It’s Tuesday. Election Day 2016. And after all the hatemongering and mudslinging that we’ve seen, given, and received this past year—it’s finally coming to a close. It’s time to vote.
So what if? What if after all the doom and gloom we’ve heard about the world were to actually end today?
What if you knew that, at any moment, the sun would set but never rise. You’d inhale, but never exhale. You’d blink, but never lift your eyes again. The man you loved, the kids you raised, the grandkids you nurtured, the great-grandchild you just met…they’d all appear before you, but then not be seen again.
At 3:00 a.m. this morning, the end of this world came for my Aunt Sandy.
I wish I’d known her better. I have many aunts, but Aunt Sandy led the way. She was the aunt with the pool, the barn, horses, a pond, and acres of woods to explore. And her husband was a pilot, who also co-owned a small island in the Upper Peninsula. So yeah, it’s hard to beat all that.
But she was also the glue that held our family together—at least as I saw it through my youthful eyes. She opened her house to our family for holidays. She hosted my sister and me on several sleepovers. And she took my mom and her two kids—my half-siblings—after my mom’s first marriage ended.
And more personally, she simply loved me. When my mom and I were estranged for a few years, I’d hear through other family members how my aunt was praying. No shame. No judgment. No prodding to do this or that. Just undying love through unending prayers.
Even now in her passing, she’s bringing my family closer together. While spread across the country, my mom, siblings, and I have been dialoguing via text about her life and finding ourselves wading through deeper waters than we’ve known in a long time. That’s my aunt for you.
She was always the light in the room. If you could have seen her, you’d see a full-faced, swollen-cheeked smile that seemed to swallow up her eyes. If you could have heard her, you’d hear the most beautiful cackle wafting above all other voices in the room. Or a slightly rankled, “Oh, Denny,” in response to yet another of her husband’s tall tales.
I got to see and hear her only a few weeks ago when she and my uncle visited Indianapolis for an air show. At the time, I thought it was more of a bucket-list gift to my uncle, whose health has been failing for years. They sat right behind me and the whole time I wondered what he was thinking. Ironically, it was my aunt who had no idea she was carrying cancer and would be the first to go.
But that’s life…and death. In an instant, it can all change.
As I awaited her departure and recollected her life the past few weeks, I juxtaposed those thoughts against all the craziness in this election season. I wondered what it would be like to vote as a dying person. Would I care less because I wouldn’t be around to experience it? Or would I care more, thinking about the future of my kids and my kids’ kids?
For my aunt, I’m not sure it would matter much. She always saw herself as just a passin’ through.
On October 22, she posted on Facebook what was, for lack of a better term, her death notice—not the kind of post you’re used to seeing in your news feed:
“To all my Facebook friends….this is the easiest way to inform as many people as I can at once of the news that I wish to share with you. We are all appointed a time to die and it seems like my time is coming up. I have been diagnosed with cancer in the pancreas, liver and lymph nodes in the abdomen. Barring a miracle my prognosis indicates I will most likely die within the next 3 months.”
But it was also more than that. It was my aunt being my aunt—telling her story with a smile on her face and a cackle in her voice:
“I am at peace. I know Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, and he has promised me an eternal life with Him. He has given me hope and has poured out His love for me over and over thru people who have given me many Bible verses, support and love. HE has blessed me far beyond my expectations. HE has given me a wonderful husband, children (spouses) grandchildren (spouses) and a great grandson. He has met all my needs. Denny and I have done everything we’ve dreamed of doing. HE will be with me thru this unwanted journey and will be there to greet me when I pass “from life to life.” God is good, and it’s my sincere prayer that you all will seek His face. May HE bless you all!”
So today, I’m reminded through the celebration of my aunt’s life that this world will not end with the election of one candidate or another, because this world is not the end. Donald, Hillary, Gary, Jill, taxes, healthcare, the environment, they all matter for today. But when hope lives outside a person or a policy, all the pain of today gets fully eclipsed by a hope in the joy of tomorrow.
Aunt Sandy, your tomorrow came today. Thank you for living out your faith in God. Thank you for reminding me to look beyond myself and see the needs of others. Thank you for expressing and exhibiting your love.Thank you for praying. We’re all honored to have your story forever intertwined in ours until our time here ends.
It is well with your soul now.