Br Eric Gilhooly, LC
Everyone on this earth has a path to walk. Everyone has a journey. Some have no idea where they’re headed, while others carefully chart out how to avoid life’s toll booths or where to find the best rest stops. But Catholics gear their lives towards the journey’s goal, towards heaven. Nothing else really matters.
Unlike most kids her age, Claire can’t walk. She can’t sit up by herself. She can’t even write her name or say hello. But I can’t even begin to guess how many people her life has changed.
My eleven-year-old sister was born with a genetic condition called Trisomy 18, similar to Down syndrome, but more serious. (That’s right, it’s the same thing that Rick Santorum’s daughter has.) According to some medical sources, children with Trisomy 18 have an average lifespan of 5-15 days. Only 1% live to age 10. So Claire is exceptional in many ways.
Last March my dad emailed me saying that Claire was in the hospital with pneumonia and breathing problems and that things didn’t look good. So I took a train to Syracuse to be with her and the rest of my family. Miraculously, she made it through those moments and after two weeks in the hospital was finally able to come home again.
But the doctors say that her scoliosis and previous pneumonias have caused advanced Restrictive Lung Disease: as the scoliosis advances with her growth, the twisting of her spine is compressing her lungs and heart, increasingly compromising her ability to breathe properly.
I’ve spoken with many people who have been touched by her life, been brought closer to God and to the Church. Though there are so many things she can’t do for herself, her smile and laugh remind people of what life is really about.
Claire is so close to her final destination, waiting for Our Lord to call her to heaven, to call her home.
Br Eric teaches humanities at the Legion’s novitiate and college of humanities in Cheshire, Connecticut.
Photo credit: Claire, by the Gilhooly family.