By Weam Namou
On the second-year anniversary of the Grieving Through Hope and Faith support group, John and Ann Mansour gave their testimony about their beloved children Alexander and Gabrielle who lost their lives in a boating accident nearly five years ago. They formed this group in conjunction with the Chaldean Sisters and others to help those who lost a loved one. The testimony was at the Chaldean Sisters Convent in Farmington Hills on Friday, April 13.
After Sister Christine opened with a prayer, John, tightly holding a large cross in his hand, asked the audience of about a hundred, “Do you choose to carry the Cross? If so, how do you choose to carry the Cross?”
Through pictures and video, the couple then shared the wonderful life their family once had; weekly dinner outings, yearly family vacations, stays at their summer cottage, and Friday movie nights where they all laid on an air mattress and ate popcorn.
Their story started when John met Ann in 1999 at a travel agency where she worked. A year later, they got married and started a family. Their first born, Alexander, was a shy and quiet child who didn’t want to leave mom and dad’s side to go to school. He loved baseball, fishing, cars, and the Pistons. He also loved babies, which John says, “I wish I would’ve witnessed him have his own.” The year he passed away Alexander would’ve attended middle school but instead, his father said, “He graduated to heaven, leaving our hearts heavy and empty.”
Adriana was born a year-and-a-half later. She was a blue-eyed baby with blond highlights in her hair. When she was brought home from the hospital, her brother assumed she was a toy. Close in age, the siblings did everything together. Adriana looked up to her big brother and always shared whatever she had with him, even if it meant splitting her only cookie in half to give to him. She loved coloring and drawing and never complained even when she broke a leg and had to walk in a cast.
Four years later, Gabrielle was born.
“She was our sunshine and made our family complete,” said Ann. “My older kids helped me with her. She loved watching them play and couldn’t wait to go to school.”
On her first day of class, Gabrielle gave her mother a big hug and said, “You can leave now.”
Gabrielle wanted to be a teacher and would set up dolls on her bed and pretend they were her students. She was a girly girl. The last Halloween costume she wore was Princess Jasmine.
“She always gave me the biggest hugs and kisses and wouldn’t let go until I told her to go to bed,” said Ann, choking up. “It’s like she knew she had to give me enough kisses to last a lifetime.”
Throughout the testimony, tears filled the eyes of attendees as they watched pictures and home videos of the children: of Alexander’s weekly Thursday morning ritual, as a toddler, of looking out the window in anticipation for the garbage truck to come; Adriana, at a year-and-a-half, reciting her ABCs out of order; Gabrielle happily declaring, in their last Christmas together, “This is the best Christmas ever!”
“We had a life full of milestones, milestones cut short,” John said. “Our dreams became nightmares and a different plan was presented to our family.”
It was a beautiful summer day on July 14, 2013. The Mansour family, who live in West Bloomfield Township, were spending time at their summer cottage at Sylvan Lake. Their children wanted to go tubing so their father took them on the lake, and around 12:15 pm, a boating accident occurred. Alexander, 11 years old, was pronounced dead at the hospital and Gabrielle, 6, was considered brain dead the following day. Their daughter Adriana, 10, was in critical condition, with doctors unsure if she would survive.
“Within the span of a second, I lost a son and the next day I lost a daughter,” John said.
The Gift of Life approached John and Ann about donating Gabrielle’s organs. The parents angrily said no but then they looked at each other and knew that wasn’t the right answer. Gabby would’ve wanted to remain alive through saving others. Her kidneys, heart, pancreas and liver saved four lives whose ages range from 5 to 76 years old. A sixteen-year-old who received her left kidney has sent them two letters expressing his gratitude.
Adriana began to recover and left the hospital after three and a half months. Ann thought, “How can I go back to that house that was once lively with wonderful memories?” She knew she had to set aside her feelings and focus on her daughter’s recovery, and that’s what she did. Adriana continued to heal and her personality transformed. She suddenly adopted her brother’s love for sports and her sister’s outgoing character. A freshman at West Bloomfield High School, she recently attended the homecoming dance. Although she doesn’t remember the tragic accident, she has a vivid recollection of her childhood and her siblings.
Since the accident, John and Ann say they have experienced and continue to feel resurrection. They do so by everyday carrying the five key pillars of life: 1) Believe 2) Trust 3) Humility 4) Hope 5) Faith.
“The only way to survive is through faith,” said John, and Ann added, “If not, then you’re allowing the devil to win.”
The family set up the Alexander and Gabrielle Mansour Memorial Fund in memory of their children to support the Chaldean Seminarians with their tuition and housing through a yearly event at the zoo called Stride for Seminarians (the next one is Sept 23, 2018); and to support the West Bloomfield School District. The gymnasium at Scotch Elementary was renamed Mansour Court by the Detroit Pistons.
Alexander and Gabrielle’s rooms are still intact, everything left as they left it. Their spirits often visit their parents through various signs and their memories are kept alive by the family reflecting on the good times.
For more information about the Grieving Through Hope and Faith support group, contact John Mansour at 248-425-3993. Ann’s story, pg 24