Everything is Not Okay

I’ve been lighting a candle as soon as I wake up in the mornings.

It’s a pine scented candle, one I spent entirely too much money on.  But, it smells like the cabin in the woods where my family retreats to every summer and it brings with it’s scent that feeling.  You know the one.  When all of your senses are on high alert- smell, taste, touch.  Everything seems cleaner and brighter, sharper and softer at the same time.

I’ve been lighting it first thing to remind myself how darkness cannot exist if, even a little light is present.  When I wake up full of doubts, when it feels like powers outside of myself are conspiring against me.  It lets me know that everything is not ok but this, right here is, and that is comforting.

I recognize that that is a strange thing to say.  That I can take comfort in the fact that everything is not ok.  There will be death somewhere today, crimes, brokenness, loneliness.  There will be disease and pain, someone will be hungry for the first or for the last time.  Someone will also be born today.  A lot of someones, in fact.  Life and death, health and illness, joy and despair dance together every day.  The candle reminds me that a little light illuminates the darkness.  And that it’s worth it.  The little warmth from a little flame, waving alone in the cold.  It’s worth it.

The little light yesterday was when my kid’s teachers quietly revealed to us how much they adore her, and how they’ve all argued about who gets to have her in class next year.  That she spent 10 minutes standing in the middle of circle time, because it was important for her friends to know that the greatest baseball player of all time was Babe Ruth, and her Papa loves baseball.  Oh, and that she was Catwoman.  And that when she’s all grown up, she’d like to work in a museum because, “old fashioned things and places are my favorite”.

A little bit of light, a candle in the dark.

Brave

Sometimes I think the word miscarriage, and whatever follows after it is the Voldemort of the fertility world.  The, “he-who-must-not-be-named” so we use every other euphemism we can think of to avoid saying it.  We call babies who are born after miscarriages, “rainbow babies” like we were Lisa Frank unicorns pooping neon colors.  We call them our, “losses” to soften the giant hole of despair we feel.  You lose your keys.  Your tax returns.  Your mind, on occasion.  One does not, “lose” a baby.  You break in half for a baby, you wrestle and torment over a baby.  But you never lose it.  It never goes away.

I’ve learned a great many things over the past few weeks about what it means to be a part of this “club” I wouldn’t wish on anyone to become a member of.  There is a band of women, of friends, who have suffered as we have and I wish with everything I have that we could have found common ground in Cooks Illustrated or public versus private Kindergartens rather than to be bonded together by death and grief and the absence of hope and the clinging on with bloody nails to the God we can’t see, and perhaps, don’t really want to in the moment but know He is the only one that saves.  It’s the grieving believer’s dichotomy.

But at the same time, I am so very, well, proud is weird to say, but that is how I feel, of the boldness, the audacity, the faith, and yes, even the hope of some of these members.  Their courage to call it what it is-MISCARRIAGE- is like breathing fresh air, like someone holding my hand.  It’s as if they are honoring the heartache it is, it was, by being unafraid to say it out loud. It’s a slap in the face to the evil one who longs to break spirits, tear hearts in pieces, keep us shrouded in shameful silence, alone. Lost in pervasive hopelessness. For too long woman, and men, have been silent about what this means, what this does to a family.  I am so glad to be even a small voice among the many of my loved ones who have shared with me.

Which is why I’m sharing with you something from one of my friends today.  Lisa and I went to college together.  I was her RA, in fact, which is a joke for certain because she guided me and cared for me in ways I could never have done her.  When I, for a plethora of reasons this is still not the platform for, ended up getting extraordinarily sick my sophomore year- too sick to even leave my room- it was Lisa who cooked for me, checked in on me, prayed for and over me.  She is one of the most spiritually sensitive people I’ve ever known and happens to see God in everything- everything.  Even baked goods.  And if you ever had anything that came out of her oven, I will bet that you’d see God in them too.  She’s gifted in a great many ways, baking only one of them (which also happens to be her business, so if you’re in the market for some sweet treats, she ships!:) But she is also blessed with words.  Lisa talks about the “comfort of hopelessness” and what it means to actually put one foot in front of the other, leaning in toward our Abba during such a time as this.  I’m privileged to be her friend.

Harry Potter, Chocolate Milk and the Great Redemption

I’ve made it no secret how difficult the last few months have been, here at the Shannon Family house.  There have been bright spots, certainly- flowers delivered from friends who were thinking of us, books sent with us in mind that are beautiful and life giving, hands to hold, prayers whispered, some laughter, mainly given as a gift from our sprite of a daughter.

