Chapter 18 ~ Lady in White...

Over the course if the next several weeks, I will be publishing my story, as wife, mother, sister and daughter. This is the evolution of how a little girl can change the course of her mother's story, can change the course of her heart. If your new to this blog, please begin here. 

Beautiful Lady in White...
Courtney's First Communion in the U.S., May 2000
Chapter 18 ~ Lady in White

Our last day in Lourdes proved to be the most spectacular. The sun was shining and the birds were singing. In a matter of hours my daughter would be receiving her First Communion. I still shook my head in disbelief every time I thought about what would take place today.

When everything went wrong with Courtney’s health, I held on to my anger which fueled my determination to make it all better. What I had realized in the last four days was that didn’t help anyone, especially my daughter. It was time for a new perspective on how to raise this child. She wasn’t something to fix, she was a beautiful soul to love.  She deserved every happy moment we could provide for her. She deserved to be treated with love and respect. She deserved to be seen by the world as worthy and never a mistake or a burden.

Happy girl on her way to the Basilica with Opa and Mom and Dad. 
I held her beautiful white dress in my hands as Jerry changed her diaper. I remembered back to the day of her baptism, the last time she wore a beautiful white dress. Today would end differently. There would be no hospital and God willing, no seizures. Courtney would become a bride of Christ today. She would receiver her beloved for the first time. I had let go of the possibility of her receiving the sacraments a long time ago. I never thought in a million years that this would happen. I could feel the tears well up in my eyes.

There were three dresses a Catholic mother looked forward to either making or buying for her daughter. Their baptismal gown, their First Communion dress and their Bridal gown. I knew I’d get one, never thought I’d get two. God was continuing the surprises.

Mascara would be a bad idea today.

Jerry helped me slip the dress over Court’s head. Then I fluffed and primped. Jerry lifted her to her wheelchair. She looked so sweet. So beautiful. Her blonde hair, her white dress, and her white Reebok high tops. Yep, it was a true Courtney original. Her veil was waiting for us downstairs at the front desk. They had called earlier to let us know the florist had dropped off the veil for Courtney. I could not wait to see it.

“It’s time Mar.”

It’s time...yes Lord, I accept the invitation...

We put her little pink jacket on since it was a bit chilly this morning. We headed to the elevator. Miss Courtney was smiling and so was her Daddy. As Fr. S said it was a “glorious day” indeed. I had butterflies in my stomach from the anticipation.

“Are you ready Courtney? It’s time to meet Jesus face to face my love.” I kissed her sweet cheeks and the elevator doors opened. Our chaperones for the day were waiting for us.

“There she is. Good morning Miss Courtney. Today’s a special day for you my girl.” One of the Knights of Malta we had befriended leaned down and kissed Miss Courtney. We called him “Opa” and his wife “Oma”. It’s what their grandchildren called them and they considered us family so we had the privilege of doing the same.

On our way to give Mother Mary our flowers.
Opa's strong hands help steady Courtney.
Miss Courtney loved Opa. Every time he talked to her with his deep voice she giggled. This morning was no exception.

Opa took over driving the chair. We stopped at the front desk and picked up the veil. The flowers were stunning. There was mountain laurel and beautiful white flowers that we had seen all over the countryside.

“The flowers are indigenous to this area. They have been here for hundreds of years. Bernadette would have worn something similar.” Oma said. “How lovely for Miss Courtney to have the same.”

How lovely indeed. I placed it on her head and she looked stunning. My little girl all ready to meet her Lord. Courtney did not have the same opinion. She took one swipe with her arm and the veil was flying in the air. Jerry caught it just in time.

“All right then,” he said. “Mom, why don’t you hold onto this until we get to the Basilica.”

“Good idea.” I answered.

It was a beautiful walk down to the Domain. We had brought flowers for Courtney to place in the fence around the HUGE statue of Our Lady. As we arrived by the fence, I helped Courtney place the white daisies in the fence. I told her where we were and what we were doing. She hummed right along, her smile growing larger the closer we got to the Basilica.

We finally arrived at the entrance of the underground Basilica and I took a deep breath as we entered the sanctuary. So much had happened in this place already. This would be our last Mass in Lourdes. By this time tomorrow we would be on a plane home.

They had seats reserved for us right by the altar. There would be about 3,000 people in attendance for this Mass so we were using one of the two side altars. Fr. Mike met us and hugged both of us. He kissed Miss Courtney and knelt down in front of her chair. He explained to her what would happen and how she would receive her First Communion. I had never seen a priest talk to her directly like this before. They had always looked to me for feedback.

