Celebrating the life of Aunt Mary on her 60th Birthday

 I’m a believer that whether we admit it or not, we’re all searching for something greater.  The things of this world that we’ve been given to live for are not satisfying.  We try to convince ourselves that more money, success, sex, and pleasure will bring us joy and contentment, yet it is never enough.  To quote Switchfoot, one of my favorite bands, “I refuse to believe that all we are is material, it’s nonsensical.”  I constantly see people who care only about the present and only about pursuing objects and things to own, and I question the hope that a life lived for these things offers.  I don’t expect everyone to understand the purpose to which I’m called as a follower of Jesus; that is to love God and to love people.  It is in this relationship I have with God that I find my greater purpose.  I know not everyone can relate to this, however I think we can all agree about the importance of relationships in this life.  I think relationships are what we’ve been made for and they are the most important thing in this world.  I’m not just talking about romantic relationships, although those are important and obviously a driving force in most of our lives.  All human relationships matter, whether they are between father and son, mother and daughter, brother and sister, or the other many relationships we have the opportunity to experience.

Weighing heavily on my heart this week is the relationship I and many other people had with my Aunt Mary. The 17th   of May would have been her 60th birthday had we not lost her about two and a half years ago after a difficult fight with cancer.  My Aunt Mary was an amazing woman who I admired in many ways.  She played many roles to many people; a daughter, an older sister to seven, an aunt, a friend, and most importantly, a mother to my cousin Ally.  Aunt Mary was a single mother who had the responsibility of raising Ally, and I truly believe she did a fabulous job.  Many of the great traits that make Ally such a fun and enjoyable person to be around can be easily traced back to the way her mother raised her. I could probably write for hours about my relationship with my cousin Ally, but I’ll spare you that today (it would have to include at least a page about our obsession with the Jonas Brothers, and I understand why you might not want to read that).  All I’ll say now is that I’m eternally grateful to Aunt Mary for bringing Ally into this world and always loving and being there for her.  I’ve known Ally my whole life and have considered her one of my best friends since before I could speak, and I’m realizing now more than ever before how important an influence Mary played in the forming of Ally’s strong character.

Proof that Ally and I go way back, looking like badasses with our grandpa

Proof that we’re still tight, and that we wear the clothes our grandma buys us for Christmas

Losing Aunt Mary was an incredibly difficult time for our entire family (which if you don’t know, is a large and close family).  It tore us apart.  I wish I didn’t have to witness the emotional and physical suffering in my family that happened during this time, but it was real.  I found out very suddenly and unexpectedly that depression is a pretty common disease in my family.  I went from knowing nothing about depression to being thrust in a world where the people closest to me suffered greatly from its effects.  During this time I began to suffer from depression and it weighed me down tremendously.  I had never taken my faith in God very seriously before this trial, and I seriously questioned His will as life became more and more difficult.  This painful time period had a large influence in shaping me into the person I am today, but I won’t go too much further into it right now.  If you’re ever more curious, it’s a large part of my testimony of faith in Jesus that I would be willing to share with you.  It’s difficult looking back to explain, but I experienced an overwhelming sense of peace and love during this time that did not come from the reassurance of any person around me, so I knew it must be coming from a God above who cared about me and wasn’t afraid of death like I was.

I don’t want to dwell too much on this painful time period, although it does feel meaningful to think back on it and remember it for what it really was.  The point of this post is to honor and remember a beautiful woman I had the pleasure of knowing for much of my life.  The more I reflect on the person Aunt Mary was, the more I miss her.  I loved Aunt Mary for her personality, the way she never took life too seriously, her great sense of humor, her adventurous attitude towards life, and the way she showed unconditional love to all of us, especially her daughter Ally.  She always had funny stories to share.  She could make you laugh in the moment you most needed it.  I remember seeing her lying in the hospice bed helpless, knowing her fate, and I felt nothing but despair.  Yet even in this moment she asked us first how we were doing and made jokes that you couldn’t help but laugh at.  Even as I write this, I become more amazed at the selflessness and grace that my Aunt Mary constantly displayed.  It truly is a tragedy that we didn’t get to enjoy Aunt Mary for longer, but I am incredibly thankful for the time I got to know her.  I look forward to the day when we can be reunited in a place that is free of the imperfections like cancer and death that cripple the world we reside in now.  I believe death has been conquered on the cross, and this belief is what inspires me to strive for a greater purpose.  I have hope and joy and know that one day I will be with Aunt Mary again, and this is a glorious feeling.

Proof that Aunt Mary was an amazing mother. I mean, look at that outfit she has Ally wearing.

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