Chapter 2 in Crazy Love has a title that seems sobering.
“You might not finish this chapter.”
When you begin reading the chapter, it is sobering.
It’s about dying.
Not a thought you want to think about every day is it.
I began considering death when I was called on to handle my Aunt Babe’s affairs. Her real name was Anna Ruth Revel but everyone called her Babe. She had many relatives but for reasons that I will not elaborate on, she picked me as her executor in her final arrangements.
It was a real learning experience.
I had help from her Episcopal Church family in Paducah [lots of it]. She lived in Paducah at the end of her life. I was not able to be there for her as fast as they were and I was very thankful for them. I was the relative that they called when the emergencies occurred.
There were many.
It began with an operation on her arm which revealed a weak heart and then progressed to late stage esophageal cancer. I found out that death for some is not sudden. It is a long, drawn-out affair.
I was terrified that I was not up to the job most the time.
I had never been so close to someone as they died.
She was a Rector at her church, which means she had the rights of a pastor and was ordained. She did not have a full-time ministry. She was a psychologist by trade. She did preach. I inherited her sermons, books of them.
Being an ordained Rector, I watched her go through the process of death. I discovered that she was a human being first and a Rector second. She had emotions that overflowed at times. Regret that she could not do much, frustration that she did not feel like taking on projects, irritation that her care took so much time and money.
She was a genius; had a high enough IQ that she was in the 98th percentile of all human beings.
She loved travel and had been all around the world.
She loved her church and they loved her.
She just had a lot of trouble loving her family.
I came late to the game. She had already divorced her husband and became estranged from her adopted daughter when I came along. She did not get along with her big sister at all and thought her little brother was a “nut case.”
She loved my Dad but Dad was too sick himself to be of much help to her as she was dying.
That left me.
Other relatives did things to her that she considered unscrupulous but as I said above, I won’t elaborate on those things.
I will never forget the instructions she gave me about her arrangements. Some people just leave the details a little open with vague instructions that give an executor reasonable “wiggle room” about dispersal of possessions.
She had it all worked out and the instructions were very specific.
She was a downsizer but she still had lots of stuff when she passed. She gave every family member something and they had to take it and sign off that they were ok with what they got. She had a notebook detailing the value of dishes, antique items, jewelry and silver. She told me where to go for appraisals and I had to raise as much money as I could as I liquidated her possessions.
She had details about a garage sale which I held in my mother’s garage in Marion. Every penny had to be accounted for and the whole affair was to raise as much money as possible for her final request.
This is where I got one of my strongest messages about death.
I saw her dreams unfinished. I had to sell them.
Paintings unpainted, music un-played and needlework undone.
I had always heard the old expression that when you “go”, your in box would not be empty. Someone will have to come along and empty it for you.
That’s what I did.
I emptied her in box.
You may have caught the idea above that she was an ordained Rector in the Episcopal Church. You may have caught the idea that she had a hard time loving her family.
However, she did not have a hard time loving her church family.
And they loved her.
She was an amazing woman. My life was enriched for getting to know her at the end of her life. I wondered why I had to come along so late.
God has His reasons.
All that work I had to do carrying out her detailed wishes was to raise money for her bequest to her church. Family did not get much and that was tough, but the love was not there. The love was there for the church and from the church.
Young people will get help with college for years to come from what Babe gave that church.
Yes when Babe died, it was a real learning experience for me.
I learned that family comes in many forms and Christians like to toss the term “Church Family” around a lot, but Babe knew what that meant.
Now, I do too.