My baby lies feverish on the couch, her little eyes flickering open momentarily when I walk past her. She woke with a headache this morning, and those pains led to lethargy and burning hot skin by early evening. In light of the week we’ve had, with a young girl in our circle of friendship with spinal meningitus , we are watching this little one closely. I have already consulted with Grammie twice and called the ER. Ready at a moment’s notice to carry my sleeping child to the van and drive toward the closest hospital.
You do what you have to do to get by. And for me, I like to consult with the experts every ten minutes or so.
It has been a draining day all around. A funeral this afternoon for another loved one in our family circle. Another candle burns in heaven, this one for Aunt Bev, who has not been well for close to forty-two years. Can you imagine this? For all of my husband’s life, as he was a mere twelve days old at Aunt Bev and Uncle Don’s wedding, brave Aunt Beverly has lived a life of pain, mental agony and brutal seizures. Her life has been consumed by sickness. And yet. To listen to the moving eulogy given by Cousin Jacqueline, one would think she had lived a full and fulfilling life.
Perhaps she has done just that, and I am the one who is missing something here.
I am learning, but still am a slow learner at that greatest of life’s lessons. For this I know: life well lived needs not be a showcase of accomplishments, successes and achievements strung out in a line for all to see. For some, indeed for many of us, it will never be that. What will matter in the end is this: whether or not we were kind, we were a friend, we were patient and loving. Forgiving. What matters in the end is the stuff that builds character. That is to say, all those ideals that we strive for in life, but often sacrifice in the end for success. And for Aunt Bev, she was no success in human standards, as her career in nursing ended shortly after it began. Nor was she able to showcase an impressive list of her public achievements, as most of her life was lived first in the privacy of her home, and later in long-term care. What was evident in that eulogy address today was how impressive has been her family life.
Known for her smile and her gentle, caring ways. She was an example. Remembered by those who loved her best, she will always be a memory away. For her snuggles and listening ear. Remembered. Especially by those three sweet grandchildren who loved their Grammie even from her sickbed. In life, she gave what she could; in death, we give to her the respect and honor due a life well lived. For it was just that- a life lived to the fullest of its potential, and she gave every day her all. Even in sickness. Every day, given her all. I cannot even fathom this! How that admission of my inability to live up to her standard shames me even as I write the words. For I am not able to say the same of myself- that I give every day my all.
When I think of Aunt Bev, I think of humility. And what greater legacy to leave than this: than a life lived in quiet, humble kindness. Because no career highlights will ever be able to recreate a picture in your grandchildren’s heart of your beautiful, beaming smile shining down on them as they read to you, in that child-like faltering way. Nor can any list of achievements match that of knowing you loved those people placed in your life both fiercely and whole-heartedly. With love that would not let them go, even as body and soul fade into eternity. And with a hope that one day, all sadness and tears will be wiped away in that Greatest of family reunions, when time is no longer finite
I feel I have so much to learn. The more I think about Aunt Bev, the more I realize that what I value and prioritize in life are not necessarily what really matter. I often think, when I am sitting in a church pew at a funeral, “What would my eulogy say about me?” It is a sobering thought. And on a typical day lived in my world, I don’t really want to hear the words of my eulogy because it would probably say something like this, “Thank goodness that’s over with!” Thank the Lord for grace, as most days I need it in double-measure.
Day is coming to a close, and my baby sleeps soundly. And I am grateful for this day, even for the ways in which it has wearied me and stretched my brain. For out of sorrow we grow. Our lives will never be the same lives we lived before we came through the fire. Through the pain. No, they will not be the same, they will be better. For we are always growing in knowledge and coming to find wisdom and understanding in each of the baby steps we take on life’s path.
For today’s baby steps, I am grateful.