An interesting day to say the least. Interesting in that the phone call I received before heading off to worship was from one of our long time parishioners; she called to tell me her aunt had died. Before I could say that I was sorry to hear this news, my friend on the other end of the line told me that this was good news. You see, her aunt was 94 years old. I told her that I would stop by following church for a chat and we could share some stories about her aunt.
When I arrived, Evelyn and I sat down with her husband and we had a very nice conversation. We talked about the loved ones whom we’ve known for so long, and how we miss them when they are no longer with us. We shared stories of holiday celebrations, Christmases past, and how this time of year always brings the memory of loved one so close to us that we can feel their presence. She mentioned that this particular aunt was the last of her remaining blood relatives. “Now I’m the matriarch.” She said, “and I have many to care for, I am the keeper of the family story.”
As our talk continued, suddenly something seemed to change. I had this strange feeling that I wasn’t entirely sure who was ministering to whom. Even though I was there to assist Evelyn in her grief, I had this nagging feeling that she was beginning to attend to mine. The thing is, I couldn’t understand why, and I wondered where my sudden emptiness was coming from. As we continued to share family stories, I remembered all of those relatives whom I have not seen in so long. Aunts, Uncles, who cared for me when I was young; and cousins, many of whom I grew up with a closely as my own brothers and sisters.
For whatever reason, many families drift farther and farther apart. Every now and again there is a reunion or some other get together. Weddings and funerals are the two that come quickly to mind. It’s a shame that as we grow older, we grow more distant, but such is often the case. Regardless, I was thankful for Evelyn, and the company of her husband, just as they were thankful for my presence. We shared a time of prayer, celebrated the Lord’s Supper together, and the peace of Christ came to the three of us. Finally it was time for me to leave. Still, I wondered about the strange empty feeling I had.
Well, about an hour ago I learned that my own aunt had passed away. My mom called to tell me that her sister died. This particular aunt was my mother’s last surviving sibling. Suddenly, I heard Evelyn’s words, “I’m the matriarch now.” Now, I’m not up on what does or does not constitute one’s being matriarch, but I do understand that my mom is feeling a little different today. Suddenly, she has many to care for; suddenly, she is the keeper of the family story.
As each loved one passes, our own mortality becomes a little more evident. Our time on earth is limited, we can’t stay forever. When we are young, we feel as though we have nothing but time on our side. Yet, as we grow older, we come to the understanding that our time here is a precious gift, one to be cherished, yet one that will one day pass. The story; however, lives on.
As familiar faces one day become only familiar names, the story still passes from one generation to the next. Pictures fade and albums become worn, but the love never dies. One day we will all gather again at God’s table and share the stories of our lives with those whom we’ve missed. But until such time, we gather as Evelyn, her husband and I did today; around God’s table of grace where the peace that passes all understanding fills our hearts and minds. Thanks be to God.