Our daughter died in my arms as we lay together in the emergency room bed. In my grief, while holding her lifeless body, I was taken back to the baths at Lourdes, where we had visited just over a month before.
My brothers and sisters, friends, and even strangers had paid for us to travel to the shrine at Lourdes, France to seek a miracle for our daughter and our son, both of whom had Leigh’s Disease, a mitochondrial disorder. My husband was so confident that Our Lady was going to do this for us; that she was going to make our children well and show the world that miracle still happen. I believe in miracles but I had my doubts about a miracle for our children.
Journey to Lourdes
We arrived in Lourdes on our daughter’s 6th birthday. We had traveled to Lourdes with the Lourdes Volunteers, a wonderful organization that takes families like ours to Lourdes for healing. We were staying at the hospital at the shrine, just a stone’s throw from the Grotto itself. It was quiet then; it was Holy Thursday and the pilgrimage season hadn’t begun yet.
On Good Friday we went to the baths. It was a cold, rainy day. I had seen a photo of the baths before I went and I was disappointed in what I saw. I had a grander image of them — more like a hot tub that you could step down into. Instead, they are narrow stone baths that don’t look like they can fit much at all.
When you go in through the doors of the bathhouse, there is a hallway where you find the doors to the individual baths. They are separated into a men’s area and a women’s area. Our smaller children, including our son and daughter went with me. The baths are staffed by volunteers from around the world. Some speak English, many do not. The women volunteers were wonderful and helped me and the children disrobe and ever so discreetly wrap sheets around our bodies.
I first helped our 8 years old son into the bath. The water was so cold, coming from the spring that sprung when St. Bernadette dug into the mud so many years ago. He stepped over the edge of the tub and bravely sat down in the frigid water. The kind women poured some of the water over our son’s head (pilgrims are not allowed to submerge their heads.) I helped him kiss the statue of Our Lady at the end of the tub (part of the tradition) and quickly helped him out. It was all so fast.
I looked at our son’s feet for the miracle. His feet lack muscle due to his condition and his toes turn out in a way that is not uncomfortable for him but unusual for the average person. His feet looked the same. My heart broke then and there. I dressed him, feeling sorry that I brought him so far for no cure.
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