Jerry and I supporting Courtney who is standing on her
own two feet to receive Jesus. Fr. Mike is helping the Bishop.
The "ugly cry" was on it's way.  Jerry was barely holding it together.
Courtney was quiet but her smile spoke volumes.

Many of the pilgrims came up and told her how beautiful she looked. Right before Mass began I put her veil back on her. I prayed she would keep it on through the Mass. We would see what happened.
I don’t remember much of the first part of the Mass. I just remember how chatty Courtney was. I kept leaning over and shooshing her. Fr. Mike continued to smile down form the altar. Bishop Curlin delivered the homily on being patient and waiting on God to speak in our hearts. He had already placed so many gems there while we were here in this holy place. We just needed to patiently endure until God’s miracles were revealed.

I watched with awe as the Bishop once more lifted Our Lord above all saying “This is my Body given up for you.” I leaned over to Courtney and whispered “He’s here Court. Jesus is here for you.”

She smiled like she understood exactly what I was saying.

Finally it was time for her to receive. Jerry and I decided to see if she would stand to receive. We lifted her out of her chair and she did it. She stood leaning against my leg!  I looked at Jerry and there were already tears in his eyes.

Focus Mary. Focus on your daughter. Watch...

The Bishop gives Courtney First Communion
Lourdes, France  May 2000
Bishop Curlin approached and raised the Eucharist in front of Courtney. I had my hand underneath her chin to help stabilize her head.

“Courtney, this is the Body of Christ,” Bishop Curlin said offering Courtney Our Lord.

My daughter opened her mouth, on her own, and said “Ahhhhmmmmm” as loudly as she could. Then she closed her mouth on her own.

I would not have believed it unless I had seen and heard it with my own eyes. 

At this point the Bishop leaned down to kiss the top of her head and he blessed her.  Standing next to him, Fr. Mike was beaming. Everything was blurred through my tears. Courtney had done it, on her own.

Bishop Curlin gives Courtney a kiss and blesses her. 
Jerry and I both received Communion and then we lifted her back to her chair. She sighed deeply, put her head down and was very quiet. She had been jabbering all morning long and now she was as quiet as a church mouse.

Jerry was quietly weeping next to me. The last time I had seen such emotion from him was that night in the hospital when she was three and I told him what had happened with my Dad. That night he had held her in the rocking chair and wept telling her how much he loved her. Just then, he bent over and whispered his words of love to her again.

This was my undoing.

I cry two different ways. One where my eyes just seem to have sprung a leak, tears flowing down my cheeks. The other is the ugly cry. You know the one. There is heaving, shoulder shaking, and snot running down the face. I tried so hard to stop it but that was not to be.

Oh was not all...
I put my arm around Courtney and I let it all go. I didn’t wail which was good, but I know for sure it was not pretty.

Miss Courtney laid her head on my shoulder and we just sat there for a moment or two. Me crying, her silent. Jerry wouldn’t even look at us. After everyone had received one of the pilgrims got up and approached the microphone.

She was a young mother and she was holding her daughter who was about two. The little girls head was bald. She had been undergoing chemo before traveling with her Mom to Lourdes. She was sound asleep on her Moms shoulder.

I will never forget the next five minutes as long as I live.

She bowed her head and then took a deep breath. She raised her head and the most beautiful sound came out. She sang Schubert's “Ave Maria”. She sounded like an Opera star. Her eyes closed and her daughter never stirring in her arms as she sang with all she had.

You could not take your eyes off her. 

She had come to Lourdes as I had, pleading for her daughter to be healed. She had trusted in his plan and was now heading back to the west coast with hope which is more than she had arrived with. She sang with her heart open and wide. It sent chills down my spine it was so stunningly beautiful to hear this prayer of praise for Our Lady.

Courtney did not move the entire time. Absolutely amazing given the fact that any time there was singing in church, she liked to join in. She knew that this time was different and very special. This time it was a prayer to Our Lady, the one who had petitioned her Son on her behalf. The one that loved every soul in this room like they were her very own children.

You could feel the love in this space.

God was present, and Our Lady was standing with Him.

Big things were on there way.

I knew in that moment this was just the beginning.

***If you would like to read here...thank you***

Copyright 2011 ~ Mary E. Lenaburg

Labels: , ,