Four years ago, I held my daughter Courtney in this very pew I’m sitting in now, as our pastor anointed her and we all prayed over her. It was the last time she was in this holy space before her death. Her body was breaking down and it was becoming more difficult for her to sit for long periods of time.
My church is where I go when my heart is troubled or I can’t shake the grief. This house of worship has been home for 21 years now. The pew feels familiar and my eyes naturally go to Our Lady, then upward to Our Lord. I breathe deep, allowing the peace that surpasses all understanding to slowly sink into my bones.
The Foot of the Cross
On the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows 2014, we came seeking solace at the Foot of the Cross. As I held Courtney she smiled, curled up in my lap, knowing where she was and why. I can smell the incense from Benediction as I type these words. I can hear the bells ring as Father blessed us with Our Lord in the Monstrance.
As I write small pieces of our story, I look back in amazement that we survived it all. Not only that, but that four years later, there is joy mixed in with the sorrow of missing her. So much joy that we had the chance to love her so well this side of Heaven.
Writing a book about being brave in the scared has brought to the surface fear and doubt on how to translate that courage I once displayed in caring for my daughter, to my life today. Without my daughter’s physical presence as a reminder, I sometimes forget that it’s not all on me to be strong and to I need to lean on the wood of the Cross.
That’s what faith is. To believe in the Sovereignty of God even when the fear and doubt come. To stand in the truth of who God is and proclaim it loudly so your voice can be heard in the depths of Hell. To do all this even when you don’t know where the road will lead.
The book I’m writing belongs to Courtney and God. All shall be well. I. All manner of things. All shall be well.
Mary Lenaburg is a full-time author and Catholic speaker who has given keynotes at conferences across the country, including The Edel Gathering, the Diocese of Grand Rapids Women’s Conference, Mary’s Mantle Breakfast, and the Northwest Catholic Women’s Conference. A writer with Take Up & Read, her work has appeared in five meditation books. She and her husband, Jerry, live in Fairfax, Virginia, with their son, Jonathan. Their daughter Courtney passed away in 2014. To read more about Courtney, see her mother’s The Fickle Beast Grief and Today She Would Have Turned Twenty-Six.