Miracle at Lourdes by Angie Clifford
"Vengeance is mine". These words were not uppermost in my thoughts as we sped along the French Auto route the A65, towards Pau, destination, Lourdes.
Was it only a year ago that I had been happily browsing, mooching around the best second hand bookshop in Bath? When, an extremely tall, thin man, dressed in brown overalls had emerged from behind an ancient bookshelf, "Can I help you madam?" He'd asked politely, in His soft West - Country voice. "Erm, well, yes", I had replied, "I like history" and, on impulse, "anything spiritual". He disappeared for a split moment; returning with a thick, faded, brown paperback book in his hand.
Bernadette Soubroris, a beautiful French peasant girl stared back at me from the cover. History and the supernatural all in one book, I couldn't wait, to read it; thinking to myself, was it just a coincidence that we would be holidaying in France very soon.
So, there we were, travelling at speed towards Lourdes. Yes, I'd read the book, and now I really, really, wanted to see the grotto and miracle water that Bernadette had discovered in the late 1880’s.
As we neared our destination, mountains loomed high and mighty on either side of us. Snow glistened on the peaks and in the valley plane trees bordered the crystal clear 'Gave de Pau', river. I had been unprepared to see such awesome beauty. The sun shone through huge silver grey leaves, allowing a jigsaw of dappled light to expose huge rainbow trout gracefully gliding over rocks and crevices. I was Overwhelmed with wonder.
Jerry, however, my husband of 30 years, had an aversion to anything religious, he skulked off into the shadows, lighting up a cigarette, as soon as we hit the high street, with its shops selling, 'holy water', and 'crucifixes', and 'Virgin Mary statues'.
The situation only worsened as we entered the holy areas and chapels. Sick folk were being pushed around in special wheelchairs, “what love”, I'd thought. Jerry however had been cynicism personified, "what a waste of time and money" he'd scoffed, as he delved into his jeans pulling out his ciggies. There was music in the air, but, it could not be heard with ears, only with the heart.
Our 7 year old boys had lit long white tapered candles, placing them in the myriad of wrought iron candlestick holders lining the grotto. Seeing their tanned brown faces, eyes closed saying prayers is a memory forever etched on my heart.
"Now to see the 'grotto', I'd thought", However there was a problem, as a humongous queue literally snaked the whole area, and a sign stated, 'waiting time 1 hour'. "We are not waiting in a queue for an hour", Jerry had spoken, and we all moved forward to follow him and return to our car.
Suddenly in the distance I made eye contact; with a stranger. A tall thin man in brown overalls was looking directly at me. He walked towards us, and, holding up his finger, he beckoned, ‘follow me'. There was a padlocked wooden gate the other side of the grotto, and in an instant the man had opened the gate and, still becoming with his finger he indicated, follow me; he led us into the very centre of the grotto. Wow, I was so happy, but as I turned to thank the man, he was nowhere to be seen.
Returning on the A65 to our holiday villa both the boys fell into a deep sleep, allowing me plenty of time to digest the memories of a wonderfully satisfying day.
After our visit to Lourdes, Jerry became extremely ill with pneumonia; resulting in an unplanned end to our travels, as we had to return to the UK, immediately.
People are taken to Lourdes for healing, however Jerry's visit seemingly ended in being cursed with sickness...we laugh about it now!
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