The Blessing of a Lifetime: Five-Year-Old Girl Going Blind Meets Pope Francis
The little girl’s ‘visual bucket list’ included catching butterflies, flying kites, and meeting the Holy Father, whom she calls ‘the big buy in the white hat.’
VATICAN CITY — When Lizzy Myers was diagnosed with a condition that could result in complete blindness, her parents, Steve and Christine, went to work on a “visual bucket list” for their daughter.
And on Wednesday, Lizzy got to check something off: meeting Pope Francis.
The five-year-old, along with her parents and three-year-old sister Michaela, had special seats for the general audience with the Pope on Wednesday, where she was able to meet him in person. She gave him a gift, a piece of meteorite from an observatory she had recently visited, and he gave her a hug and blessed her eyes. [See video]
“I felt an overwhelming sense of peace” when they met, Christine Myers said at a press conference following the meeting. “Since the beginning of all of this, this is the first time I have felt peace.”
As for Lizzy, “She was awestruck. She just stared at him, she had totally big eyes,” Christine said.
Lizzy attends a Catholic Montessori school back home in Ohio, and was excited to meet Pope, whom she refers to as the “big guy in the white hat.”
When she first heard the family was going to Rome, where the Pope lived, she asked if she could knock on his door.
The family is in Rome courtesy of Turkish Airlines, whose general manager heard her story and offered the family free plane tickets to anywhere in the world. They chose Rome because of their Catholic faith, and because of all the beautiful art and sights Lizzy could see there.
Steve told reporters that he was very grateful for the meeting with the Pope, which he didn’t realize would be an option when they first decided to visit Rome. He said the encounter with his daughter and the Holy Father gave him an inexplicable sense of calm.
“I was very nervous coming up to that point, I started having stomach pains,” he said. “But as soon as Pope Francis came up to where Lizzy was, a calm came over me, I don’t even know how to explain it.”
“I believe and I think that what Pope Francis has done for her — if there’s any chance for a miracle, it would be there.”
After several recent tests, Lizzy was diagnosed with Usher Syndrome Type II, a rare genetic condition that causes hearing and progressive vision loss, and can result in blindness. Steve and Christine created a “visual bucket list” for their daughter, which included a trip to a local observatory near their home town. The story made the front pages of a local paper, and caught the attention of the Associated Press, which eventually led to their Rome excursion.
There are also many ordinary things on the list, Christine said, such as catching fireflies, roasting s'mores over a bonfire, and kite-flying.
The couple said they hope that Lizzy’s story will encourage other parents of children with bi-lateral hearing loss to genetically test their children for Usher II Syndrome, so they might be able to give their children as many visual experiences as possible before it’s too late.