All of us who are pro-life know that standing for life in today’s world can be difficult. Despite the ridicule, anger, and insults we sometimes face we know, without a doubt, that we are on the side of joy, hope, and, of course, life. The story of Mary Lenaburg and her children exemplifies that tremendous joy can be found in protecting and caring for the most vulnerable.
Mary Lenaburg told Life Chat host, Mary Kate Knorr, “Nothing will ever compare to the joy it was to care for that child.”
“That child” was Lenaburg’s daughter, Courtney. Baby Courtney appeared perfectly healthy when she was born; however she began suffering terrifying seizures while she was still an infant. When doctors were attempting to control Courtney’s condition, she suffered a massive allergic reaction to the anti-seizure medication she was given. This reaction left Baby Courtney with severe disabilities, including blindness and major physical and cognitive limitations.
Lenaburg’s memoir, Be Brave in the Scared, chronicles her experiences as a mother facing tremendous hardship. In addition to raising a child with severe disabilities, Lenaburg lost two children before birth. Lenaburg’s son, Jonathan, stood by his mother through the good times and the bad in caring for Courtney.
“John is profoundly abled and his only sibling was profoundly disabled,” Lenaburg explains about her two children.
Lenaburg tells of the unique and beautiful relationship that Jonathan had with his sister, Courtney. “Jonathan, the way he loved her was beautiful because she was just his sister and he would love her, and he would yell at her sometimes…He never treated her like she was a fragile statue to be broken, she was just Courtney.”
Courtney was beautiful, funny, feisty, and caring, Lenaburg reflects. “She had this bucktooth smile that was just huge and would light up.” Even with all her energy, Lenaburg remembers that Courtney “was very much a young woman of peace.”
Although she was blind, Courtney’s interactions with others were still immensely personal. Lenaburg describes it as, “one heart seeing another heart.”
Not everyone saw the wonderful person Courtney was, however. Obtaining medical care for her daughter was a constant struggle for Lenaburg. Many times she had to plead for her daughter’s care before physician panels and other health care “experts”.
Lenaburg told Life Chat that so many of the problems in this world exist because, “we do not greet one another with empathy… we greet one another with judgment,”
She puts Courtney’s life in a new perspective, saying, “She was us inside out… you knew what her ability was and what her disability was,” Lenaburg added, “Every single one of us is differently-abled… we are all disabled people.”
Lenaburg firmly believes that if we all are willing to help one another and pick up the pieces that other people have dropped, then we can work together as a community to help every person, not just the people who look like they have their lives together
There is much more to Mary and Courtney Lenaburg’s story! To hear more about Mary and Jonathan’s life with Courtney, as well as how we can help parents of children with disabilities, listen to Mary Kate Knorr’s entire Life Chat interview with Mary Lenaburg here!