Aunt Edna’s Last Lesson

Life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.  Luke 12:23

I want to share a very sacred and intimate moment with you. I am sitting by the bedside of my Aunt Edna -and the Doctor told us she is dying. I traveled twenty-five hundred miles to be here by her bedside.

Aunt Edna was an elementary school teacher all of her professional life. As I watch her life ebb away – she is still teaching. The lesson I am learning is: Things are not important – People are!

Aunt Edna is not now rational at times, and her memory comes and goes. She just asked me to pray for her that God would forgive her. As I prayed I was so thankful that God really does forgive.

God forgives, but I could not help but wish that her past had been different for her life could have been so much better. Down the hall is Aunt Mabel, 93 years of age who just came through an operation and is getting ready to leave. Two aunts, with two very different outlooks on life, and thus, with two very different outcomes.

Aunt Edna experienced a great disappointment early in her life and thus never married. She turned inward, hurt and bitter. Even when she went into teaching and was known as an excellent kindergarten teacher, she turned away from any close relationships in her personal life. She substituted a dog and a couple of cats – to heap her affection upon – so much so that they were not allowed to live a normal life. Their life was a constant round of veterinary doctors, special food and unnatural protection.

Most people and relatives avoided her for she was known in the town and family for her sharp tongue.

As my Aunt turned inward she also focused upon possessions. She saved every penny she could. She furiously protected the antiques connected with the family and collected memorabilia related to the British Royal Family. She denied herself many things which she could afford so that she could leave an inheritance to a few of us – so as to assure that she would be remembered. I was a teacher so I was a favorite. Aunt Edna really never did believe that I loved her just for who she was, but I did.

All of her life she collected things – and then over the last five years, she was preoccupied with giving them away to people who would preserve them. The last time I was with her, she gave me her treasured bell collection and her collection of novels – stories of schoolteachers.

Today, as I am sitting here, I have not heard her mention her house, her antiques, her collections – or even her pets – no, not one time. All she wants is my cousin, Marilyn and I near her. She wants me to rub her hand and she calls me by my fathers name. A few times, she calls out the names of the lost ‘loves’ of her early life. Ever so often she calls out an unknown name and asks for their forgiveness. No possessions – just names of family and friends.

Why am I sharing this intimate time with you – a stranger? Somehow I think the teacher would like to teach us all one last lesson, maybe the greatest lesson of her life: Things are not important – Family and friends are!

How I wish Aunt Edna had not allowed bitterness and disappointments to destroy her life. Aunt Edna does not have any more time. Maybe you do. God help us to live our lives the way we want to die.

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