My Aunt Darla was one of God’s special beloved. The medical community has words to describe her – nonverbal, neuro-atypical, differently-abled, and more hurtful words – but to us – to me – she was just a loved and special part of our family. Many people in my family have a special connection to beloved children of God like Darla, and I never ceased to be amazed at the love and compassion that she was shown by people I would not necessarily describe as loving and compassionate otherwise.
That ability to connect with her did not come easily to me, or maybe not even at all. I always felt that love for her, but that connection was not my gift (which saddens more than a little today).
But in her I saw a special gift I pray for myself: an ultimate vulnerability, a complete lack of mask or deception, fully bringing everything about herself to every moment. I pray and dream of the moment where I can bring half of my true self to anything; she just naturally did it.
She was a complete and whole beloved child of God, no need for correction nor fixing. I do not say that she had an easy life – or a pain-free life – but she was beloved exactly as she was. I could not always see that, but I know it to be true.
Last night my Aunt Darla passed away from COVID-19. She spent a week on a ventilator but was, ultimately, too weak to recover. Thankfully my grandparents were able to spend the last moments with her, but most of that time they had to stay away. I don’t know if she knew what was going on before they sedated her, but I know it had to be very confusing to be without anyone she knew in those last moments awake.
For the past week or so, a verse from Matthew has not been far from my mind: “Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’” (Matthew 25:40 CEB)
I know Darla was well cared for her entire life – my grandparents, the staff at the facility she lived, the doctors and nurses who cared for her at the end. Those people are light in this world, a reflection of perfect love.
On Friday my family will be wearing red – her favorite color – and you are welcome to join us, but I more hope and pray that you can find your way to do for the least and the lowest. Protect the most vulnerable, support the most downtrodden, lift the most beaten, sacrifice your own desires for the needs of those whose needs aren’t fulfilled.
“Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’” (Matthew 25:40 CEB)
You will be dearly missed, Aunt Darla. I pray I can someday reflect as much of Christ’s love as you did.