On August 4, 1978, I met my wife for the first time. It was around 5 p.m. on a Friday afternoon and a friend and I had just arrived at a hotel in Indianapolis, Indiana, for a convention that was being sponsored by the Midwest Federation Lebanese Organization.
My friend, Sam Joseph, and I walked into the hotel and Georgette was standing in the lobby visiting with a group of other people. Sam already knew Georgette and waived to her and walked over to say hello. After talking to her for a short period of time, he introduced Georgette to me and I spent a few minutes talking to her. Sam and I then checked into the hotel and carried our luggage up to the room that we were going to share for the weekend.
When we walked into the room I set my luggage down, laid down on the bed on my back with my hands behind my head and said, “Sammy, I’m in love!” Without missing a beat, Sam immediately snapped back and said, “Oh, Harry, don’t give me that crap, everybody’s in love with Georgette.” He was right. In the Lebanese community in Peoria, all of the eligible guys (including me) knew who Georgette Ghantous was. She was not only stunningly beautiful, but was also a kind, generous, loving and pure-hearted girl. She had a magnetic personality that seemed to pull guys out of the woodwork.
Fortunately for me, the Blessed Virgin Mary had already hand-selected Georgette and saved her for me. I honestly believe that it was because of my mom’s prayers to our Lady that Georgette was saved for me.
Anyway, Georgette and I spent some time together at the convention talking and getting to know each other. A few days after I returned to Peoria, a card arrived in the mail. It was from Georgette. She thanked me for taking the time to talk and listen to her. I called her on the telephone and at the end of our conversation she invited me to a family get-together that was planned for later in the week. After that we started dating.
Twenty-two months later, on June 15, 1980, we were married. This week, on June 15, 2010, we will celebrate our 30 year wedding anniversary. A day later (June 16th), Georgette is scheduled for open-heart surgery.
Six years ago Georgette was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, a genetic heart condition that causes certain areas of a person’s heart muscle to grow thicker than normal. Since her original diagnosis, Georgette’s condition has gotten progressively worse. The wall that separates the two sets of ventricles has become so thick that her heart is unable to supply her body with the volume of oxygenated blood that it needs. Georgette has always had a high level of energy, but unfortunately, over the past couple of years her energy level has significantly declined and she now has to constantly fight-off fatigue. She periodically feels like she’s going to pass out, which is an indication that she is not getting enough blood flow to her brain.
In January of 2009, Georgette’s heart doctor told us she needed a “septal myectomy,” a surgical procedure in which a surgeon actually goes in and reduces the thickness of the interior wall of the heart muscle by cutting away part of the muscle. The doctor warned us not to wait. He said that if the heart muscle got much thicker, she would be at-risk for “sudden cardiac death.”
Anyone who is familiar with Georgette knows she has a big heart. I’m not talking about her particular heart condition – I’m talking about the way she’s always been. She has always put others before herself, so much so, that over the years my mom and some of my sisters have periodically lectured her about how she should set aside time to do more things for herself. When she was diagnosed with her heart condition in 2004, I told her that what the doctors were saying was nothing new to anyone who knows her. We already all knew she had a big heart.
It seems as though our entire physical existence centers around our hearts. Out of all of the organs in the human body, why do we focus so much on the heart? The largest of all of our organs is the skin that covers our bodies (yes skin is an organ). The second largest organ in the human body is the liver. The liver of an adult weighs approximately 3 pounds and performs critical functions that we never think or hear much about. And, of course, there is the brain which is the center of the nervous system and controls all of the other organs in the body.
For some reason, the heart is the only organ that we refer to when expressing love for others. In fact, it is often used to replace the word “love” when we write a message or want to convey a thought such as, “I ♥ You.” No one ever uses a picture of a brain to convey love.
When Georgette and I moved into our house 10 years ago, we asked a priest to come over and consecrate our home to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We consecrated our previous home in the same way – something my mom did with the home I grew up in.
But why pray to and consecrate ourselves to the hearts of Jesus and Mary? Why not pray to their brains instead? And why is it that we even pray to a specific organ in the bodies of Jesus and Mary?
There is something about the human heart that is both mysterious and special. Prior to the Word becoming flesh, God did not possess a human heart. It wasn’t until after He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary that His physical heart started beating. Thirty-three years later, while His body hung on a cross, His heart stopped beating – for three days. Fortunately for all of us, on that first Easter Sunday, our Lord’s heart started beating again (and will continue to beat with love and mercy for all of us for all eternity).
Over the years, devotion to the hearts of Jesus and Mary has significantly increased, primarily because of revelations that have been made by our Lord and our Lady to some of our Church’s beloved saints. St. Margaret Mary, St. Faustina, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Catherine of Siena wrote extensively about devotion to our Lord’s Sacred Heart. St. Maximillian Kolbe and St. Louis De Montfort (two of my favorite saints) wrote about the critical importance of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
On Friday, June 11 – the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus – I attended noon Mass at Sacred Heart Church in downtown Peoria with Georgette and four of our children. I dropped them off before Mass and parked the car about a block away from the church. After Mass, I retrieved the car and pulled up to the front of the church to pick them up. After a few minutes, a woman walked up to my car and asked where Georgette was. I told her she was still inside the church. The woman then walked up the front stairs of the church and opened one of the large wooden entrance doors. At the same time, someone who was coming out of the church opened the other large wooden door. With both doors wide open, I saw a large group of women crowded in the vestibule of the church. The women were taking turns hugging Georgette. By the time Georgette was done hugging each of the women, she had tears in her eyes, touched that so many people cared about her.
From what I could see, there weren’t a lot of words being exchanged between Georgette and the other women while they were hugging. It was as if all of their hearts were reaching out to her heart. No words were necessary.
For obvious reasons, I would like for Georgette’s loving heart to continue beating for at least another 45 years. By then, we’ll both be 98 and we can celebrate our 75th wedding anniversary. Would you be willing to reach out to Georgette today with a prayer from your heart? Although her surgery will be performed by an experienced surgeon and his team, I want to be certain that the room where the surgery is being performed and everyone who comes into contact with her are filled with, and influenced by, God’s grace.
I will, in return, pray for you and I’ll let you know next week how everything is going. Thank you.