Monday, September 27, 2010

Back from Paris and Lourdes!

Thank you for hanging in there with me. I get concerned that this road is long and boring for you, and a bit self-conscious about all these e-mails, but really appreciate both your support and your presence in my life. Thank you.

My last chemo session went well, but the new blip on the scene was that something was literally growing out of my stomach. It is where I was opened from the surgery, and it looked like colon and was freaking me out. Some things are just meant to stay inside your body and remain unseen! Plus, we planned to leave for France in a few days (more on that later) and I was worried this could change those plans.

While all this was going on, Tiron got diverticulitus and had already scheduled an appointment to see my colorectal surgeon for that. So I muscled in on his appointment. We both saw her at the same time and got the two for one rate (two charges for one appointment). He got antibiotics, I got that thing burned off (yikes, but glad to have it taken care of), and we were good to go.

For the better part of the past year, I’ve been drawn to go to Lourdes. I’m not a Francophile, I am not a frequent traveler, and frankly, I’ve never felt a need to go to a religious site. So this was a surprising calling.

First the dog, which I never thought I would want but love, and now this.

The question was, how to get there. Between chemo, the kids’ schedules and needs, my funky diet, and the emotional hurdle of leaving the kids for the first time and going that far away, it just didn’t seem to be do-able. Still, I was drawn.

Have you heard the story of the woman in the flood? It goes something like this:

A flood was coming and the police drove by a woman standing on her porch.
“We are evacuating the town. Get in our car and we’ll drive you out,” they said to her.
“I’ll wait here and God will come for me,” she replied.

As the flood waters rose, a rowboat went by. The rowers said to her, “Everyone is evacuating. Get in our rowboat and we’ll keep you safe.”
“I’ll wait here and God will come for me,” she replied.

The flood waters rose higher and she sat on her roof. A helicopter flew over and the pilot said, “The town has evacuated. Get in the helicopter and we’ll get you out of here.”
“I’ll wait here and God will come for me,” she replied.

After she died in the flood, she asked God, “Why didn’t you come for me?”
To which He replied, “I sent a car, a boat and a helicopter. Why didn’t you take them?”

One of my favorite things is when God works through people, and I feel like that is what happened here. Our dear friends invited us to their apartment in Paris. Coincidentally, it was during a week that worked well for us, both kid- and chemo-wise, and we decided to go! There was no way we could have done it without them (and my parents to watch the kids), and I truly feel like God was working through Julie. Thank goodness she let him!

So, after the chemo and surgery appointments, we flew to Paris. It was my first time there. Paris is wonderful, of course. We did all the things I love to do: visit with friends, wander the streets of a beautiful, vibrant city, shop for food and cook. Well, I didn’t cook, since I eat mostly raw, but we ate our meals at the apartment in order to accommodate four different diets. So I was able to mostly stick to my diet. The baguettes and cheese are impossible to resist!

Then Tiron and I headed to Lourdes.

For you non-Catholics, Lourdes is a pilgrimage site. Think, Mecca. I never in my life thought I would be doing a pilgrimage, but then, life is full of surprises, especially these days.

I met some wonderful people. Father Brian (pronounced Bree-un) and Father Patrick, both from Ireland, shared jokes and stories with soul. Anne and Claire from Scotland were like two angels who appeared out of nowhere and guided me on my journey. Plus, they told me they thought I was in my 30’s – loved that! Or maybe I just didn’t understand their Scottish accent…Little Monica (age 5 ½ -- she insists on the “1/2”) from Rochester was so joyful and fun, skipping as we retraced the difficult steps of life of St. Bernadette.

The place itself is incredibly large. There were over 25,000 people there and it didn’t feel crowded. In two days, I only saw a portion of it. There were two cathedrals and numerous chapels, the Grotto area, the baths, a bookstore, museum, information booth, and much more. Except for the bookstore items and candles, everything was free.

I have no idea how this place operates and pays to keep the lights on. It was clean without constant street sweepers, had no graffiti, and, despite being so welcoming and open 24/7, had no homeless people sleeping on the benches or police patrolling the streets.

It felt calm and peaceful, interesting and reverent. And, like many places that touch the soul, difficult to describe.

People go to Lourdes for miracles. I’m not sure whether I got a miracle, but I don’t feel like I was there looking for one (though, I would not turn away a healing miracle, in case anyone is listening!). I just felt like I had to be there. Anne and Claire from Scotland said that it appears I was “invited by Our Lady” and that felt right – that I was invited there and just had to go. The pull was so strong. The reason may not be clear to me, but that is okay. I did what I had to do, and I hope I did it well.

It is clear to me that I couldn’t have done it alone. I appreciate your prayers and good wishes, which give me energy and keep me going. I appreciate all that you did to take care of the kids (those of you who are local) – thank you for that. They had a great week and felt loved and secure.

Thank you for all that you continue to do for all of us, and thank you for sharing all this with me. One of the Stations of the Cross depicts Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus carry the cross, and making me think of the ways that others help us carry our burdens. You truly do that. This path would be entirely different and way more difficult without you. You make a difference in our lives.

Chemo on Tuesday….

Love, Marie

P.S. If you are interested in the stories from my experiences at Lourdes, I will be posting them on
or let me know if you prefer an email.

To keep them readable, I wrote a different post for each event. They aren’t all there as I write this, but I expect to have them up soon.

If you want to read only one story, I would recommend the one on the baths:

1 comment:

ruth pennebaker said...

How fascinating. I was just telling someone about my husband's and my trip to Lourdes a few years ago -- and how moving it was. We're not believers ourselves, but the faith and hope there were palpable. So glad you got to go there, Marie.