On July 10, sometime in the wee hours of the morning, my Aunt Mary died.
I'd like to take a moment and publicly thank God for her life.
Mary was born in 1938 with Cerebral Palsy.
Her parents were told she would never live long past childhood.
She was 70 when her body finally gave out.
Mary couldn't walk, but as a child she crawled across a farmyard to be where her siblings were. Later she used crutches and finally a wheelchair.
She never progressed past the understanding of an older child and yet she knew all about the people and happenings of her world.
Mary never, ever complained. Of the pain. Or that she couldn't do what others did. She did what she could. Beautiful embroidery. Ironing. Drying dishes.
God granted her family's most fervent desire that she never have to be hospitalized or institutionalized.
She died peacefully in her sleep. In her home, with those who loved her silently slumbering around her.
God is faithful. God is good. Blessed be the name of the Lord
In the hours after Mary’s death, I found myself thinking of one of my favorite books, A Christmas Carol.
“I see a vacant seat in the poor chimney corner and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved.”
There is an empty blue chair in the living room. At every meal, one place less will be set. Her crutches, worn from use and delegated to a cobbywebby cubby hole will be carefully preserved.
Dickens quoted: “He took a child and set him in the midst of them.”
Mary was no longer a child when she died, and yet God had blessed her with a childlike spirit.
She found joy in simple things.
She was curious about everything.
And she loved to laugh.
Tiny Tim was
“very light to carry and his father loved him so much that it was no trouble, no trouble at all.”
Mary needed some degree of care all of her life. But for those who cared for her, I believe all will say it was no trouble, no trouble at all.
Mary wasn’t a burden to those who loved her.
Mary never complained about her pain or about not being able to what others did.
She not only was patient in affliction, I don’t think she thought of herself as afflicted.
For those who cared for her, I am sure there were times they wearied of the task. But Mary always did all she could for herself, never demanded and never complained.
Bob Cratchit said of Tiny Tim – “When we recollect how patient and mild he was we shall not quarrel easily among ourselves and forget Tiny Tim in doing it.”
A common admonishment when we were kids was – quit bickering, you’ll upset Mary!
Mom said it many times to Cindy, Wayne and I.
I’ve said it to my kids.
And I’m guessing Grandma and Grandpap said it to Lila, Harry, Mom and Bob.
For three generations, Mary’s inadvertently been a peacemaker.
Mary could get annoyed, angry or frustrated. But those moods never lasted long. She didn't sulk or hold grudges.
One thing Mary definitely was was determined. Mom tells that when she was a child, Mary wasn’t content sitting in the house. She wanted to be where the other kids were. Mary would make her way out of the house and crawl not only across the lawn, but across the road to get to the barn. And this wasn’t some nicely paved piece of asphalt, it was a country road made of rock and cinder with cars whizzing past. My Grandmother lived in mortal dread that Mary would get killed on that road, but nothing would keep Mary down.
Now Mary runs with the angels. After her death, I had a moment when all stopped. I felt I was witnessing from afar the moment when Mary was finally able to run and hug her parents.
It is hard for me to imagine who Mary is now that she has been made perfect. It is more than a healing of physical infirmities. It is also a completion of her mind. It makes me feel a bit shy to think of meeting her again. She won't be as we knew her. She will be a stranger. I know in heaven emotional distance will no longer exist, and yet, I cannot grasp the change. I expect to ponder it for many a year until I meet her again. By then, perhaps I will have gained some understanding.
Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like inside somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.
- Frederick Buechner
If society prospers at the expense of the intangibles,
how can it be called progress?