When someone you love is preparing to leave this world, life feels a little funny. Actually, a lot funny.
I’ve been in that funny place for a couple of weeks now and it has made me more acutely aware of what really matters and, on the flip side, what doesn’t really matter. It has also made me realize how precious life is.
It seems so painfully obvious, but incredibly easy to take for granted. The sun rises and sets each day. Every day we wake up and take our breaths. Our hearts beat. We move forward doing the things we do. It can all seem so monotonous at times, but it isn’t really.
It’s a gift. A beautiful gift.
And when you are saying goodbye to someone you love, the reality of the miracle of life and the fragility of life becomes intertwined in a way that is uniquely designated to those moments of loss and grief.
A couple of weeks ago, I drove to Indiana to say goodbye to my mom’s best friend, my godmother, my Aunt Lisa. Although not an Aunt by blood, she has still been family.
When the reel of my life plays back through my mind like a silent motion picture, I see her. When I was roughly four or five years young, I remember my dad leaving us for a period of time and the pain I felt from his absence. This is one of my earliest memories. I also remember my Aunt Lisa walking into the living room with the most magnificent colored pencil set I had ever seen. She knew how much I loved to color and she knew how much I needed those multicolored pencils in that moment. I remember her handing them to me and the joy I felt when I opened the case. What she brought me in that moment wasn’t just colored pencils – it was so, so much more.
From one of my earliest memories to now, this is who Aunt Lisa has always been in my life. She has been a quiet, reassuring presence – bringing my family what we needed, when we needed it most.
I didn’t see her often, but that didn’t matter. Every Christmas and Birthday I would receive a card with money tucked inside and a hand-written message telling me to be sure I used the money to “treat myself” to something fun. She has five children, grandchildren, a large extended family, worked as a nurse and yet she still remembered. And the cards always arrived early. Never late.
I tried for a couple of years to send cards to my nieces and nephews on their Birthdays. After sending multiple cards a few months (not days – months) late, I realized this may not be my strength.
But it is definitely hers. One of her many.
Seeing Aunt Lisa and my mom’s friendship over the years has taught me what true friendship looks like. It shows up whenever needed and stays as long as necessary. It doesn’t ask what needs done – it just does. Friendship of this depth and magnitude arrives with meals and hugs and words and silence. It is a strong presence bringing comfort and joy to anyone around who is fortunate enough to witness it.
Aunt Lisa has been there for the momentous milestones worthy of celebration and for the moments when you realize how precious and fleeting life really is. Birthdays, graduation, showers, weddings. She sat with us in the hospital for hours on end when grandpa was in a coma, after my stepdad had his heart attack, and when mom had her hysterectomy to remove the cancer. And when grandma was at home receiving Hospice care – preparing to, and eventually taking her final breath – Aunt Lisa was there.
And she has been there for the in-between. Playdates with her children when we were young. Meals at Halls restaurant. Parties thrown to celebrate holidays and other special occasions and parties thrown for no reason other than life being worthy of celebrating. Aunt Lisa was there.
And now, Aunt Lisa is in her home, surrounded by her family – preparing to take her final breath. Every day, I wake up and go immediately to my phone to see if I may have missed a call in the night. When the phone rings, my heart skips a beat.
Is this going to be the call letting me know she is gone?
Life feels a little funny right now – but I guess that’s how it is when someone you love is preparing to go home. I am not sad for her. I rejoice for her. She is going to be with Jesus. She is going to a place with no pain or suffering. For her, I rejoice.
But as it is with death, it is for us that are left missing her that I cry. It is for her husband, her children, her grandchildren, her family, her friends – for my mom. For all of us who have been impacted by her loving, kind, funny, generous and steadfast spirit – I cry.
Thank you God for using Aunt Lisa as a conduit of your love. She is my godmother and has done her job well – with her loving, servant heart – she has helped to lift my eyes to you.
When she does go home to You, I imagine she will have quite the homecoming. When I said my goodbyes to her, I thanked her for showing me the love of God. I thanked her for being there for me. She looked into my eyes and said, “I will see you again” and as the tears streamed down my face, I told her I knew that to be true.
I will miss her presence on earth, but someday – I will see her again.
When my time comes, she will be there for my homecoming.
And as she prepares for her homecoming – I pray for those by her bedside. I pray for her husband, children and grandchildren. I pray God gives them the strength they need and that they feel His loving presence surrounding them. And I pray for Aunt Lisa as she prepares to leave her body and make her trip home.
I love you, Aunt Lisa.
“Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? The earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” – Psalm 73:23-26
Until we meet again……