Most everyone I know had that one relative who had a big impact in their life. It was either an uncle at the farm or a grandmother in an apartment. It may have been a cousin who was a few years older and took them under their wing. For me it was my Aunt Joyce, my father’s sister.
This morning my Aunt Joyce went to be with her Lord, Jesus. It’s been just over twenty years since her only (at the time) son, Jason, went to be with Jesus. Today a great reunion took place in heaven. A mother and her son were reunited, undoubtedly embracing and shrouded in new bodies, something they both needed desperately, something we all need desperately.
I’m thankful that I have deep and vivid memories of my Aunt Joyce. She was my English Comp teacher in high school my senior year. I vividly remember her looking into my eyes and telling me, “You should go to college and become a teacher. You would be good at it.” It felt kind of funny for her to tell me that. I always saw myself as a cabinet guy. I grew up around kitchen cabinets, and I just assumed that was what I would do with my life. My aunt saw much more. She saw a spiritual leader. She saw a teacher, and she saw a writer. These were all things she told me more than once.
My Aunt Joyce had been in and out of the hospital quite a bit over the last few years. A couple of weeks ago she took a turn for the worse. She ended up on a ventilator and was unconscious for about a week. During that week I commented to Julie that I had not gotten a chance to share with her how much she had influenced me. Thankfully, last Thursday she got strong enough to be taken off of the ventilator, and she was able to communicate just a little. Julie and I stopped by to visit her this last Tuesday evening, and we got to have what would be our final conversation.
“You saw something in me nobody else ever saw”, I told her. “Twenty-four years ago you told me that I should be a teacher. I have found that calling now. Every Sunday for the last year I have been teaching a men’s Sunday school class at my church. You spoke prophetically to me. You were the only one who saw what I could be, not where I thought I was headed.”
She nodded her head knowingly and asked me, “What have you been learning from Andy Stanley?” She had to repeat it several times before I could understand what she was saying. She was quite familiar with how big an impact Andy has had on my spirituality. I shared a few details from the current series I am teaching on Sunday mornings, and she nodded in approval. In the forty years I have known my aunt she has turned every conversation we have ever had towards our relationship with Christ. She was a deeply spiritual woman.
I have barely scratched the surface of how special she was to me, but I can hardly see through the tears pouring from my eyes, so I will leave you with the scripture verse that best describes her.
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!