Aunt Mae's Bible

My Aunt Ella Mae, my father's oldest sister - age 98 - went to be with the Lord on Friday evening. On this day, my husband and I attended her funeral, which was held in McAlisterville, my hometown. We kids mostly just called her Aunt Mae; I wrote about her in a blip from a few days ago.

The funeral was at 10 am, which meant we had to leave our house by shortly after 8:30. The forecast listed the possibility of rain or showers, either in the morning or afternoon, or both. Of course, as we hit the Seven Mountains, just like clockwork, the skies opened up and we got an absolute deluge. "I can't BELIEVE it's doing this again!" my husband said, as the roads turned into rivers and visibility went down to zero. AGAIN.

But my husband has a steady hand. And we have good tires and wipers on the car. We passed through the storm and made it to the funeral on time. At the front of the room was my Aunt Mae, with family gathered all around. They had a lovely service for her, and at one point, the preacher pulled out my Aunt Mae's Bible and showed it to us.

The Bible was ancient looking, well worn, and taped together. It was overflowing with mementos and photos. It had her name on the front bottom right, simply: MAE. Its signs of wear seemed a good indicator of the woman's faith: her hands have clearly touched this book often, with great love and care. I thought of that line from the film Witness: What you take into your hands, you take into your heart.

From the funeral home, we drove in procession to St. John's United Methodist Church, which is my home church. In the graveyard we stood in the summer sun, looking up - and out over rolling green hills; looking down - and seeing the graves of relatives who have passed before us.

My Aunt's coffin was decorated with many sprays of beautiful flowers. My cousin Lana told me that during the service, she saw a hummingbird moth come flitting by and it checked out the flowers. Aunt Mae would have liked that, I think.

When the service was finished, we milled about the graveyard, and I visited my big sister Barb's grave. It's been almost two years exactly since she was laid to rest in the churchyard there. I had put butterfly tattoos on the tops of my feet, a celebration of the Butterfly Girl.

I was taking pictures of my niece by Barb's grave, when I spotted a tiny gray figure hopping around the grave stone. It was a very cute, very small toad! It hopped all around, taking solace in the shade of the stone itself. Her gravesite is its home; some little micro-climate that tiny toads must love. Barb would have thought that was very fun, and neat; she would have instantly come up with a cool name for that toad!*

The service was followed by a meal for immediate family, up at the same camp where our family reunion was so recently held. So my husband and I went, and had sandwiches and macaroni salad and potato chips and desserts. It was all good; but it felt sort of bizarre to be back again, so soon, for such a different sort of event.

We said our good-byes and shared our condolences and then ran through raindrops to our car, to go and visit my Mom and Dad. After the funeral, Dad had gone to make sure Mom had something for lunch, so he missed the family meal. One of my siblings brought them a plate.

So we spent the early afternoon visiting, talking, telling stories about Mae, catching up. On the couch sat my Mom and Dad, snuggling together as always. Mom was wearing her pumpkin socks, which were awfully cute. (Sorry you can't see the socks in the photo of my parents I've placed in the Extras.)

And then as we got ready to go, I swiped two tomatoes from my father's garden. I grabbed some fresh green beans and put them in a bag. "What are the odds we'll make it over the Seven Mountains without another terrible storm?" my husband asked. "If it does, I'm just going to pull over and cry," he added.

As we drove back up through the Seven Mountains, there was a huge, gray thundercloud in front of us. "Looks like rain," we said to each other. We didn't know whether to laugh, or cry. The sky spat about three dozen fat droplets of rain onto our windshield; but the worst of it missed us this time, thank goodness! (Why does it always feel like we're running the gauntlet to get home?)

When our travels were done for the day, I showed my husband the photo I had taken of my Aunt Mae's Bible, and we talked about her Christian example, about her life. I told him how she taught Sunday school, how her class sponsored a child in Africa, a child who got to eat each day because of their support. "She puts us all to shame," he said, nodding at the worn pages, the well handled book.

So - on this day in which we laid her mortal remains to rest - we are thankful and grateful for the life of Aunt Mae. We celebrate her fine example and hope to grow up to be like her. We commend her to Jesus and we know that while her feet have passed from this Earth, we look forward to seeing her again when we also go to meet our Maker. What a reunion day that will be!

I've picked a soundtrack song to go with this story that I hope my Aunt would enjoy. The one I've selected is Johnny Cash, with When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder. Sing along if you like!

When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more
And the morning breaks eternal bright and fair
When the saved of Earth shall gather over on the other shore
And the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there

Let us labor for the Master from dawn 'til setting sun
Let us talk of all his wondrous love and care
Then when all of life is over and our work on Earth is done
And the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there

*I have decided the toad's name is Shadow Dancer!

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