Hope of Notre Dame

candle at the crown of thorns

Do you feel like Notre Dame Cathedral, gutted by the fires of grief? Do you feel like a husk of your former self, burned out, weakened and emptied?

That’s how I felt after my son Brennan drug me through two years of addiction and then a deadly heroin overdose. The terrible sorrow left me completely bereft, weak and vulnerable.

Our Lady of Paris is now weak and vulnerable. Yet when I see post-fire pictures of the church’s interior, the altar and cross are still standing. The deepest heart of the cathedral is still intact.

After my son died, my heart was broken, yet still intact. I did everything I could to grieve in a healthy way, just as the firefighters did everything they could to salvage what they could of the massive church.

Now this monument is at its most vulnerable and most in need. And so are we while dealing with our devastating losses. Yet people are coming forward to rebuild her, as people came forward to help me rebuild my life, giving generously from their hearts and their time. I hope you are blessed with the same support. To turn down assistance is a disservice to ourselves and others, just as it would be a disservice to Notre Dame to not rebuild her.

And as a service to my own soul–especially because I had been sent home to die from cancer in 2011–I have done some bucket-list traveling. This past fall I was most fortunate to visit Notre Dame de Paris, specifically to light a candle before the crown of thorns, a Christian relic experts say dates to the first century. I wanted to pray for us and for our loved ones lost to addiction. To me, the crown represents an injury to the head sustained by Christ–just as our loved ones sustained injuries to their brains. I sought, for us all, the compassion of The Compassionate One, one who bore a head injury and who was intimately acquainted with sorrows and grief.

Fortunately, the crown of thorns was spared from the fire. And so was the sculpture of Mother Mary with Jesus, and the symbol of resurrection above them.

Let Our Lady stand as a symbol of hope for you—that after the phoenix fire has burned its destructive path, we can rebuild and restore our lives, with our hearts still intact. It will take time and effort, but we are worth it.

And that is what our dear ones would want for us.

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