The turmoil racing through my soul this week caused me to remember a favorite Aunt. I have been in the mountains on our annual January trek before the vacation rental house is closed until spring. Some of this precious time I found myself asking the same question she asked so many years ago.
Advice about Widows, Elders, and Slaves,
1 Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father. Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers.
2 Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters.
3 Take care of any widow who has no one else to care for her.
4 But if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God.
5 Now a true widow, a woman who is truly alone in this world, has placed her hope in God. She prays night and day, asking God for his help. [I Timothy 5:1–5, New Living Translation]
I did not know my husband’s Aunt until we had been married for several years. She moved in with her youngest brother and his wife, my in-laws, when she needed care in the last couple of years here on earth. There was no one else who would care for her. At the time my eldest prince was about 18 months old and my mother-in-law cared for him during the day while I was working.
I know it is an old-fashioned way of life. The matriarch caring for family young and old until the next generation does the same. I admire this way of caring for each other. Sadly, this is not well respected in American life anymore. It is this culture’s loss.
Like many things in our culture, this loss saddens me. Lately I am spending more time discussing things I have no power over with the Holy Spirit. Sitting in His Presence one recent morning. I felt unsettled and useless. I asked, “What can I do?”
“Pray” The word whispered in my soul. I felt the squeeze of frustration in my throat. Then the Holy Spirit caused me to remember her. I came to know her in the last two years of her life. Oh, the family had filled me in on the family legends surrounding the eldest daughter that raised the youngest son. But I had never met her, and I can’t say I know someone until I actually talk to them.
Most of the time when I picked up my son after work, he and his grandmother were busy with something. While waiting, I would go to the living room where my husband’s Aunt sat in her favorite recliner “watching” a catholic channel on the TV. I put the word watching in quotes because she was nearly blind. When I came in she would stop either her rosary prayers or following the mass in a whisper then say, “hello.”
While her eyesight and health were deteriorating, she was still sharp as a tack. I sat next to her and listened to her tell me about the Masses she watched, the antics of my son, and regale me with family stories, especially about the scamps, my father-in-law and my husband. Our time together lasted about a half an hour, but I treasured those evening talks with her.
Oh! I must not forget to mention, she complained. No, she wasn’t an angel. Maybe it is why I liked her so much. She had failings just like me. I recall little about what the complaints were because; I let them go in one ear and out the other. There was nothing I could do to solve her concerns about losing her eyesight or ability to move well. Until one evening, I caught a whispered complaint. “I am useless.”
That was a punch in the gut. I wasn’t sure I heard her right. As the eldest daughter, she had taken on household chores around the farm along with raising the youngest of the seven surviving siblings when she was a teenager. My father-in-law often said she was his mother when he was growing up. She was also a wife, mother, square dancer, and friend. I asked, “You feel useless?”
She gave me a curt nod and turned her head away to wipe her eye with a handkerchief. “Watering eyes” she muttered then asked. “What can I do?”
I leaned towards her and asked softly, “Do you pray?”
She turned her head to “look at me.” “All the time.” She said.
Stunned, I sat back. Then she whispered, “I pray for your son.” I knew she loved the little rascal. He had a habit of running into the room hugging his Great Aunt’s legs, she would pat him on the head before he ran off again.
“Thank you,” I whispered back. I’m not sure why we were whispering. The prince was busy with Grandma somewhere in the house. Then I whispered, “Will you pray for me?”
She nodded then asked, “What is it?”
I poured out the stress, fears and struggles I held in my heart. Mainly I tend to put on a cheery exterior because basically my life is good. My path had turned back to God. God answered my prayers for a soul-mate and a child.
She listened, nodding her understanding. Somehow I knew she could relate. Just because we get what we ask for doesn’t make it easy. Marriage and family require care. That means work, hardships, and faith! She remembered all those years of work and heartache in her own life. This was part of my learning process at the time. Then she asked, “Will you pray for me?” I agreed.
The stuff of family legends happens after we walk through the valleys and climbed the rocky mountain trails. Life has always been tough. The legends are the ones who don’t give up and finish the race or the journey. I find it helps to have prayerful people to pray for us through the journey.
She was a widow who was alone. At the time I did not understand, but she followed 1 Timothy 5:5because she placed her hope in God. She prays night and day, asking God for his help. The next day I when I sat next to her, she patted my hand and said, “I prayed for you.”
I choked up and said, “Thank you. I prayed for you too.” We spent the rest of the time watching the Mass on TV in silence together. The Peace of God settled over me. At that time I prayed for it to settle over her too.
Until her last days, we continued to visit on weekdays while my son was in the care of his Grandmother. The visits went much the same as before, with one change. We shared our daily prayers with each other. I hope she didn’t feel “useless” anymore because she blessed me with her earnest prayers.
As I learned from my elders, scriptures, and Lord, there is nothing in the world more powerful than prayer. This week the Lord gave me a memory to remind me to pray first. Especially before I do something… Like take action.
In these troublesome times, if you feel saddened and useless, try prayer. Maybe find an elder to pray with you. Just ask as I did, you may be surprised who is praying for you. I have never regretted praying with and for my elders. I am blessed to have elders who pray with and for me daily.
Here is my prayer for you: “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26, New King James Version. In Jesus’ name, amen.