There has been one thing in the last few months that has, along with a few other things, sustained me.  One day a week I get to walk out onto 12th and 7th from the 2 train, down onto Greenwich Ave, swinging left onto Jane and make my way toward the water- to the little, nine year old boy I tutor waiting to read the next chapter of The Sorcerer’s Stone. I hardly grab a glimpse of Tea and Sympathy-  I look into the Corner Bistro on all of the young twenty-somethings freezing in their sleeveless clothing choices in mid-January, grabbing beers from whose origin they know nothing other than Esquire told them it was the beer of the winter and that guys would love it if they would know that. Sometimes I linger a while outside of Barbuto trying to get a peak of the seasoning for their famous roast chicken- their carcasses all lined up like Catholic school girls on trays.  But I am never, never late for my 5 o’clock appointment in a cozy, little apartment with a little boy who’s shaggy dark hair looks a bit like Harry’s.

I was hired to help him prepare for his 4th grade ELA exam.  He had trouble identifying main ideas and separating them from themes.  It was hard for him to draw out the details of a story- and write a narrative with any details at all.  He wasn’t sure how to go back into a text and extract evidence to support written responses, and comparative texts were confusing to him.  I could have just drilled him with practice tests.  I could have made copies of neat little scantrons, timed his reading responses, given him test taking tricks, had an organized binder in which to track his progression, estimating his chances of score improvement.  In fact, I had every intention of doing all of those things as they are easier, take way less time and investment emotionally, professionally, and time-management-wise.  But, I have a problem.  A serious one.  In that it is impossible for me to separate a child’s education from the child himself.  i want to know everything about a student I am teaching- it made things difficult when I had 136 of them a year, but now it’s much easier.  I want to know what they love to do, who they love to hang out with, who their parents are, what they’re favorite team/color/meal is.  When kids know you are invested in who they are, I am convinced you could read the same 1989 copy of Reader’s Digest to them every night and their scores will miraculously improve.

So, throwing my promise of conventional education out the window, I asked him on the first day we met what was the last book he read that made him feel like he was capable of doing anything he wanted.  Percy Jackson floated out of his mouth, onto the table where it lay there for a few minutes while I asked him if fantasy/myths were his favorite genre, and why.  Oh yes, they were and it was because they MADE HIM THINK, he said.  Done.  I asked him if he had every read Harry Potter and he said no, that the series was above his reading level- which sounded perfect to me.

And thus, began our little rhythm.  I brought us the books, wrote out all of the curriculum to tailor to his specific ELA needs we needed to address, and we meet every Thursday at 5.

I knew this would help him.  I knew it would broaden his scope, I knew it would challenge him in a way that he needed challenging, I just never anticipated it being, one some weeks, my saving grace as well.

Every week he greets me at the door and guides me to the little table where we do our lessons.  Over saltines and chocolate milk he tells me about his day, about his plans, about things 9 year old boys are interested in.  We discuss things like why Dumbledore would leave a poor little baby in the hands of the Dursley’s and not raise Harry himself.  I wiped tears from my eyes when Harry got on the Hogwarts Express for the first time, whispering excitedly about how it must have felt to have been an orphan for twelve years, only to find out you have an inheritance, a destiny that had been waiting for you.  When I told him that the Mirror of Erised was desire spelled backwards, I lost him for the next twenty minutes as he poured over the pages we had already read to make sure he hadn’t missed anything else.  He told me what he would have seen had he had the chance to look in the mirror himself.   The Forbidden Forrest chapter was frightening, and thrilling- good and evil, how your choices can affect outcomes- how traditions intersect with social justice.  Every week, for an hour we talk about things fantastical and heartbreaking, about friendships and growing up, about power and weakness and how sometimes, they can look the same.

It’s been a redemption of sorts, for me.  The story that had so captured my heart years ago claimed it again for all new reasons.  The teaching of and the learning from a child, this great dance educators perform has been soothing and affirming. I believe in what I’m doing, in the manner in which I am doing it.

And I get chocolate milk out of the deal.

Coping Friday

Everyone has different coping mechanisms: strategies of survival necessary to move forward from a tragedy.  Some binge watch Netflix, some consume abnormal amounts of Coffee Chip, some throw themselves into work to keep busy.  I have done all of those things at different times throughout my life. This time around, however, is very different.

