I’ve attended the funerals of many elderly relatives in the past few years; the most recent one was today. Today I shed tears for the loss of Aunt Josephine.
During her nearly 90 years on earth, Aunt Jo was a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother. She lived in the same house her whole life, and as far as I know, she never held a job outside that house. She was a gracious hostess who had an easy way of making guests feel welcome. She was a great conversationalist: wise, witty and well-informed. She was confident and she was elegant—I never saw her looking like she felt out of place. And she was honest. If you asked for her opinion, you could count on her to be direct, to tell the truth, and to tell it with kindness. She was a woman of strong faith and convictions, too. An example of this is the fact that she gave up sweets every year during Lent, even though (because her birthday was in the first week of March) that meant she never got to eat a piece of her own birthday cake!
I always loved and admired Aunt Jo, but it wasn’t until I saw her care for her husband during the last months of his life that I saw how very strong and full of grace she was. Health problems made some things difficult for Uncle Frankie, including speech. He wasn’t confused—he knew what he was trying to say but he struggled to get the right words to come out. Aunt Jo could have interrupted and spoken for him, it might have been easier, but instead she waited. She didn’t seem bothered that it took him a long time to speak. There was no eye-rolling or impatient sighing. She never hinted that caring for him might be inconvenient for her. She consistently spoke to him with love and respect, the way she always had. She made his life better until the very end and, in doing so, she set an excellent example for the rest of us.
In this world, where the goal of so many seems to be obtaining wealth and prestige, it’s easy to wonder if living a kind and upright life—one centered on family, faith and friendship—is of any real worth.
(I sometimes wonder about the worth of my own life.
Am I doing anything meaningful?
Will my life make a difference in the grand scheme of things?
Will it matter that I was here?)
As I sat in church today, being soothed by the music and the incense and the words of the hope of a life to come, I looked around. I saw a room filled with friends and family gathered to say goodbye to a woman we all loved dearly. I imagined the hundreds of stories we could tell of the many ways Josephine’s life had blessed each of ours.
And in that moment I knew—
Yes, living a kind and upright life actually has great worth.
Perhaps there is nothing worth more.
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