Well, good morning! It’s been three months since I have written a post. Some blogger I am, huh. A lot has happened in three months hasn’t it. Our world has changed. Some think for the better. I wish I could agree. I grieved the presidential election in a way that was shocking to me. Don’t worry. This won’t be a political post. Although, I guess most things are received politically these days.
The holidays were different this year. For the first time in over twenty years I did not host Thanksgiving. My daughter and her husband did. It was lovely and fun and felt in many ways like a rite of passage. A little sense of loss of position (and control), and a whole lot of joy and thanksgiving for the amazing hostess my daughter and her husband have become. This was the perfect year for the handoff. Oh, I still helped with the turkey and still made the dressing. I’m not ready to give up all control yet!
Christmas was different too. The first time in twenty-five years I wasn’t with my sister. She was at home with her family and I was at home with mine. Again, it felt right. Right and sad and perfect. We enjoyed a morning of chaos and fun, watching our granddaughters open their presents. Squeals and delight, and the usual overwhelmed hyperactivity we are all vulnerable to when we receive too much at once. We enjoyed a lazy day and then gathered for an evening meal at our house. Again, a change because for the first time in about thirty years we did not eat at our dining table. I didn’t even get out the Christmas dishes! We didn’t go as far as paper plates but it was kind of fun to be casual and relaxed.
Being relaxed turned out to be a good state to be in because as we were finishing up dinner the phone rang with news of my favorite aunt’s death. We’d been expecting it for a while but the news hit hard just the same. It’s odd, the impact of finality. Christmas, the time of celebrating birth, just didn’t seem like the time for anyone to die. Even someone who had lived a long and rewarding life as my aunt had. Ninety-five years had been her portion. And only the last couple of years had been confining. But Christmas?
The next morning we made the trek to west Texas to be with family, to unite in our mourning, and give thanks for her life. My aunt was an amazing woman. She had been given the gift of resilience. Coming of age during the time of WWII she married a handsome pilot only to be left behind a few years later, with a three year old daughter and and baby boy in arms. She was a working single mother and set in her resolve to provide for her children. I never saw a thread of bitterness in her. Rather, she developed a deep joy for life, people, and travel.
My aunt, Patti, took me on a cruise for graduation from high school. What a gift! We traveled the Caribbean for a week stopping in ports I had only imagined before. She made friends easily as there was a beautiful openness about her that was hard to resist. I, at that time, was evidently not so much fun. I was much more of a worrier back then than I am now (recovering!) and at one point in the week one of our table mates looked at me and said, “You’re cute, but you’re a pain in the ass.” My aunt endured me. She chose joy.
My aunt, Patti, adored her grandchildren and as the years went by she became Nana to all in her community. I was beginning to tell you how many people were at her funeral but with the recent ridiculous focus on crowd size I, thankfully, stopped myself. You are welcome.
The church was decorated for Christmas. None of the flowers had been brought from the funeral home. Her casket was there amidst the beauty of the trees and greenery and candles. As I sat there I realized that her dying on Christmas was absolutely perfect. She had been born on the fifth of July and her birthday had always been an extension of the holiday celebration of the 4th of July. How fitting it was that her life would have holidays as bookends, for I never knew anyone that celebrated life the way she did. No matter what the difficulties, she chose joy.
I heard somewhere that the beauty and fragility of life are inseparable. This is truth. This is gospel. Maybe the most misunderstood gift of the cross is the gift of resiliency. Hmmmm…something to chew on…