This was the first time in my life that my health was in question- that the idea that I may not be well was put into play and it scared the crap out of me.  I have always cooked whole foods, we operate on an 80/20 scale as I don’t want to be militant about it and take the joy out of eating, but 80% of the time we eat whole, organic, non-processed foods.  The other 20 percent consists largely of M&M’s and pizza.  You need a little wiggle room somewhere.  But I’ve made it no secret that exercise is a dirty word in my book.  I love to be outside, to walk, and to swim, but recreationally not intentionally.  And, lately, a little too many M&M’s have been sneaking across the radar (damn those pretzel ones) than I’d like to admit.  Without actually intending to pursue a healthier mindset, I found that it was almost put into motion for me.

Each meal is mainly veggies and fruit, with some grains and meat thrown in on the side.  I’ve stopped at two cups of coffee.  Seriously.  Like, I don’t even want any more than that.  How did that happen????? I started ordering Door to Door Organics and it has literally revolutionized the way I eat and still work as many hours as I do.  It was a step toward this new word, self-care, that I’ve up until now ignored as selfish and elite but now refuse to believe is anything more than integral to everyone’s wellbeing in my household.

I stumbled upon a free yoga program that runs for thirty days, and the old me is recoiling in horror as I type that I actually LOOOOOVVVEEEE it.  What?!?!?! I do.  I love it.  It’s short, I’m fairly certain my poses look like someone trying not to drown, and my kid (who’s school actually teaches yoga to their pre-schoolers every Thursday) critiques my Cobra from the couch but I love the way it makes me feel strong and beautiful.  Like i’m capable of something I never knew I could do.

I’m dying my hair.  Red, in fact.  I called all of my family members who are therapists to let them know that I am doing this as a way of changing things I can control in order to cope with circumstances that I cannot, and since I am self-aware it is not a cry for help.   Phew.  Got that covered.  I need to do it- I need to do something so unlike me, so foreign and weird with no dramatic repercussions.

I read this book and I am tired just thinking about all the work I’ve already done and all the work I need to do in order to empty the house of things that don’t give me, “joy”.  That’s pretty much everything.  The VETS are so tired from walking up and down my stairs I offered the guys some coffee the last time.  We are going to try to sell the house, and this was a great push to send all of our stuff on it’s way to bless someone else.  Get. It. Out. Of. Here.

I am steering clear of all of the Mommy-debates that have stirred the pot lately- the vaccinations, the measles, the formula, the judgemental-or not- commercials.  You want to know why? I’m just glad I have a kid.  She’s running and jumping and playing with her doll house using weird voices that sound like Yoda and Sofia the First had a baby and I don’t want to miss a second in case this is the only chance I have.  Not a second.

The Process

These last few weeks have been spent in a myriad of conventional and unconventional ways.

There’s been talk of despair and if there is any validity to hope in the land of the living.

There’s been chocolate covered almonds with sea salt and Pauly Shore movies.  (Save Bio Dome- I refuse to acknowledge that it even existed.) I have said it before and I will, unashamedly say it again, Pauly Shore is integral to the grieving process.

There’s been impromptu, four day long sleepovers at my in-laws due to circumstances outside of our control.

There’s been much purging and sorting, deciding what gives joy and what has served it’s time.  (Thanks, Kon-mari. )

There’s been cassoulet simmering, apple muffins baking, and crying in the shower.

There’s been shouts of thankfulness over jobs-then, wait! No job.  Then, yes! A job again. Two, in fact. There’s been much stressing over schedules and childcare and schools and putting houses on markets and talks of kindergarten and wondering where we belong.

There’s been play doh all over my dining room floor, little pink hats covered in snow and the writing of a little someone’s name all by herself, for the first time.

There have been test results that yielded good and bad results. There was rejoicing and sorrow all over again.

There has been prayer covering for my terrible nightmares- the ones I’ve had since childhood that seem to have gained strength the last month.  And there has been deep and dreamless sleep more often because of the warriors combating them.

There have been angels and demons and if they are real talk, and if they are, why don’t we ever talk about them? Or, to them?

There have been great pauses, where time stops and snow falls and we wonder what it all means and if it means anything at all.

There’s been a shifting- a re-prioritizing of time.  A renouncing- of how we lived before, of how we allowed ourselves to believe that there is nothing good left in God, for us. That He had poured it out for us to deliver to others, and let the bread pass over our hungry mouths. There’s been an awareness- of what the term self-care means, what it actually looks like, and why it’s imperative.

There’s been a discipline of learning- of repeating-of instructing.

