The reason for the trip was the funeral for my Aunt Lanell. She was a tiny woman with a huge personality, who gave birth to 12 children, raising ten of them to adulthood. I grew up playing with her children that were my age, Lynette and Dana, and admiring their older brothers, teenagers who drove cars and played popular music on the radio. Their house was large and well-organized. The basement was a fantasy land, with foosball and a pool table.
Aunt Lanell's death was not all sad. She had Alzheimer's for the past few years. She was in her 80's. I told myself I had no reason to cry. This was a release. A passage to a new and wonderful journey for her.
Yet, as I entered the church, greeting cousins I hadn't seen in years, I saw grief painted on their faces. Tears brimmed their eyes even as they smiled and hugged me hello. No matter the circumstances, they had lost their mother. The bright, shining light that held their family together. I got out my tissues.
There were two moments that made lasting impressions on my heart that day. The first was when they prepared to close the casket. My Uncle Roland, looking older, frailer, and smaller than I've ever seen him, walked over. He carefully put his hand on her hair, and leaned down, placing a kiss on her forehead. Aunt Lanell died just two days shy of their 70th wedding anniversary. The gentle gesture spoke volumes.
The second moment came at the end of the funeral. The program announced that Aunt Lanell's grandchildren and great-grandchildren would sing the closing song. When the time arrived, 90% of the congregation stood and walked to the front of the chapel. 35 grandchildren and 36 great-granchildren sang a medley of Primary songs. I looked at them, from adults down to babes in arms, and thought how Aunt Lanell must be so pleased with the legacy she left behind.
To me, death is just a step. I believe that there is a life after this one, where our spirits live on, learning and doing. I believe that families are God's appointed unit, that He placed us here- together -because that is how He lives. I believe that we can be together again after this life. That gives me great comfort and hope.
There is also hope in the fact that life goes on. Just before the funeral, I received a text from my friend. "And we have M! She's 9 pounds and 20 inches." Today, I went to visit them. I sat and snuggled little M and marveled at her perfect features.
Birth, life, death. They are all a part of His plan and I find joy in being a part of it.
(This is one of the songs the grandchildren sang. A staple for Mother's Day and one of my favorites, as well.)