My Aunt Ernestine passed away this New Year’s Eve. Leaving this earth in the same bed she was born in 83 years ago, this beautiful person left behind a legacy of kindness, of encouraging others, and one of the sweetest smiles I’ve ever seen.
Having walked this road more than once and becoming what I coined in my heart and head as one of the “walking wounded,”—someone who had lost that special person(s) whose passing flips anyone’s world upside down, changing its color from a warm fuzzy to the reality that life is ever-changing—I knew the transformation was already taking place. The heartache of her illness that her husband, my Uncle Roy, and her daughter, my cousin Mary and her family, husband Rick, and children Meredith and Matthew, were already experiencing will be one that will always remain.
I hadn’t talked with my cousin in years. When we were little children and our parents would get together, we would play for hours with her Barbie dolls. She had everything Barbie, the house, the car, at least a dozen of the dolls and all of those beautiful outfits. I didn’t have even one (except for the mangled hand-me-down Barbie my girlfriend across the street had tossed my way. True to my mama’s ahead-of-her-time-thinking, it was anatomically impossible for a woman to ever possess Barbie’s figure, so she wasn’t about to purchase one, no matter how much it was longed for). So to play with my cousin for hours on end was to me the most fun a girl could have. But in growing up, she and I grew apart, hearing of each other’s lives in passing through our parents.
But two nights ago my cousin and I reconnected. For an ever so brief twenty-eight minutes, we talked. It was great to hear her voice, to hear about her children, what they’re doing and where they are, to hear about my aunt and her courage over these past years, and of my uncle who always kept me in stitches. But to catch-up with my cousin, seeing she possesses the wonderful sense of humor her daddy has and to hear her thoughts, was so good.
We think of death as something truly awful. And it is. Separating some for eternity, it is a thing we can hardly wrap our heads around. But in the book by Susanna Moodie, Life in the Clearings versus the Bush (1853) she says, “death, the great equalizer, always restores to its possessors the rights of mind” And it does. Bringing people back together, tearing down walls that have grown up over time, God can and does, I believe, even use it for good. (See Genesis 50:20.) What really matters in life comes into focus.
Have you ever seen the movie Love Actually? I’m a huge fan even, though I wish some scenes were not included, but Hugh Grant’s narrative over the opening scene as people greet each other at the airport depicts a poignant beautiful truth.
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”
And even in death, love is all around. For in Jesus, the Messiah, who is God’s love for us, we find that He is the light and life of men. The darkness cannot overcome the light. (See John 1:4,5.) And neither can death. “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55 ESV)
My Aunt Ernestine, the youngest of my dad’s siblings is undoubtedly in Heaven enjoying the company of so many dear to her heart. Seeing those she has missed over the years, and being reunited with family and friends, I can only imagine how beautiful her smile must be.