister in various cabinets during his country’s brief experiment with parliamentary democracy, she remained as unaffected as ever. She dressed elegantly but simply and never lost touch with what really matters: the love for her family and the truth that, in the end, nothing matters much more than that.

As a little girl visiting Syria, I was often a difficult and unfriendly child. Nana Berine would sit on the living room floor, trying with toys and stories to bring me out of my taciturn shell. Ultimately, not even I was stubborn enough to resist her charms.

On the last day of every grandchild’s visits, she would give each of us a cardboard gift box, containing a few treats and little toys. Those boxes were treasures to me then and, in my memory, still are.

As an adult when I visited, Nana would hunt in her closet or jewelry box for something to give me. Having been the youngest of her grandchildren for a long time, there wasn’t much left for me to choose from.

“I’m sorry I haven’t got anything nicer. If I did, it would be yours,” I remember her saying while handing me a stone ring.

Anything that came from her was a gift, and everything of hers I will cherish for all of my life.

I have a black and white picture of Berine Gorani and my grandfather Assad, sitting at an outdoor restaurant terrace, dated 1958. Nana is wearing a white dress and four rows of pearls, leaning forward into the camera, smiling a tight-lipped smile, with a playful spark in her eye.

That was the Syria of long ago, when the scintillating possibility for a better future gave my grandparents’ generation some hope.

There was the hope for political stability and freedom, the hope of opening their country to the outside world, of rewarding its youth with work and opportunity. Before young Syrians, including a vast majority of my mother’s generation and their children, were forced to leave the region to study and work. Today, my family is peppered on four continents.

Berine Gorani’s generation is gone now. She was its last survivor. My Nana died on August 1, 2009. On that day, for me, a part of Syria died too.

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Paulie   August 8th, 2009 7:16 pm ET

I'm sorry for your lost, Ms. Gorani. Lovely piece and a wonderful way to honour her life.

Ayagasa Paul Gadzama.   August 8th, 2009 7:29 pm ET

Hala, U are doing a most wonderful job by keeping us informed thru a very special way. I particularly appreciate the way U present. U are the greatest amongst the mighty ones. Keep up the good work!

Gadzama Paul, Nigeria.

Thot   August 9th, 2009 1:12 am ET

I’m sorry for your loss and thanks for sharing with us your memories of your Nana. The description you made of you granny, remind me of mine so much, in so many ways.
Every time I visited my granny she had to give me something even if it was just candied orange peels (love them) that she had made herself. Gladly I still have my granny though in fragile health.

PS: It’s good to have you back.

Fawad   August 9th, 2009 5:18 am ET

Sorry for your loss.

With all the noble and good qualities of your grandmother you have told us, no doubt she is off for a better place.

Hope seems like the only weapon people have in Syria, and also in other Arab and Muslim countries.

Thanks for sharing and it’s great you're back

vic benedicto   August 9th, 2009 6:50 am ET

You're very lucky to have had a nice Nana.
wonderful gifts.
and memories of your granny.
Peace & Love.........

Cedu   August 9th, 2009 6:03 pm ET


I just came back from a medical trip and a little wondering if you were on holidays when I turn on my TV and saw Aicha presenting I-Desk (a program that stands out along with GPS and Quest means business).
I could not imagine that you've lost your grand'ma and I feel really sorry for that. All my condolences for such an event.

I deeply sensed the feelings exuding from your post, and I like the way you share such a painful loss.
Syria has a great share in history, and I have no doubt that it will last, despite all political figures.

Take care

Bruggen Marc   August 9th, 2009 6:09 pm ET

Sorry for your loss.
A nice piece,over the memories about your grandmother.

Bye bye from Belgium.

Misha   August 9th, 2009 8:16 pm ET

I’m sorry for your loss...
your Nana have seen the golden years of syria... good for her...

claudia kamuh   August 10th, 2009 12:39 am ET

hala, my very deep condolonces. it was very touching. my four granparent were syrians y parents, too. i'm from argentine, and have the same feelings.

Raed   August 10th, 2009 4:14 am ET


I’m very sorry for your loss. I know what it means to lose a grandmother, especially a Syrian one. I lost both of them at a younger age and all I remember about them now is very faded images. May God bless your Nana and reward her with heaven. Keep Syria in your heart; it needs you.

yazmin   August 10th, 2009 9:24 am ET

hello hala,

I feel very sorry for you. I´ve lost my granny three years ago as she lost the battle against cancer. I was having a really bad time since I grew up at my granny´s house as my parents had to go to work both.

take care

Sayan Majumdar   August 10th, 2009 2:19 pm ET

Hala, I am just back from an outstation obligation and saddened to hear your personal loss. My deepest condolences to you and your family.

All I can tell you ladies of your Nana’s generation are irreplaceable especially in terms of their sense of affection and humanity. May her soul rest in peace.

Do take care of yourself in emotional level.


jotl   August 10th, 2009 2:49 pm ET

Great writing! Keep up the good work, Your Network's delivery of daily news is wonderfully refreshing.

Thanks John

Kim Cunningham   August 10th, 2009 5:13 pm ET

Dear Hala,

I'm sorry for your loss and therefore my condolences. You are lucky that you have seen her not too long ago. That's the way it happened with my grandmother too i hadn't seen her in years and after i did see her she became sick and about 2 years later she died.

Please take it easy and I'm very glad to have you back on the I-desk.


Julie   August 10th, 2009 8:06 pm ET

I'm sorry for your loss. My condolences. I lost my grandma recentely as well and still hurts badly. I could relate to your text in so many ways, thanks for that.

Ursula de Freitas   August 11th, 2009 12:55 pm ET

Hello Hala,
What a beautiful commentary about your Grandmother.Please accept my sincerest sympathy. I have missed you on the IDESK and await your return,

Vicki S. Nikolaidis   August 11th, 2009 6:18 pm ET

Dear Hala,
You have written such a beautiful memorial to your Grandmother I can't imagine she could have wished for anything more touching. Thank you for sharing your memories of your Nana with us.
I look forward to the day when again Syria will be a parliamentarian democracy. Even now Syria holds lovely secrets one can only enjoy as a particularly lucky tourist or as a Syrian much-loved granddaughter!
Love, Vicki

Dennis Junior   August 12th, 2009 5:19 pm ET

My condolences to Hala Gorani regarding the passing of her "NANA"....

=Dennis Junior=

Mazen A - SF, USA   August 14th, 2009 6:17 pm ET

Sorry for your loss Hala ... After reading the nice piece you wrote about your Nana, I know what the phrase "She is survived by" mean. I am sure that your Nana will always be with you. May God rest her soul

Marcus Cole   August 19th, 2009 8:30 am ET

I would like to think that the great service you provide to the world is in part due to your grandmother's nurturing influence, and accordingly, your loss is shared by all of us. This is a beautiful tribute.

Werner A. Wittmann   November 27th, 2009 8:51 pm ET

.."smiling a tight-lipped smile,with a playful spark in her eye", see, you got the best from you grandma and Syria, forever. That`s make you so lovely. Best regards from the other space, W.

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