My aunt’s health had been steadily failing over the last several years, but she made it four days past her 84th birthday before graduating to heaven. She was my mother’s older sister by ten years. Her husband passed away thirty years ago. They had seven children and loads of grand, great and great-great grandchildren. Her life was full and despite facing many tremendous obstacles, she persevered. Due to an eye disease, she began going blind over forty years ago. She lived independently in her own home up to the very end.
If her life was consolidated into the title of a book, I’d have to entitle it Tenacity, for she never gave up! Her faith in God was the source of the great hope she clung to. Psalm 23 was her favorite passage of the Bible. It’s mine too.
As the family gathered at the funeral home for the private viewing, a slideshow of old pictures was running. There were many special ones, particularly those that included my mother many years ago. You see, my mother has been gone for 21 years now and I miss her bright smile and enveloping hugs. It seems like a lifetime ago since I heard her joyful laughter. Oh, what a reunion we will have one day …
As my aunt lie in the teal coffin with gold seashell adornment, I was struck by the fact that she looked nothing like herself. But we know that the flesh we wear on this earth is temporary anyway. For now, she has entered into her rest.
“So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” ~ I Corinthians 15
The small Methodist church was packed with friends and family to say good-bye one last time this side of glory. She would’ve been so glad to see such a nice gathering and so many beautiful floral arrangements. Some had a ribbon across with the word – “Mother” or “Grandmother”, one was a floral arrangement of an open Bible with “Psalm 23” on a ribbon. Clearly, she meant a great deal to many.
The minister shared a number of Scriptures and words of comfort, a great solace to all of us, in a quiet cadence. We sang two hymns. One, I must admit, I’d never heard of before – “Lord, Build Me a Cabin in Glory” and “I’ll Fly Away”. I held it together through most of the funeral service, but when the organist played “Amazing Grace” at the end as we were leaving, I thought I would come undone.
My sister and I rode with one of our cousins to the cemetery for the interment. The minister’s remarks and prayer again were very peaceful and I so appreciated the Scriptures he read. There’s nothing like the calm of the Word of God. Friends extended their condolences to the immediate family and, slowly, most of the crowd dissipated. My sister and I walked around to see if we spotted the floral arrangement our family sent when I really thought I’d lose it then! The trappings and overlay of the casket, etc. were spread over top of part of my mother’s grave, but the part that struck me was the large stake that was holding up the green funeral canopy. The large stake was directly over top of my mother’s grave and it just seemed disrespectful and a very upsetting visual. Their graves are side by side in a family plot. There was not much that could’ve been done to ease the situation, perhaps. I’m sure not a lot of thought went into the placement of the stake, but it was incredibly difficult for me to see.
Another cousin handed my sister and I a red rose from the casket spray as a keepsake, which was very nice. The casket spray was huge with red and white roses and greenery, just lovely. My aunt lived on an island most of her life, thus the seashell embellishment on the teal casket. Very fitting and beautiful.
Throughout the day, my sister and I had the opportunity to speak with a number of cousins and catch up a little with them. Some we hadn’t seen for many years. I always appreciate when some of our older cousins share old stories of our mother. It’s nice that they not only have such fond memories of her, but care enough to share them with us as well. Since my mother was the baby of her family, her nieces and nephews were somewhat close in age to her.
There’s nothing like family. Cherish those around you, for life travels at the speed of light the older one gets, it seems. We can mistakenly think things will always remain the same, and then we blink, and realize how much has changed.
Reach out to distant family members. Hug those kids. Tell everyone you love them. That God loves them. That’s the stuff life is made up of.
There’s enough negativity and junk this world offers up. We can focus on that or we can set our sights on the things that truly matter. Like the bumper sticker says, “The most important things in life aren’t things at all.” True enough. It’s all about people, people who God has placed in our lives as family or friends. We tend to take so much for granted when nothing is guaranteed.
Hug a little tighter. Laugh louder. Dance in the street. Call an old friend.
Life is all about the little things. For, in the end, they’re really the BIG things.