By Leanne Penny: There I stood in the chilly October air, orphaned at 28.  The mother of a bouncy little girl with a son on the way.  A pregnant woman with frozen feet standing on the side of her Mother’s grave, watching as the lowered the casket into the ground.  I remember climbing into our mini van and wondering “now what?!” with a heavy soul as we wound our way out of the cemetery.

My mother had just taken her life and my father had died suddenly from a massive heart attack about 5 years earlier.  As we made the long drive back from West Michigan to our home in Oklahoma, I had no clue how to navigate life parentless. How would I manage to live life bravely when my own mother had disappeared under the pressure of it all?

She struggled with depression and a heavy soul, something that I am no stranger to.  She fell off the deep end after her second child, the precise place that I found myself that day.

It would be simple to allow myself to be crushed under the weight of this burden, this pain. To believe that as it was with my mother, so it would be with me.  It was so tempting to buy into the crippling fear that I would abandon these two beautiful children too early. Leave them to navigate stormy seas, alone.

The one and only thing that saved me was to cling to hope and a deep belief in a light that never faded. I devoted my life to intentional healing and a strong desire to keep living.  I wept, hugely pregnant in the bathtub and read my daughter her bedtime stories while my soul begged for the tenacity to keep living.

As the days and weeks passed, I began to see my grief as a tunnel -- a very long, deeply dark tunnel that I had to cross through.  My hope often flickered, yet it never faded.  I knew that if I kept healing, kept my eyes on the soft light of hope, that I could live bravely and parent my own children beautifully.  Deep down I believed that my mother’s fate was not inevitably mine, that history was not bound to repeat itself.

I see my little family of four as a new start, one laden with hope and potential.  Although behind me is a painful past, I truly believe that my life is one of redemption and restoration.  There are still days that I feel the darkness of depression around the corners of my psyche. I am forever altered by the loss of my parents.  Yet I am brave, I am intrepid and I hold my story aloft with open hands and beg the one greater than I to use, redeem and restore it.

I pray that I am one who keeps moving forward in all waters, both stormy and glassy calm.  I pray for a strong soul that fight to keep living.

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