These words were read Thanksgiving weekend at the funeral of Aunt Rosemarie. She led a nicely packed life, filled with more challenges than seems fair, if you are one of those that wonders occasionally, like I do, about the distribution of worldly ease and comfort. Not once did I see any less than gratitude and joy for the life she was given, as it was. I am always in awe of people like her, who truly live the meaning of faith and have this amazing ability to see all of life as a great gift, no matter the circumstances they find themselves in. They live in joy, no matter what. I strive to be like that, but I fear I’m not even close to the goalpost. I simply have to thank God for exposing me to people like her who walk In pure trust, an example for people like me who have good intentions, but sometimes can’t find our way to that portal of acceptance; let alone understanding. She understood.
She understood this lifetime is just a classroom, a place to hone the gifts of the spirit.
She understood raising a handicapped daughter taught her many holy things, how to serve others, how to be patient, and love as God loves, unconditionally.
She understood life would be a lot easier if she lived it with humor.
She made me laugh. She was the older auntie I always hoped would be at family gatherings because of her witty outlook. With all the curve balls life tossed her way, she still stepped up to the plate and made the decision to have fun playing the game. A few years ago at the annual family Trivial Pursuit game, she could barely walk, crippled with arthritis and an assortment of other ailments. She navigated the room in her seated walker, smiling, cracking jokes. Her lively wit lightened up even the serious, brilliant boys who often happened to win this battle of the sexes. The nimble banter combined with her dancing eyes, was contagious, even to the most scholarly competitors. She seemed always to be both happy and grateful to be alive another day to enjoy the moments and her family. That was how I saw her. Her outlook simply drew you in.
I was inducted into this extended family through a back door, in my late thirties, because I married her nephew. To her, I was family, even after her nephew; my husband, passed away. Blood has never been thicker than water in my life experience. I’ve had many “surrogates” throughout its course who taught me, belonging has nothing to do with shared DNA. To be able to welcome others unconditionally into your life and heart is a by-product of knowing God well. She knew God through and through. This gift of belonging and acceptance into his precious family, has been my husband’s greatest legacy to me.
Long after he passed away she still sent birthday cards, encouraged me, and prayed for me. Best of all she invited me to find humor in the midst of hardship and misfortune. In May, when I had my hip replacement surgery, she called my voice mail to wish me well, starting off with a corny joke and her great laugh. She ended it with words of encouragement and promises of prayers for a good outcome. With her, you just knew, the words, “I will pray for you,” weren’t empty promises. If she was going to pray for me, I was in very good hands. She had an intimate relationship and very notable connections. Those suspicions were verified at her funeral Mass. Her daughter read Aunt Rosie’s favorite verses from an unknown writer.
God spoke. She listened and learned. She gave up the pain, saw her beautiful handicapped daughter as perfect, certainly had plenty of opportunity to practice patience, and learned to appreciate her blessings. When she suffered, she leaned on Him, and she practiced her faith. Her spirit grew and through it, she taught others what was important. She enjoyed life - as it was, how it was. She knew the keys to our happiness are in our own hands. God has given us all we need for an abundant life. Life is a classroom, honing our qualities in His image.
I am grateful to Aunt Rosemarie for her example of loving others as God does. I will carry her wisdom, laughter, and loving heart with me until we meet again. I think I will probably greet her with:
Hey, did you hear the one about the orthopedic surgeon who tried to replace me?