|My Auntie Joy and me when I was a baby.|
Early this morning I received a telephone call from England to let me know that my Auntie Joy had passed away this morning. Michaela, if you are alive out there, I know you’d want to know, and if you are not alive out there somewhere, I know you are right now part of the party of so many of our loved ones who are excitedly welcoming her.
As deaths go, this wasn’t what you’d call a sad occasion. This month she would have been 94 years old. One by one through the years she had lost those who were close to her. She lived a good life, living in her own home until just last Friday when she entered the hospital for the last time. She hadn’t been ill. She didn’t have cancer, ephysema, heart disease, or any other horrible killer. It seems she had just worn out. “She’d become very frail.” She didn’t have dependents, not children or dogs or cats or birds. She was free, free to go on to the next world without a single thing to hold her to this one. She was free to be reunited with all those she’d loved, who had waited so long for her.
For me, well, we had lived a half a world apart for most of my life. She lived in England, and I lived all over the place, but in England for just brief periods of that time. It was an important time, however. I was born there, my mother’s family was all there. It was where I felt my roots to be. I am an only child myself. I am the only child in my generation in my mother’s side of the family, and that really and truly made me everybody’s child. My aunt, although I so rarely saw her, was a part of my heart, my heritage, my home. She was like a distant mother or grandmother. In recent years since the advent of inexpensive international calling I spoke to her perhaps once a month. Since my mother’s death almost ten years ago, she was my only living relative, the last person to tie me to my roots. She was the last living person who knew me as a child, who loved me as her own.
So although in practical terms her death really just means we won’t have any more transatlantic phone conversations, in reality it felt like a stab to my heart. It never fails to surprise me, the emotional impact the death of someone you love has, however great or small a part they play in your life.
As you have gathered, my sorrow was moderated somewhat by what came to my mind, which was what a joyful homecoming she would experience after death. This was something that I just felt intuitively, as though the bonds I felt with my family transcended the line between this life and the next. I could literally feel the joy. I also noticed that there was one thing that didn’t enter into my mind, and that was the question of what her relationship with Jesus was and whether she would have gone to heaven or hell.
Even before this happened, I had been thinking about my faith, had thought about how it stood up to that final question, that if I knew I was going to die, or if someone I loved died, what did I think, what did I feel deep in my heart, would happen after they died. And I knew there was no way I would be worrying about anybody going to hell. Nor did I have a particular vision of Jesus waiting on the other side. No, what I saw, what I felt, was just the love of those who are waiting for us. I am just not sure what this makes me. A really, really bad Christian? Certainly not gifted with evangelism anyway. I wrote a post on my other blog, www.just-sharon.com, about the Castro Valley Pride event that was coming up (which my daughter helped found a few years ago), and how I felt about gays. I love them. I think they are fine, just the way they are. I know there are other Christians who think this, and there are also other Christians who believe everybody will go to heaven. But I’m not sure where they are, and I’m not sure where that leaves me.
I am not going to quit on faith. I believe in God, and I keep telling him I just want to know the truth about him. If he is real and if he loves me even a teensy bit, it seems to me that he could not fail to answer that prayer, could he?
Michaela, there have been so many losses since you have been gone. If you are out there somewhere, please come home before there are any more. And if you are not, then just enjoy the company, my baby girl. Have a party.
Love you forever,