Monday, October 31, 2011

Saying Goodbye

  God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7) I've read the words before, but they have assumed a special poignancy during this time. One of my daddy's sisters is literally staring death in the face. She has been told that she has days or weeks to live. It is a prognosis that was delivered with no lack of certainty, yet it is one that she is facing with grace and peace, dignity and strength. She told the doctors, "I am not ready to die, but I am willing because I know where I am going." She is standing firm in the face of the final enemy because she knows the One whom she has believed, and she knows that in the end He will stand upon the earth and she with Him. She will see Him soon. 
   This beloved aunt of mine is a mere 12 years older than I in age. She is someone whom I have always admired. Her influence upon me was solidified during the year that she lived with us (my mother and sisters) in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. I was in fifth or sixth grade at the time, but I remember that she never spoke to me as if I were a child. She conversed with me on a wide range of subjects and expected me both to formulate and share my opinions and ideas with her. I was fascinated by her obvious passion for scholarly pursuits, and I watched her carefully to see what she read and how she acquired and assimilated information. She is probably one of the smartest people I have ever known. One of her gifts to me was that she made me feel as though it was okay to be intellectually curious and to embrace a passion for learning. 
   This aunt of mine is also an articulate, opinionated, well-read, and highly educated woman. She is fluent in multiple languages and has lived and traveled extensively throughout the world. She has made her home in the Far East, the British Isles, and the continent of Europe, but she has always called Opp, Alabama, her true home. When she returned to Opp after her retirement as an educator with the Department of Defense, she lovingly restored and refurbished our grandparents' home and made it a warm and inviting place for family and friends to gather. 
    This week I have cried with my cousin, my sisters, and my Momma. And we have laughed, too. We have felt the bitter taste of impending death co-mingling with the sweetness of memories laced with love, and through it all we have been strengthened by the knowledge of our aunt's enduring faith in the Savior. Lord willing, I will travel to Opp, Alabama, this next week to hug her neck one last time and say my own goodbyes. I am trusting God to hold her close as He prepares to bring one of His own to her permanent home. And of all the places that she has lived, I have no doubt her home in heaven will be the best one yet. 
My aunt is the one on the far right
(my grandmother and another of Daddy's sisters are also in the picture.)
This was taken at my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary celebration in 1976.

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