I met Jeannie when I was 9. She was 12. She lived behind my cousin’s house in a 2nd floor apartment. My cousin and I were the same age and were together often until I met Jeannie who had authentic red hair, blue eyes and loads of freckles. My cousin didn’t understand why she wasn’t included when we were together, but we didn’t play like cousin and I did ~ Jeannie played religious school with me.
She attended a Catholic school in the next town; about 1.5 miles away. Although I was born a Catholic and by age 9 had received First Holy Communion, our family then were Easter and Christmas attendees. Every day Jeannie wore a gray plaid jumper uniform to school unlike my outfits to public school. What stands out most about her is she would go over all her papers from school with me which always had her initialed cross on the top. I learned as much from Jeannie about God, the church and its sacraments as I did for a year at faith classes. She instilled a love and reverence about God and the Bible I hadn’t had before.
Her love of faith included coming to my house at 8:00 am every Sunday morning for the 9:00 am children’s mass. I was always asleep and my mom would yell, “Jeannie’s here for church”. I always went. We walked there together every Sunday where I learned about being in God’s House for the Sabbath.
We moved when I was 12 and I didn’t see much of Jeannie after that. Saw her when I was in my 20s – she was married & with her husband. We talked about getting together but we lived a distance away.
Many years had passed when I was attending a faith sharing class and we were asked who was our foundation in faith? I immediately thought of Jeannie. I thought about her all that day and tried to call her through her brother who was the only name listed locally. He remembered me and told me the sad news that she had recently passed – having had a weak heart since childhood. I never knew she did. We both cried. I remembered her birth date and told him I would have a mass said for her and would send him the notice.
The only opening my church had on that date for her mass was not held at the church; it was in the Catholic school where masses are said one day a week. I made the date for her birthday at the school mass at 8:00 am which the school children usually attend.
But on that day several months later, I had forgotten the mass date. Since I didn’t usually get up that early, I had not set the alarm that day.
Early that morning in the still darkness the day of her birthday, I woke up suddenly out of my sleep and next to my bed was a white brightly shining figure standing next to me. I was stunned but not afraid. It looked like an angel and I had never had any visions or hallucinations my whole life. Or was it a dream? The vision was bright but not frightening. Then I saw red hair on this figure; immediately I said, “It’s Jeannie’s mass today”.
I jumped out of bed waking my husband up and we scurried to the school. I was still stunned by the apparition . We were there on time and when the mass started, the school children walked down the aisle to sit in the front and they had on uniforms. The girls wore gray plaid jumpers. Just like Jeannie’s.
I felt Jeannie’s presence there that day; the uniformed children were a special treat which would not have happened if I had the mass said instead at our church that day. I found that more than coincidental that I could remember and pray for her by going back in time when she was that age. Remembrances of her from others recall how kind and giving she was to all. She lived her faith. She took care of her ailing father and the night he died, she died also that night.
Do I believe it was Jeannie who woke me up for her mass? Yes, I do. How fitting my dear, sweet friend would come to my house at 8:00 am to take me to church.