Today She Would Have Turned Twenty-six

August. The month of my daughter Courtney’s birth. I turned the calendar page today and there it was. Today she would have turned twenty-six. She has been home with God for almost four years now. How is that even possible? The days seem to go by faster each year but the heart never forgets the love. Never.

In the last few weeks my eyes have spilled over and my heart grew tender as that beautiful haunting day approached. There were quiet conversations at the dinner table about how our days are just a bit dimmer without her here. There was laughter shared as we recounted Courtney’s antics, like flipping off her shoes at Mass or taking out the end cap of green beans at Wegman’s. 

Her birthday is harder for me emotionally than the day she died. Maybe because birthdays are about the possibilities of what is yet to come. They are about the future. A future that does not exist for me or my girl.

I Had Forgotten Something

One morning recently, I woke up in a panic. I had forgotten something. I ran downstairs thinking my Courtney needed me. I stood at the door to her room so confused. The boxes and desk. Where was my Courtney? Her bed? Her stuffed dog she slept with? I stood there just taking in the reality of her absence for a really long time. Tears freely flowing, heart broken once more. I don’t remember the last time I “forgot” she was gone. 

Grief comes and goes. It’s OK to cry and it’s OK to laugh. It’s okay to be mad that she’s not here. It’s OK to get quiet and watch videos of her laughing and singing. Each year the experience is different and that’s okay too. I am not afraid to feel my loss deeply. I am not afraid to speak her name and celebrate her life.

Courtney Elizabeth Lenaburg, you changed me forever and for good. I am so very grateful God chose your Daddy, Jman, and me to love and care for you. You were the heart of our home and the sunshine of our lives. You are missed, Pickle. 

I know, she’s in Heaven. It’s what every parents wants for their child. But selfishly enough I’d really prefer her here, with me. This child never walked, talked or danced. Courtney was locked inside a body that didn’t work like yours or mine, racked with seizures and pain. Yet her soul shone so bright, that all you saw was joy. Today I am determined to find the joy amidst the ashes. Determined I tell you! Death does not win! I miss you daughter of mine. This day and always. 

Welcome August. You brought us a beautiful gift from God 26 years ago and we are ever so grateful for that. Bring on August 18 . . . The Feast of St. Helena of the Cross and the birthday of St. Courtney Elizabeth Scholastica Lenaburg.


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 at the Northwest Catholic Women’s Conference in Oregon. 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. For another article on her family’s loss, see The Fickle Beast Grief

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