There’s been too much Gilmore Girls and lavender baths and good, strong coffee.  Or not.

There’s been a preparing, a waiting, a grieving, a gathering, a lifting, a longing.

We are ready to move on today.

We’re not sure we’ll be ready tomorrow.

I think, that’s how it goes.

Watermelon in January

My kid’s been begging us for watermelon.  We have tried to explain to her that it is winter, January, and that it is not the season for watermelon.  That even if we could find it, it probably wouldn’t taste very good.  Things taste best in their appropriate season.  She doesn’t care. She wants watermelon.  So, my husband trudged out in the ice and flurries that has defined our winter, and came back with an anemic, dense slice of watermelon-ish fruit.  And she held it up in the air, Simba-like triumphant, and proclaimed, “I KNEW my Papa could find it!” and proceeded to devour that watercolored mess as though it were her last meal.

Hope for us has been a bit like finding watermelon in January.  It’s a snowshoed hunt, unlikely to yield the desired results.  But we trudge on anyway and when we find pieces of it we hold it high in the air and whisper to each other- “It is here! It can be even here, even in this.”

Grief seems to expose everything, like acid on paper it eats away the surface until we’re splayed out like neighborhood kids playing Operation.  We’ve learned much about ourselves these last ten days since the losing of our third baby.  Things we have always overlooked as part of who we are- things we never prayed for, because it never occurred to us to.  Grief is a form of nakedness I may never get used to, but it is a purging of the soul and purging is necessary.

I have been so encouraged by the outpouring of love, of friendship, of similar stories.  Of how God’s fingers have reached into our homes via snail mail and email and messages.  Hope, all.  Where is God in all of this? In all of you.  You who have anointed our heads and prayed for peace in our home, you who have whispered silently thoughts of comfort in your cars on your commute, you who have reached out and sent chocolate from over oceans and continents, you who have breathed prayers of concern over pots of lentil soup, or just sat, wordless with us in our living room as we wait on results, on diagnoses, on hope.

When people ask where God could be in all of their suffering, consider it a direct command from the one who sent you.  You were sent.  You were sent to represent Him in that time, in that place.  Because of everyone who took their sending seriously, we continue to walk with no strength of our own, to breathe peacefully, to even have occasional joy.  Yes.  Even joy.

Thank you, all, for being our watermelon in January and continue to pray with us that we breathe deep and true:

“Let us hold fast the confession of our HOPE without wavering, for He has promised IS FAITHFUL.” Hebrew 10:23

Rolling Stones

“Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” John 11:38-41

As much as I have had no energy to come to the Scriptures, almost a rebellious desire to keep my distance from it, pieces of stories and verses in their entirety will not leave me be.  Grief does strange things to one’s body and mind, certainly.  It wants so desperately for me to believe that it is greater than this good God I’ve, perhaps naively, believed in nearly my entire life.  It would like to drown me, hands tightened around throat and heartstrings, whispering untruths.  It would have me succumb to it’s pleadings- stay in bed.  You have suffered enough.  Each day will be worse than the last, each day will bring more sadness, more bad news, more heartache.  It is best to accept that there is no joy in the land of the living.

They’re all stones.  Each lie, a stone.  A weight.  I asked for bread, I was given a stone.  And a stone.  And a stone.  Until there were too many to carry and I buckled under them, trapped behind.

And this story comes to me when I am sleeping, when I am drinking coffee, black and bitter without tasting it, when I’m dropping my girl off at school or making bread or sobbing in the shower.

This story about siblings-three.  One brother, dead, two sisters broken.  Words spoken to Jesus that are my own.  If you had been here.  If you had only been here our brother would have lived.

If you had been here, he would have lived.

My babies, all.

Accusations and grief, raw from their mouths and in their faces.  Why didn’t you come?

And because we cannot see, we cannot possibly know what makes the universe tilt and the stars fall and the oceans break angry against the shore and the invisible thread that weaves tight stitches from each human heart to another, he weeps.

He weeps for their hearts and mine; our heads that cannot understand his goodness.  He weeps with them with the ache of a friend who wants to shield you from pain, but the pain has already come.

And he tells them to roll the stone away.

After asking for the Christ to come save Lazarus, after searching the horizon for a sign of him coming to save and to rescue, after seeing that he had not come, after witnessing their brother breathe his last breaths, after the waves of grief, after the ceremony, after the burial, after all they had carried and endured, these sisters, could he not, at least, have rolled the stone away himself?

