On Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption. It’s a Holy Day of Obligation here in the United States, and one that I’ve always struggled to understand and internalize.

I’ve written about it at Faith and Family Live, but it remains something strange to me, something I’m just not used to. It’s hard to explain how I’m drawn to it — it’s a feast of Mama Mary, after all! — and how I’m confused by it, how I want to celebrate and how I struggle to justify my joy, how I tear up and how I look heavenward.

I think it’s lovely, don’t get me wrong. It’s an example of how God loves me personally and all of us individually. He thinks enough of us to make sure we have a heavenly mother! He is sharing His Own mom!

This year has been a whirlwind. It started with a death that rocked our world and continued with terrifying health problems with our oldest daughter. It has included news of a pregnancy and watching the ongoing health struggles of Poppa Gene.

There have been a lot of tears this year, more in eight months than I would have thought an entire decade could hold.

And so it is that we come to a major Marian feast, the Assumption.

It is on this day, as the Church celebrates the Mother of God and her glorious entry into heaven, that my sister-in-law will come “home” to Ohio. She and her girls are coming in a caravan of Reinhard brothers.

She’ll be surrounded once she’s here, and yet I know that she’s going to feel more alone than ever. She’s going to have family at every turn, and yet I know that there will be a glaring absence, one that, though healed by time, is always present. She will smile and cry and hide what she can. She will muddle forward, do her best, get through it and over it and around it.

There’s something beautiful about this painful day being on a feast of Mary. I have felt, over the years of watching this sister-in-law hero of mine, that she has a very special place in Mary’s heart. From her openness about her story to her unwavering faith, she continues to show me the path to Mary, the way through the sorrow and the heartache. She shakes her fist and throws things across the room, but she also drinks a beer and laughs heartily. She picks the splinters out of her feet and tosses them in the face of the one tempting her to give up.

She’s spunky, this sister-in-law of mine, and it does all of us good to have a taste of that in our lives. I’d carry her cross for her if I could, I’d hold her head in mine. I’ve watched her mother sob, unable to help her daughter more, wanting to take the pain and make it go away, and I’ve felt utterly and completely helpless.

Sometimes, when I’m paying attention, I get a glimpse of God’s grace. This year, the Feast of the Assumption feels like one such grace. It feels like Mary reaching down and letting us know that Allen’s regaling her with stories and playing ball with his boys.