Thursday, November 01, 2012

saying goodbye to a saint

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Today, we bury a mother. Her name was Patricia. But her family called her Gigi.

She isn’t my mother, or grandmother. She is a mother once removed, mother to my husband’s first wife, and grandmother to our children.

Her daughter and I share the same name, the same town, the same children and grandchildren, and, at different times, the same husband.

I have known Gigi nearly 20 years. In all that time, even when I first came into the family – the second wife, the step mom, the other Cynthia– she made me feel part of the greater whole. She embraced me, helped me fit in, helped me belong.
I loved her grandchildren – and now great-grandchildren - as my own. I embraced her daughter.  I suppose it is easier to accept someone who loves the same people you do. Or maybe she was just that gracious to everyone.

She was a Proverbs 31 kind of woman. She was confident in what she believed and she lived in the truth of it.  She had a tremendous faith in God that carried her through the illness and death of her beloved husband and one of her sons. She stood strong with those she loved as their lives fell apart. And she helped them stand as they rebuilt them.

She was an active woman. She never stopped, and she ran circles around people half her age. She went to every recital, every marching band competition, every graduation. She took care of young and old; her house was open to all. She always had a ready meal, a ready hand, and a ready hug. Even for me.

We were pretty sure she’d outlive our generation. Hoping, maybe. Because as long as she was around, her family had a rock to lean on and a safe place to fall.

When illness struck her, it struck hard. No one saw it coming. It was incurable, ruthless, swift but not swift enough to avoid suffering. A suffering she did not earn.

Today, she suffers no more.

It is fitting that we celebrate Gigi’s life on All Saint’s Day, the day on the Christian calendar that gives Halloween its name (“All Hallow’s Eve”). For we are no longer mourning her illness or even her death.

Oh, there is much grief and heartache and disbelief. There will be tears aplenty for lost time, for missing the sound of her voice, for her empty chair at weddings and birthdays and holidays.

She will be greatly missed. But today we celebrate her legacy that lives in all who knew her, and the newness of life she lives in now.

Because this saint isn’t just marching in – she’s running! 

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