When they watched their brother die, when they felt the sting of abandonment, when grief ripped and tore its way through hearts and limbs weakening joints and spirits, now they must buck up and roll a stone large enough to cover the opening of a cave?  A cave they had just buried their brother in only days before? THEY must open it? Now?

Surely, he could have done it himself.

In the group that had gathered there, around the cave, the village for Mary and Martha.  THEY rolled it away.  All of them.  Together.

They dragged their weary bodies, broken with the loss and the tension. Broken by Christ’s absence, broken again by his appearance.  Confused and comforted by his tears.  They, the village, committed the greatest act of hope.  They pushed and heaved and strained and wept and broke loose the bonds and ties that grief weaved like a web around their village and rolled the stone away from the cave where a dead man was buried.  Choosing to believe the impossible.  Choosing to accept that they know nothing of Jesus’ plan, but they know Jesus.  Choosing that whoever He is, whatever He can do is greater than this.  Greater than death.

He called them to do it together, for the sake of each other, that they might know who sent Him.  So that they might see His glory.

This what I repeat to myself every morning when the sun shining is offensive and my daughter’s inquiries are grating and my heart feels battered.

Roll the stone with your village.  Open your cave to hope.  Know that He is good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Will

I am healing.

My physical body has shown signs of vast recovery.

I went back to work yesterday and it was good to called Mrs. Shannon and hear school bells ringing and feel like I’m a part of affecting change in some kids lives I’ve grown to love.

I still fight fatigue and soreness, I think I may for quite some time.

I am trying to pray and it is halting, stuttering, without many words.  But it is an attempt to believe, a plea for help in my unbelief.  I feel He honors that.

Every hour, every minute of every day I remind myself of who I am.

That these losses do not define me as a woman, as a mother.  That all things can be worked for good.  That I have a beautiful child who is more a miracle than I ever realized.  That I am loved.  By God, by my family, by the people in my village who have walked this road with me many times before just to have to turn around and do it again.  I hope, if you have ever suffered loss like this, you had someone do that for you.

I remember why I choose to be open about this, this part of my life that doesn’t belong in the shadows or behind curtains of shame as though I am a criminal; as though my body is on trial for manslaughter.  If I am ever able to get pregnant again, you will know.  God gives and takes away with or without my acknowledgement.  My self-deceptive idea of control has no bearing.  Through tears, I will rejoice in the giving of another child, and mourn the taking away.  It makes me no less of a woman, no less of a mother.  I will praise Him still.

I am sad, I am afraid, I walk with a heartache so large I sometimes have to sit down in order to breathe through the weight of it, but I am not broken.  This does not get to break me. No matter how heavy, how hard they are pushed down, my arms are held up by the prayers of so many it is impossible to give up. Did you ever believe it could be true? That your words to God on behalf of someone else could actually do exactly what He suggests it does? Have you ever had the chance to watch what it looks like?  How someone looks when they cannot walk in their own strength, but are actually being held up by the prayers of their people? Watch me this week, and in the weeks to come and see.  This is how it works.  This is why we so desperately need each other.  This is why you needed to know.

So, I will continue to get up, to put on real shoes and eat breakfast that has no taste.  I will continue to write lesson plans and make dinner and laugh at my daughter as she rides her bike in circles around the house and wait all day to kiss my husband when he walks in the door from work.  I will grieve, I will breathe, I will cry, I will laugh, I will run, I will rest.  I will.

Today

I was supposed to attend a memorial service of a great lady today.

I was supposed to sing her favorite hymns, grieve and laugh with joy at her spirit and all she taught us.

I am home instead, in the quiet and the snow, wearing slippers with eyes too tired to cry, in recovery.

On Thursday morning, the black and white monitor that was supposed to show the flickering heartbeat of our two month along growing child, stood still.

I would have to tell my daughter that she was no longer going to be a big sister.

I would have to watch my husband grieve another death, another dream.

I would have to hold on when my fingers were already bloody with strain from holding on before.

I’m not sure if it makes it easier or harder to already know the pits and valleys of this road.  This is the third baby of mine that has met Jesus before me.

I have lost them quietly, unknowingly in the night.  I have lost them laboring at home, griping the sides of the bathtub.  I have lost them in the white and blue of the operating room, falling asleep carrying a child, waking with an empty womb.

