A Time We Really had to Trust God


March 15, 1996. The Ides of March. We had just finished our family meal, I was bathing the youngest of our six children, and our oldest daughter Sarah was headed out the door to a waiting car to drive her back to the University of Dallas after her spring break. All was hectic, and normal at the Van Brunt home.
Then the phone rang. 
It was an EMT, telling us our second daughter, 19 year old Maren, had collapsed on a sand volleyball court at ASU, that she wasn’t conscious, and which hospital did we want the ambulance to take her to? I could hear the sirens wailing in the background.
Mark and I, joined by Sarah, rushed to the hospital and were put in a tiny hospital waiting room alone, unable to see Maren. We prayed the rosary for an hour, and made a hasty phone call to our friend, Fr. Don Kline. After an interminable wait, two young ER doctors entered to tell us they had done everything they could, but our daughter had died from a cardiac arrhythmia.
One of my dearest friends who worked at the hospital tells me what happened next. While my husband and Fr. Don went to pray and anoint Maren’s body, I walked in a circle in the small room, repeating over and over, “I trust you, Lord. I trust you, Lord.” I have no recollection, but I do not doubt her words.
Over the next few days we planned a wake and funeral, bought a casket, welcomed out-of-town family and friends, and held on for dear life to our faith and to each other. Somehow the power of the Eucharist and our sacrament of Holy Matrimony, as well as the prayers of countless people, gave us supernatural strength.
The first week was the “easy” week. There is a divine Novocaine that numbs one to the harsh reality of pain. Then,  as it began to wear off, everyone else’s life moved along, and we struggled to walk on two broken legs, trying to return to our jobs and maintain some semblance of life for our children at home.
God, what is all this about??? Why US?? Why Maren, our beautiful 19 year old college freshman, right on the cusp of her new life as a nursing student, so full of life and love and friends? WHY?
Through the intense weeks and months of grieving, we grew to need each other in a way we had never known before. Just knowing the other one was THERE to somehow share in the pain was comforting. Knowing that neither one of us was turning against God in our suffering, but was somehow groping to trust Him in a deeper way, fed our faith. Even our times of intimacy were a cry for deeper union, with our God and with each other. 
All the statistics show that when a couple loses a child, half of marriages break up within a year. Yet ours was strengthened. The initial cries of “Why?” were gradually supplanted by a deeper, sustaining trust in the Father of all life, in the Source of all goodness.
 We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary less than 6 months after Maren’s death. Our initial plans for a blow-out celebration were discarded for a simple Mass. We did not think we could renew our vows in front of everyone and hold it together, so instead, our dear priest friend Fr. Charlie Goraieb called our family to the altar and the congregation extended their hands in blessing as he prayed for us.
Grief can do wondrous things in the human heart, if we allow it   For us, our tears carved within us a deep channel of compassion for those who suffer. We learned in the most powerful way how precious life is, what priceless treasures our children are, and how manifestly enduring was our love for each other. We learned that God can be trusted in all circumstances, that His grace IS sufficient, and that His promise of eternal life is true beyond doubting. We learned something of what “for better or for worse” is all about, and that God’s love, through our vows, is more than enough.