Today was a day of great sadness. Today, I buried my aunt…..In recent years, I had grown distant from her, not in the heart but in the chaos of the responsibilities growing up leaves with you……life has a way of doing that. I regret that I somehow forgot to remember the things that were important to me, or to remind those people what they mean to me….it surely wasn’t because I didn’t care. Although, I hope it never happens with us, for you, my nephew, you are so very important to me. I had the rare opportunity to remind my Aunt Sheila, what an impact that she made in my life during my tender childhood years, before she passed away. I read her a letter, poured my heart out, said my good-byes….little did I know how much my words would mean to her….so much so that she requested that I read it at the memorial. She knew she was dying and had the foresight to want my words of remembrance read as she was laid to rest.
I found my way to the podium, in front of the vast amounts of folks who’s lives she had touched in one way or another.
“Dear Aunt Sheila,
I just wanted to take a few moments to say some things that are on my heart. Life has a way of getting hectic, and in that chaos some times we forget to remind those we love how much they are loved by us. I am guilty of that mistake. I hope you know how very much I love you, but I am not sure that is possible. So, I thought I would take a minute to tell you some of the many reasons you are adored by me. I am not certain I can capture every emotion, memory, and thought that I am hoping to convey; the list is quite long..so bare with me.”
I began, I allowed my eyes to fall on each of my family members who had also lost a loved one that day. I met the eyes of her daughters as they sat mourning the loss of their mother……my heart leapt from my chest at the thought of the great burden they were feeling. I could feel my insides shaking with a mixture of grief and sorrow.
You are so many things to me. When I think of you my heart longs for my childhood. Some of my very first memories have you wrapped up in their depths. You were the person standing by my mother’s side the day that I came into the world, and the one that picked out my middle name (which by the way I love way more than my first name). As a little girl, if you were somewhere, you were sure to find me some place nearby. When I had to have my arm casted after falling off a bicycle, it was You that I screamed for to hold my hand before they put me to sleep…..you were my refuge. I was teased mercilessly for being your shadow but I never minded. Where you were there was love, and it drew me to you. You are a ride in the back of an old el camino….a crowded trailer on lane road filled with love, laughter and a few squabbles…but this will always be the place I remember.You are a Saturday morning with a bowl full of cereal, and powdered milk as me and my cousins gathered around the tv for cartoons. You are the patient hand who tirelessly guided me to learn to embrodier, or string a trout line (although I never mastered either). You were a home cooked meal at the table or a platter of fish on the coffee table so I could snuggle with Uncle James and watch westerns with him. You and Uncle James were some of the greatest parts of my childhood, especially the nights you guys let me sneak in and sleep beside you. It feels like yesterday we were picking blackberries off the vine, and I can still smell the honey suckles in the summer breeze.”
I continued on, my words somehow finding their way to my lips, as a lump formed in my throat. Then my eyes fell upon my Uncle James, the man who had been married to her for most of his years on this earth. The sadness that brimmed in those eyes of blue, were enough to send me teetering on the edge of losing my controlled emotions. His eyes, have always been the most striking shade of blue….but on this particular day, with tears swimming in those blue depths, it felt like an endless ocean of heartache and brokenness. I continued on, allowing my words to ebb and bay, feeling my resolve to not break slowly fall away. I glanced once more at my strong, masculine, uncle, he looked so vulnerable, so broken that I had to fight the urge to stop the speech and rush down to be by his side, to hug his neck, to mend all the broken places in his heart. My eyes rested on Aunt Sheila, sleeping peacefully in the arms of our Lord as we looked on. Somehow, I made my way through more words, as they weaved and threaded through my soul, my heart before finding their way to the air that escaped my lips.
“I will always hold dear the nights we walked to the river, I played in the mud with Beth and Dale while you fished. All our many summers spent camping on the sandy beach……little did I know then that I would always wish for just one more. I think of you on a raft and me paddling you out into the river, just talking and enjoying each other’s presence. I think of the nights we snuck back home for a hot bath, before climbing into the bed reading in silence to whichever book we fancied…..you were the first person who taught me how to dog-ear the page to keep my place in the literary piece that I was reading. On the very lucky nights, you would make me your apple cobbler and some vanilla ice cream on top…..this will forever be my favorite dessert. I have tried to master it but it never tasted as good as it did when I shared it with you, snuggled up in the covers, books in one hand and a bowl of cobbler in the other………I think that it was not only your recipe that made it taste so good, but your company.”
