“Hold my hands for a little while longer,” she implored. “Mine are so cold and yours are so warm.”
And with that, we sat, her hands cradled in mine until she fell asleep on my shoulder.
Churning in my heart is a story which will encourage you. It is about a gracious woman of dignity – a hero to me. I yearn for my words to come tumbling out to honor her, but heavy-laden with glorious memories makes it too long for telling here.
Aunt Marion is a living, breathing Proverbs 31 miracle. Dementia has robbed the world of her luminous spirit. Some days she recognizes you; on others she disengages. Long term memories come floating to the surface…of picnics and swimming at the lake in summer, toboggan rides down snowy hills in the winter. Hope rises in my heart thinking she’s back, but five minutes later, she’s asleep with no memory of who I am.
As she slumbered next to me, my thoughts turned to leaving. It was Christmas Eve, after all, and I had holiday chores waiting for me. But then the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “This is the most important thing on your agenda.”
So I prayed deep appeals, holding back tears, for more time with her. Craving the times we sat over coffee sharing our successes and regrets, knowing the love between us didn’t need to be spoken. I hoped my presence now addressed everything that needed to be said.
I stayed for a few more hours, afraid to leave. I was overwhelmed by how completely she loved me. Tears overflowed in my eyes dripping into my heart and carving out yet another memory to cherish. My heart raced and while I wanted to pull away, I couldn’t. Sadly, I didn’t know when I would see her again. Even if I came again, I didn’t know if she would be there.
A deep woman of faith, Aunt Marion was someone you could hold onto. Her house, always immaculate despite raising five children, was a place of healing and hope. A place dominated with love, acceptance and unity. A place that collected the shattered, because she filled it with restoration. No matter how dark it was, the light of hope shone there.
In these days of Facebook and Twitter, of rushed days and overbooked schedules, we rob ourselves of the gift of presence. We steal the intimacy gained only from loving interactions with those we care about. Aunt Marion built powerful and passionate relationships with me and others. Always positive, always encouraging, her love made us feel deeply rooted, upheld, courageous.
Do you do that? I deeply regret I’m not anywhere near as good at it as she was. And so I’m asking all of you brave individuals to join me in deciding anew to choose time to give life, to remain authentic to those you love, to celebrate the redundancy of reconciliation. Every day we chose love over hurriedness, we chose the nature of God who makes loving others the bravest, most transforming and most mysterious act of all.
Perhaps today or tomorrow, the most important thing for you to do is just to hold someone’s hand.
“Many women have done wonderful things, but you’ve outclassed them all!” (Proverbs 31:29 MSG) I savor my aunt’s legacy and pray to never neglect her lessons in love.