OUR LADY CALLS HIS HEART
Three years ago, my husband, Gilly, began showing the first signs of dementia. It took another year to get a diagnosis, Lewy Body Dementia. This disease moves quickly, first attacking basic motor and directional skills. Gilly had been a key grip in the Louisiana movie industry for over 25 years, but within months of the diagnosis, he not only had to give up his occupation but also, independent functions. What could I offer my husband when confronted with such a deterioration of his identity as a man? My response: His dignity and purpose as a son of God.
Part of this journey has been to pray the Rosary prayed from Lourdes every Saturday and Sunday morning on EWTN. Here, Gilly developed a connection to Lourdes and as he prayed, Our Lady reached into his heart and left him with a yearning to go to the Grotto. However, in January we received the sad news from my husband’s neurologist that he could no longer fly due to the way his dementia was developing.
Now, Gilly felt like he could still manage flying. My thought was to try and find a group of sick people traveling to Lourdes and fly with them. I figured if there was an incident, he would just “blend in” with the sick. But God is not to be outdone and Our Lady had a better plan for my husband. In February, I ran across a friend, and hearing our situation, she recommended I contact Our Lady of Lourdes Hospitality North American Volunteers. This extraordinary group offers a Special Needs Pilgrimage to help the sick of North America travel to Lourdes France. The sick are accompanied by priests, doctors, nurses, and volunteers. Quickly our pilgrimage came together, the doctor gave his approval for my husband to travel, and in June, we went on the most beautiful and extraordinary pilgrimage to Our Lady at Lourdes.
Given my husband’s dementia, Gilly had no real expectations from Lourdes…perhaps a healing. He just felt drawn to go there. For me, my prayers were different. A healing would be wonderful, but at the same time I know that God chooses special people to share in His suffering. And my husband is so special! My prayer was for my husband’s relationship with Our Lady to deepen so that when the darkness envelopes him beyond my reach, that the light and love of Our Lady will bring him peace and comfort. And as we are on this journey together, with challenging days ahead, I pray for Our Lady to stay close to me and guide me.
Our pilgrimage was filled with so many blessings! The most surprising was our fellow pilgrims-the sick and their caretaker family members, the nurses, doctors, priests, and volunteers. There is no way to express the connection, the joy, the love we shared. We all journeyed together. We shared together. We prayed together. And strangers became a family with mutual understanding, mutual faith, mutual love. Since coming home, we’ve started to reach out to each other. An unforeseen gift from Our Lady!
It has been hard returning and adjusting to everyday life. Naturally, we miss Lourdes. It’s a place where heaven touched earth through our Mother Mary-and she is still there! Yes, we miss the care of our nurses and doctors and volunteers. But even more so, we miss the friendships. We miss our new family. We are so very grateful for Our Lady calling and bringing us to Lourdes! And when we encounter an especially challenging day, we stop and close our eyes and go back to Our Lady at the Grotto. She is always there for us. She is always here for us. Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!”