Crew: Len B, Susan H, Kathleen W, Fr. Fisher
- 0700: Breakfast
- 0900: The Baths
- 1200: Lunch
- 1345: Orientation of Lourdes and team photo
- 1530: Mass @ St. Bernadette’s
- 1630: Awarding of Malade medals
- 1830: dinner
- 1945: assemble and line up for 2100 Rosary procession
I have to do a multi-parter here, and I’ve decided to hit you all with the hardest part first. Partially because I need to get it on paper to get out of my head, partially because you probably don’t want another “and then we went…” This isn’t easy to write or read, so buckle up, buttercup.
The baths. The baths….. one of the most beautiful aspects of Lourdes. Our Lady said to wash and drink, and the baths are kind of the representation of that. They are a little ways past the grotto, and separated men and women.
The baths are attended by volunteers from around the world, speaking many languages, there to gently assist malades from all over the world. They are truly Mary’s helpers here on earth and I can’t write this without getting a little teary at my memory. Inside the bath hallway area that one enters are separate individual baths, with a temporary wall between each waiting area. For men, there are 6 chairs in the waiting area, which is curtained off from the hallway and curtained off from the bath. There is 1 attendant in the waiting area, then another 3 behind the curtain in the baths area. In the waiting area, men strip to the ol’ underoos and wait on chairs, then are fully dis-robed when going into the baths (behind the curtain) save a loincloth towel thing.
I had looked forward to the baths, I wanted to dunk in the healing waters. But I was also nervous because my hope for a cure lies in the water and the will of God. I had it in my head how it was going to go, and I would be healed because “I deserve it!”
Well, the Good Lord had other plans.
I was cold, and walking was hard, so when they told me I could go back, I couldn’t get off the bench, I couldn’t walk properly. So they had to help me back. Then when trying to undress, I couldn’t unbutton my pants. My hands/thumbs didn’t work, my hands were like they had been in an ice bath and the attendant had to help me unbutton. For a dude with ALS that still drives to work 22 miles away by himself and is serious about staying self sufficient, this is humiliating. It would get worse.
I was called back and allowed to disrobe and wrapped in a FREEZING COLD WET TOWEL. Then, I was asked what my PICC line was, and when I explained it, they determined “no bath”. I would be allowed to walk in the bath, and pour water from my hand onto my head and body, but that’s it. Now, shivering, I was helped by strong men into the bath. The water is freezing. My legs were both numb and wouldn’t stop violently shaking. I couldn’t take a step, but eventually made it to the statue of Mary with their help, where we prayed and I tried to offer my intentions, poured a little water on my head and face, and was helped out, again still shaking violently. That didn’t go at all how I wanted! Too fast, too helpless, not dunking, not able to think properly and offer all my intentions coherently!
Then I couldn’t get dressed. At all. God bless him, the attendant dressed me. I’m so humbled by his gentle service and wish I knew his name. But it took forever to dress and get out. I was met I think by Terry, who helped me walk over and greet the archbishop,
then over to my voiture where I waited for Mel to come out. (Because we took so long, my voiture crew shifted to Len, Terry, Laura, Kathleen, and Fr. Fisher.)
I couldn’t stop crying. I wasn’t healed in a flash of God’s grace. I felt worse. Why wasn’t I healed? Was it my lack of faith? Too skeptical? Too sinful? I didn’t feel peace. I was cold, I felt very alone, and very out of place. I’m pretty sure this is not the normal reaction to the baths. It did not go at all how I planned and because of this the rest of my pilgrimage was spent asking “Why? Why did you bring me here, God? What do I need to see, how do I need to change? What is the message You have for me, through Your mother?” Why became the question I asked every day on the pilgrimage. This event shaped everything else on the whole journey.
It is hard, going to a place of miracles, and not getting one you hope for. I know that many go through this same situation, but they seem to have more peace about it. And I know I’m not supposed to compare to others, either. I thought I was pretty ok with my illness and prognosis. Heck, I blogged about death like 2 weeks ago. So I thought I was pretty ok with it but clearly not. The whole point of this pilgrimage was for healing.
There I was, crying, confused, trying to do what Our Lady asked with the baths, and not getting any answers and certainly wasn’t healed. God must have wanted me to be healed a different way, I’m just not sure how. Now I worry that my own lack of faith is the culprit. Is it possible that I don’t even have basic faith, so that in Mark 9:23-25, I am not even able to say “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!”? It’s a scary thought.
This is part 1. It’s not the easiest thing I’ve ever written but I’m being honest.
There is positive in this story. Please, if you have questions, ask away, and stay tuned for the positive (and funny) parts of day 2 upcoming.