There are days and weeks when everything you thought was going to happen goes out the window and your hours and days are consumed in a completely different way. This last week has been one such week for me – precious hours and days but nothing like what I thought I’d be doing or where I thought I’d be.
At this time I’m sitting on a train in Sydney heading over to scan photos of my aunt at one of my best friends parents’ house. Two months ago my aunt was diagnosed with leukaemia. She died on Tuesday. Her funeral is on Monday. It became reasonably clear late last week that she was highly unlikely to get better from the infections that had her in hospital, so I flew over last Saturday night to be with her. She was just conscious enough to recognise me for a brief moment on Sunday. I’m exceptionally thankful for the time we had together just a month ago.
As we’ve journeyed this week, we’ve been very aware of the number of people like her who have no one. But Gwen (a single woman, almost 80 profoundly deaf), was surrounded by people. I’m her closest surviving biological relative, but I have distant cousins who have loved her dearly. She was a nanny for a family on the north shore of Sydney from the time she was 25 and has been part of their family ever since. She embraced them and they embraced her. As the minister who will lead her funeral described it yesterday, she has four ‘nanny kids’ and lots of ‘nanny grandchildren and great grandchildren’. It’s a fun and special story that has touched and confused numerous people over recent days.
In the midst of this story there are many marks of loyalty and selflessness in many directions – and, for me personally, lots of signs of God’s leading and sovereignty. My original plans for the year were for Gwen and me to spend time together on the day she died, but numerous situations led me to come on leave a month earlier and spend some significant time with her. Last weekend, I prayed for wisdom in timing, and feel like I arrived just in time. As well, earlier in the week I had prayed that the people who needed to see her would, and she died within minutes of the last of these leaving the room. Such a reminder of the intimate and listening relationship our Father longs for us to have with Him and of the intricate way our actions and prayers matter in the way He works in the world. So often it’s easier to see this in these times but He longs to walk and work with us in this way always. I’m certainly reminded of this fact by these last days, weeks and months and hope it will continue to shape how I live in my more ‘normal’ daily life.
As we all know, presence and empathy are so precious in these moments and this week I’ve been struck both by the love and care of people who are not Christians, as well as being aware of the uniqueness that we have in the body of Christ at these times. Again it has me pondering how we as Christ’s body – his hands and feet – continue to love well in the places and communities that He has placed us.
Thanks for your love and prayers for me at this time. I wonder who else God might have for you to be present with this week and what He might be leading you to do?