My Great Aunt Mary’s impact on my life began before I was even born. When my Dad was 28 he was on the wrong path. He was married to my Mom, but was not following God and was making many negative and dangerous choices. Meanwhile, my mom’s Aunt Mary kept asking my Dad to go with her to church. She kept asking, in typical Aunt Mary fashion, and my Dad kept refusing, in typical Roy fashion. (I can say that because I’m just like him!) In God’s infinite wisdom He decided that it would be the PERFECT time for my Dad to become a Father. In doing so, my Dad realized he had to grow up at some point and something had to change. So he accepted Aunt Mary’s invitation. It was at her church that he spoke to the pastor and finally handed his life over to Christ, and in doing so, changed the course of my life.
I was then raised in a loving Christian home. We attended church, we prayed, we read the Bible. When I was 6 I decided to accept Christ. The night of my baptism was part of a rainy day. Instead of holding the Sunday evening service at the Chapel by the Lake, it was held indoors. My friend was also scheduled to be baptized so we all went over to the chapel by the lake after the service and we were baptized, but there was no crowd like there normally would have been. Instead, in that pivotal moment, stood my Dad and my Aunt Mary. She was still there. Still supporting us. Still loving us. Still helping us in our walk with Christ.
Many, many years later I was a mom of two boys and found out that Aunt Mary was living fairly close by to me. My husband and I took our two boys to visit her. Now the thing about visiting Aunt Mary is that you’re going to get some amazing food. And you’re going to get to see that big smile and you’re going to get a big hug. And man, you are going to feel like the most loved person in the WORLD. But if you’ve been doing wrong, she’s going to call you out on it. I’ll never forget when she looked at me and said, “Your mother loves you, you know. You should call her.” I tried to explain that I was just so incredibly hurt. Instead, she told me of the many times she had been hurt, but she continued to love. She told me that God wanted me to forgive my mother and call her. So after that visit I called my mother because you don’t have Aunt Mary tell you to do something and then just not do it. It didn’t work for my dad those many years ago and it wasn’t going to work for me.
What I love most about these particular memories of my Aunt Mary is that these aren’t just my stories. There are so many in this room with a similar story and many more outside this room. Mark 16:15 says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Aunt Mary lived and breathed this statement wherever she was. And she was able to do it because she didn’t just preach the gospel, but she listened to 1 Peter 3:16 that reads, “But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” Several different people, including my Dad has said in these past days, “She was the Godliest woman I knew.” She truly was. She opened her home, her fridge, her pool, to all of us. It didn’t matter what bad things were going on in our lives, she continued to love each of us. In so many ways she was the best living example of Christ that I’ve ever known. She didn’t see what we ARE, she saw what we COULD BE with the love of Christ.
I’ll forever be grateful that I had a Great Aunt Mary. I believe God allowed us to have her for so many years because she was still showing God’s love to those of us that needed to see it. When she couldn’t be near us in person, we received a card in the mail. She couldn’t stop telling us she loved us. I think now the best way to honor her is to share the Good News of Christ to all, and to love everyone, no matter what.
Thank you, Aunt Mary. Thank you for not giving up on my Dad and for being the path to Christ. Thank you for always loving me. Thank you for finding me when I was lost. Thank you for allowing the Holy Spirit to move through your life for us. We will always love you.