As I write this blog, it is Wednesday, November 2nd, known on the Anglican and Catholic Church calendars as All Souls’ Day or Commemoration of All Faithful Departed. Last night, on All Saints’ Day, we gathered outside Holy Comforter in the twilight hours of the day to dedicate our new columbarium and labyrinth; and, then quietly moved into our dimly lit sanctuary to hear the readings, prayers, and soft tones of Choral Evensong. We were invited by Mother Kim to think about those who have died – a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, friend, or mentor – someone who has shaped our lives and our faith, who gave us core values to live by, and on whose shoulders we stand today. She invited us to come forward and light a candle in remembrance of that person.
My thoughts turned to Aunt Eleanor, my mother’s older sister who had suffered through two failed marriages and contracted multiple sclerosis while in her 30s. In the 1950s, it was a disease about which little was known, and there was no known treatment for it. While it eventually paralyzed her legs and put her in a wheelchair, it never put down her spirit or her faith.
Aunt Eleanor earned her certificate as a Nursing Home Administrator and worked at various nursing facilities in Texas. She gave me my first summer job out of high school – as a “rookie” nurse’s aide in a nursing home. Needless to say, that summer job taught me a lot about life. Aunt Eleanor was an advocate for the elderly; and, she taught me the importance of dignity and respect for others, no matter their station in life. I remember her being at odds with the nursing home owner who didn’t want curtains and boxes of tissues in people’s rooms because of the cost. She stood firm that the rooms were the people’s homes and needed to be comfortable. She won out! She was an Episcopalian and introduced me to the Episcopal Church. As a teenager, my understanding of God was pretty elementary, but I remember her talking to me about how important it was to live a Godly life. She taught me what it meant to be caring and compassionate for others.
It has been nearly 40 years since Aunt Eleanor passed away, but I will always hold her among the saints on whose shoulders I stand. Who is that person for you? I would love to hear your story!
Deacon Linda Brown