My voice trembled, my heart ached, my mind reeled…….and then my eyes found your mommy in the audience, and the little bump softly rounding her shirt….the small reminder that you were there, just beneath the surface, just as Aunt Sheila would always be there with me. Steadfastly, I tredged on through the heartfelt words I had written, continuing to lock eyes with your mommy, and when I felt the quaking of my spirit start to fall away, I would look down at you. Fidget, you were my reminder that although I couldn’t see your little face, you were there with me, a reminder that even in death there is life being renewed, even in sadness there is joy, and even though memories hurt, I was grateful to have them, but also that there were many more to be made, with you, my precious nephew. With renewed strength I was able to smile through the tears that streaked my face….
“You taught me about soap operas, and while all the older kids were at school, we would sit and watch them……again, I enjoyed this, not for the content but just because I got to be with you. It seems like yesterday you were doing laundry and having me put the clothes out on the clothesline, or bring them in before the weather turned bad. More than once I was drenched in rain before I made it back inside with the freshly dried linens, but I didn’t mind. You are the reason that I still love tomato macaroni…a dish not many people even know exists. I used to sit and watch your hands sew, stitch, and embrodiery tirelessly. I would look at those beautiful hands, and think how amazing it was that you could weave to life such intricate designs. I still have my first baby quilt, and my daughters have slept with it. Each stitch of my name, a reminder of the love and time you spent to make it just for me. When we moved to Nashville, it was this blanket that I clung to on the nights I missed you guys so much that I could barely breathe, and I would trace each stitch knowing that your hands crafted it before drifiting off to sleep. You gave me my first friends……my cousins, thank you for that.
Time has made me grow up, build a family of my own, but that doesn’t dampen the impact you have had on my life. I love you so much, Aunt Sheila, and I just want to know that you was always my favorite aunt, as a child and for always…shhhhh don’t tell anyone wouldn’t want them to get jealous. Thank you for loving me, thank you for loving my Uncle James and lining him out when he needed it, thank you for Melissa, Dale, and Beth. Thank you, for just being you, because it has helped me be the person that I am today. You are loved more than you could ever know.
Love always, your niece,
I concluded my letter, made my way down to the part of my family that was seated on the front row….the ones who were hurting in unimaginable ways, and I tried with all my might to extend to them the comfort that you were extending to me….I prayed some of your comfort would pass through me into the painful parts in them.
I took my place back beside my sister…..I could spend days telling you how much just your mommy’s presence has always comforted me, just a look from her and I know that I can make it through anything. I am not much of a hugger, or an affectionate person with most, but it is different when it is your sister. She put her arm around me, and immediately I felt a depth of comfort that only a sister’s heart can provide. The pastor resumed talking about the aunt we were honoring…..I felt the tears well up, I felt my heart smile, and then shatter as each memory crashed in and out of my mind like waves upon the sand…..instantly, I put my hand on your mommy’s tummy, the place where you were nestled, and immediately, the waves stopped toppling over me. I felt a calm, a peace, an anchor between the past and the future. You gave me a rare kick, a soft roll as my hand rested atop of you. A smile swept across my face, I was able to anchor to you, your soul was touching mine even from inside of my sister’s stomach. I could touch you, at the same time, my memory could retreat to the memories I made beside a river bank with my aunt without consuming me with sadness. You anchored me in a place of joy so deep that all grief had to move aside, only allotting enough room for the happiness and joy to surface. I clung to you like a buoy in a turbulent sea, I was somewhere between the sweetest thought of you, and the joy of sitting beside my aunt as she cast a line into the water. I was tethered by you between a memory and the blissful knowledge that one day you would have memories of us together.
I knew at this moment, as I felt the life of my nephew stir just beneath my sister’s shirt, that we would always be linked together, tied together by the ties that bind a family, our spirits already knew each other….because even in the deepest places of sorrow brings forth the most joyful of what is yet to come. Today, I remembered my aunt, with equal parts of love and grief, but while doing so, I also realized that even in the storm, God is there to comfort……and He sends us these amazing moments to remember that what has been and what has yet to be…….are both equally astonishing. Today, Fidget, you were my anchor between then and now, you were my comfort, you were my connection between my sister, my aunt, and my future as your aunt. You gave me hope of a brighter tomorrow…..if you can do all this while you are still being knit in my sister’s womb…..I cannot possibly imagine the wondrous things you will do when you get here! This day, I fell in love with the memories of the past, and somehow even more in love with you!! On this day our souls mingled as you are somewhere between heaven and earth at the moment, just close enough to anchor me to a place closer to my aunt. Thank you, Fidget….you are the proof that happier days are on the way, and even though we mourn the loss of someone we love so dearly, that it is okay to remember them with a mixture of tears and a hint of a smile upon our face. For this and so much more, I love you, my sweet boy!
Somewhere between Earth and Heaven,