Closer Than I Knew

I was studying abroad and more homesick than ever. Then an inexplicable coincidence proved I wasn't so alone...  

By Natalie Garibian, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

As appeared in

I was a college junior on my year abroad in Paris. It should have been wonderful. It wasn't. Everything was so different: the clothes, the food, the language. I longed for something, anything, familiar. My tight-knit Armenian family was in Florida, thousands of miles away.

One Sunday I called to say hi. Their voices on the telephone were the first familiar sounds I'd heard in weeks. I cried after I hung up. I'd never felt so homesick before. If only I were close to someone here, I thought.

I took a walk across town. I'd passed the Armenian church in Paris many times before, but had never gone in. I realized that back in America, my family would be going to church too. Maybe being there now would make me feel closer to them.

I took a seat in the back pew just as the service started. I looked around. The priest, the prayers, the faces in the congregation—this church was a lot like my family's church in Florida. For now, these people will be my family. Please, God, let me feel that.

I looked up and saw an old woman coming slowly up the aisle, leaning heavily on a cane. I asked her in Armenian if she wanted to sit. She nodded and I slid over.

The old woman bowed her head, losing herself in prayer. I tried to pay attention to the service, but I couldn't keep my eyes off her. There was something familiar in her face; she could have been my own grandmother. But I didn't know this woman. She noticed me staring and smiled.   

"You're not from here, are you?" she whispered.

"No," I said. "I come from the United States."

She nodded. After a moment, she said, "I've lost touch with them, but I used to have some nephews in America—in Florida. Sarkis, Dikran and . . . "

A lump rose in my throat. I knew exactly what she was going to say.

"Ara," I finished. "Ara Garibian. My father."

The old woman took my hand. "Asdudzo kordz," she whispered—God's work. "I am your great-aunt. We are family." 

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Your Comments (11)

This is a great story! Another example of God's love and compassion for us.

Every thing is in our perfect GOD timing,our father is so very awesome where would we be without him ?

Absolutely just proves what an AWESOME GOD we serve. HE will never leave us or forsake us. And never leave us lonely.

Wow...beautiful story, brought tears to my eyes. Reading stories like this I ask can there possibly be anyone in this world that doesn't believe in God??

Thank you for such a heartwarming story. It is very true that God Does Act in Mysterious ways all the time. We just have to have our spiritual eyes and ears open to hear and see them.

Thanks for posting this. Very inspiring indeed. And quoting my daughter when she was only four when I told her "God is good", she corrected me and said, "God is very good". Stories like this also reminds me not to lose hope and that everything has a reason.

Awesomely inspiring! God is Good :) 1/11/2012

Would love to hear "the rest of the story"! God puts us in the right place at the right time! Always His timing.

What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing!

How inspiring! And just think; if she hadn't gone to Paris, her family might never have gotten in touch with her great-aunt again. She was there for just such a time...

Amazing... I have chills - and a huge smile on my face. Isn't God wonderful?!!! These are the stories that bolster my faith. Thank you and bless you. And, I'm so happy for Natalie, the writer.