Welcome to a new segment called #PhotoWith, where we at True Exclusives plan to highlight a “photo with” your favorite celebrity / public figure and the story about your experience meeting them. So if you had a chance to take a #PhotoWith any public figure and want to share your experience with us, email [email protected] and use #PhotoWith as the subject title.
Our first #PhotoWith comes from Jeff C. who met Mother Teresa! Check out his amazing story below:
Back in September of 1997 Mother Teresa made her final trip to the US. She stayed in the Bronx, NY for around a month. I heard she was staying at the rectory behind St. Anthony’s church in the Bronx as she was attending mass there that Sunday. So my buddy and I went there with some photos and a donation in hand. We basically just wanted to leave our photos… and the money… and go home. Whole trip was just to do that. We saw a sister walking outside.. told her we wanted to give Mother a donation…. and she told us to wait inside. Very small room. We stood there a good 40 minutes…. took forever. I kept wondering why it was taking so long for somebody to just take our stuff and the money so we could get back to the car… which I wasn’t even sure was still there (she didn’t stay at the Four Seasons!) Finally a sister came through and said “Just a few more minutes boys… we’re going to wheel her out this way.” Well at that point I was in complete shock. I had no clue we were that close to her… and that I was actually going to see her. (Otherwise I wouldn’t have worn my Planet of the Apes T-Shirt!! – which I still have to this day… and can actually fit in!) I always carried my camera in my pocket no matter where I went… so that was ready. Turns out Mother was in the next room with the sisters and they were eating dinner. So eventually the side door opens up… and there’s Mother pushing the door from the other side. I immediately got down on my knees and she put her hand on my head and blessed me.
I then held her hands and kissed them. I was looking straight in her eyes and I kept telling myself inside that I really couldn’t believe what was actually happening. It was so unreal to me. This was one of those people who I had looked at on TV for many years and grew up hearing about… but never really thought of as a true reach and touch live person. I know at some point I handed her the $50 donation I had brought… and she talked about helping the poor. She talked to us about how many missions she had… how many countries they were in… and how they had men in the order now. She told me “Come to Calcutta with me.” I told her that unfortunately I couldn’t… but admired all the work she did. I asked her how her health was (she had been near death a couple different times late in the year before) and she told me “I feel much better now… but pray for me…. Pray for me.” I told her of course I would. Her breathing was clearly labored. She would speak…then have to take a deep breath in before she would talk again. Her feet were horribly swollen from the congestive heart failure she was suffering from. Oh… another thing I recall is that despite her hands being incredibly frail looking and wrinkled… her skin was extremely soft and thin. Her skin was so thin it felt like if I pressed too hard it would tear. She was in complete control the entire time. Sister Nirmala was there (the new head of the order at that time) but I don’t recall anyone else saying a word. Mother ran the show. Another sister gave her a couple of prayer cards with her picture on them. She read the prayer and then said “This has my name on it… but I will sign it for you.” She used a ballpoint pen and signed both prayer cards for us.
She then asked how many were in our family… and proceeded to bless and kiss some Virgin Mary medals which she handed us… then did the same with a set of rosary beads the sisters had hand made for both of us. (you can see her holding the set of rosary beads that she gave me which I later framed with one of the medals the prayer card). The whole experience lasted around 10 minutes or so. She told us before we left that we should come to mass with her when she was at her mission in the Bronx. Said our goodbyes and left on a total high that lasted the rest of the night. This was back in the pre-digital days… so I had to wait to see the photos till the next day when I was able to get them developed. A few days later we went to her mission in the Bronx around 5:30am for mass… the sisters said they had started much earlier! But when it was done… they allowed us… and about 10 other people waiting outside… to go up to the chapel to meet Mother. (I’m wearing the white shirt for that one). (I learned that morning that anyone at all could show up and attend morning mass and meet Mother… they just had to get there early! She was completely 100% accessible to anyone who made the attempt to see her. Quite amazing when you think about it. And basically no security at all. Her fellow sisters… that was it.) It was all very quick.. but I did get to say hello to her again and get a quick #photowith. It was just a few days after that Mother met with Princess Diana there. Less than 3 months later they were both gone. An all around truly incredible experience for me, and one that I’ve yet to top. I doubt I ever will.