|Audrey at age 7 in June 1990, a few weeks before her illness began.|
June 10, 2008. From time to time, Providence raises up
special souls whose trajectory through life is like a comet
streaking across the night sky. They are a mystery. When
we look at them, we wonder: where did they get
the fire of faith that burns within them? Who taught
them to love Christ to the point of a total
sacrifice of self?
Audrey was one such mystery. Born on
March 18, 1983, she was a cheerful, spunky little girl
with wispy blonde pigtails and an array of colorful, mismatched
barrettes in her hair. She had big dreams of going
to the circus and performing with her stuffed dog, Drum,
in front of the cheering multitudes… or of becoming a
piano virtuoso… or a tennis star. Anything grandiose and colorful
would do. But then there was also the other dream,
first voiced at the age of three, of becoming a
And behind it all, at the center, was the
deep, abiding desire that no one taught her: this little
girl desired to love Jesus with her whole heart. Behind
that playful, mischievous personality, there was a steely determination to
reach her goal no matter the cost. Audrey wanted to
become a saint.
Dreams sometimes take unexpected turns on their way
toward reality. For Audrey, the dream of loving Jesus came
at a very high price. When she was diagnosed with
leukemia at the age of seven, her path toward heaven
began to accelerate, drawing the rest of her family into
a deeper journey of faith along with her. As time
went by, her story touched thousands of people in France
and abroad whose lives were permanently changed by the story
of this little girl who ran after Jesus so wholeheartedly.
Audrey’s “family” now includes people from all over the world.
|Audrey in the hospital at the beginning of her illness.|
a window into that witness of love, Circle Press
now presents the English version of Gloria Conde’s book Audrey:
The True Story of One Child’s Heroic Journey of Faith.
Gloria Conde tells Audrey’s story almost as a journey into
a family photo album, with a series of short, simple
vignettes that capture specific facets of Audrey’s personality and of
the many extraordinary moments of her response to leukemia. The
story unfolds naturally, often humorously, sometimes heart-wrenchingly, and always with
human warmth and sensitivity.
After hours of interviews with Audrey’s
parents (as well as personal experience), Conde presents Audrey as
the real girl that she was, in the concrete reality
of her family with her four brothers and sisters. In
one sense, Audrey could be anyone’s sister. She didn’t like
it when her rambunctious brother invaded her room and messed
up her toys. She played with her older sister and
carted her adored little brother around like a doll. She
loved eating candy and squealed with delight while playing in
Yet she also lived the most painful moments of
her illness with a surrender and a spirit of sacrifice
that astounded her doctors. There were the agonizing moments of
|New book from Circle Press: Audrey: The True Story of One Child’s Heroic Journey of Faith.|
the spinal taps, when she clung to Mummy’s hand with
all her strength and whispered the names of the people
who needed prayers. There were the penetrating words of wisdom
that came from her mouth and stopped adults in their
tracks. There was her habit of personal prayer and her
profound sense of the Gospel spirit. There was the isolation
of living in a sterile bubble for six weeks, where
not even Mummy was allowed to enter.
There was the
mysterious moment of her union with Jesus on the cross
on Good Friday… and there were her final words before
she died at three o’clock in the afternoon on August
22nd, 1991, the feast of the Coronation of Mary in
The beauty of Conde’s book is that it captures a
whole girl in her humanity and in the unusual work
of grace that was burgeoning within her. Audrey is accessible
|Audrey with her siblings. From left to right: Aline, Audrey, Henry, and Grégoire. This picture was taken in July 1990, a few days before the leukemia was diagnosed.|
to children and to adults, with a simplicity of style
that anyone can understand, and yet with a mystery inside
that no one can fully grasp.
Conde’s way of telling
this true story will make readers laugh, cry, and pray.
It might make them change. It will certainly make them
wonder at the generosity of a little girl who wanted
to give her life for souls, and who ran the
race to the end.
To order the book, click here.
from Audrey: The True Story of One Child’s Heroic Journey
of Faith (pages 113-114)
One day, Audrey couldn’t see anything. All
around her was black. She didn’t scream. She didn’t cry.
|A moment of intimate sharing with Pope John Paul II, shortly before she died.|
She didn’t say anything. Just like every day, Lillian came
to visit her, and they spent the day together, talking.
Audrey continued on without being able to see anything at
all, but still she said nothing. The television was on.
Afterwards, they prayed together. Audrey even dialed the telephone to
call home. She said nothing about her eyes. The next
day came. Audrey was in the midst of reading a
series of adventure stories, but today she asked Mummy to
read the book out loud to her. Afterwards, Lillian proposed
that they play a game, but Audrey asked her to
keep on reading. Lillian read to her almost the whole
Before leaving, Lillian asked her, “Would you like me to
turn on Little House on the Prairie?”
“Better not. My eyes
hurt a little when I watch TV.”
Lillian had noticed nothing.
She could only see Audrey through the plastic curtains that
surrounded Audrey’s bed. She observed her intently. Now she suddenly
realized that Audrey couldn’t see. Deep down she felt a
mixture of tears and indignation, with a stab of pain.
The doctors told Lillian that the loss of sight was
|Audrey at the Robert Debré Hospital, November 1990.|
probably temporary, although they weren’t sure. It was a consequence
of the new chemotherapy treatment they had administered. Audrey spent
days without even mentioning the pain in her eyes or
her blindness. She behaved so simply and naturally that Lillian
almost forgot that her daughter couldn’t see. She continued to
receive her daily phone call from Audrey in the hospital,
and it didn’t occur to her to wonder how Audrey
had managed to dial the number, which was quite long:
four numbers to get the outside line, other numbers for
the area code, and then the eight numbers to reach
home. Thanks be to God, after ten days she regained
her sight. Lillian wondered, though, if her eyes were exactly
the same beautiful blue that they had been….
With all that,
Audrey remained the same: only God and her guardian angel
know how she managed, as a new arrival to the
sterile bubble, to fill a surgical glove with water and
hang it on top of the door. A nurse, upon
entering, received an unexpected shower…and a rather cold one at