Not one of them is easier.  Not one of them changes the fact that I have delivered 4 children, and only one of them is alive.  These last few days have been a blur of heartache so deep I have lost all train of thought.  All reason.  My body betrays the most divine thing it was built to do.  I have gone against everything I know is true, back bucking, clawing at the words which we were supposed to give me hope.  Ask and it shall be given.  I will never leave you.  If a child asks his father for fish, would he give him a stone?  Over and over the reel.  I asked.  You gave the fish to hold and snapped it away. I am wearing the stone, weighted around my neck, too heavy to hold.

I regretted my penchant for memorizing scripture.  That was difficult to write, but true nonetheless.

And in my grief, the village crept in.  Driving from hours away to care lovingly for our daughter while we were unable to move.  To hold our hands and our bleeding hearts.  To hold our heads up while they spooned carefully prepared broth and tea into our mouths.  To whisper prayers of peace which we did not want to but so desperately needed to hear.  They were waiting in line, in the driveway.  They wailed as though it was their own child.  It was.  In this village, they are all our children.  The village walked with us to the operating room at 6:30 am on Saturday morning, the village was my surgeon, and was there when I awoke, holding my hand I couldn’t yet feel, praying prayers I was unable yet to pray.

You are the light of world.  The village.  Because we could not have done this on our own. Remembered that it was the world that was broken and not our God.  Remembered that He has overcome it.  Remembered that He was good.  We could not believe it again until His love poured out of your faces and hands, in our kitchens, cleaning our blood and our tears.  Never underestimate the power of Christ in which you are given- He dwells in you to save others.

Through Him, you have surely saved us.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the field and no cattle in the stalls, yet I WILL rejoice in the Lord, I WILL be joyful in my Savior.”- Hab. 3:17-18

Aunt Marge

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m slightly disenchanted with this whole media driven, large numbers gathering, smoke and strobe-light Christianity that seems to be pretty prevalent these days.  At the risk of sounding like a complete and total Grandma, nothing about it makes sense to me.

In fact, in direct opposite to the effect the movement seems to desire to have, I run at the first sight of a purple light.  A 10 foot angel wing.  It feels jarring and loud, invasive and foreign.  So unlike the relationship I have with my Jesus.

I know I’m not the majority.  I’ve made peace with that.  I know plenty of people who have been and continue to be moved by Christ in masses of hundreds, hearts captured through videos, peace given through life-sized demonstrations.  I’m so glad for them.  But, every time I start to feel the panic rising in my throat, the gentle constricting of the wondering if this is really the only way in which to reach anyone anymore, I remember Aunt Marge. And my breathing stills.

Aunt Marge was not really a blood relative, but that never stopped me from calling her by her rightful title- nor the rest of her surrogate grandchildren.  She was a quiet, gentle, white-haired lady who was a mainstay at the church at which I found Jesus as a misguided and angry teenager.  Aunt Marge was steady;constant.  She was there every Sunday.  Always smiling.  Always asking pointed questions that directly correlated with the last conversation you had with her.  It didn’t matter if it was a year ago.  Aunt Marge always remembered.

There was something profound in the way that Aunt Marge loved on the teenagers in our church that is nothing less than shocking.  These are two age groups that do not mingle.  Not willingly.  And yet, she sought us out.  She didn’t lure us with cool gimmicks or the latest gadgets.  But she (and her friends) made it to every single performance I ever had in High School.  She went to everyone’s games and matches, plays and performances.  She was there with signs (because she hated flowers) and loud claps.  She would wait in the back until you got off the stage or the court or the field to hug you tightly and whisper how proud of you she was.  She would surreptitiously sneak rolled up 10 dollar bills into your palm with a wink and tell you to have fun with your friends.  She’d send me (all of us) hand written letters when we went off to camp or college with boxes snacks for our entire dorm.  She cried at our weddings.  She held our hands when we lost babies and direction and sometimes, our minds and she promised to pray and we believed her because Aunt Marge never backed out of a promise.  No matter what secret we revealed to Aunt Marge she was never appalled or shocked- and we’ve collectively, I’m sure, told her some pretty shocking things.  The fact that a sixteen year old girl would reveal anything to an elderly woman should be testimony enough to what type of lady she was. She was always present, available and willing.

Aunt Marge loved Christ with her whole self and it changed me.  It changed us.  She didn’t need a disco ball or a multi-million dollar sound system to capture a bunch of wayward kids, she just loved us so completely we couldn’t help but reciprocate.

I’m remembering Aunt Marge today and how she lived her life as it’s the day she went home to be Jesus and am so incredibly thankful for what she taught me.

Above all else, the greatest of these is love.

The greatest.

She certainly was.