Reflections on an Aunt-Nephew Relationship
This past week I had the privilege of participating in my Aunt Evelyn’s funeral service in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Before I read Scripture in the service I was able to share a few thoughts about what my aunt meant to us. As I’ve thought of her, I’ve been encouraged about the role we can play in our extended family. My aunt was a pastor’s wife. Because my Uncle Floyd pastored several churches in other states, our families grew up apart and we didn’t see my aunt and uncle a lot. But despite infrequent contacts Aunt Evelyn left an important impact upon my life that I praise God for. Here are some of the things she did that we can all emulate to make a difference for our extended family and friends too.
She was an example of sincere love to God that spilled over into a sincere love for us. There was no question that Aunt Evelyn loved the Lord Jesus Christ and lived for him. As long as I knew her, 86 years old at her home-going, it was obvious that she had a growing relationship with the Lord. Several years back as we sat around a motel pool watching my kids swim she shared her testimony with me of how she came to the assurance of her salvation. That only reinforced what I had observed for many years—that Christ was a living reality in her life. I saw that in her love for the church which continued through her whole life, in her involvement in Bible study groups where she reveled in learning the Bible with others often much younger than herself, and in her encouragement of our Christian endeavors. The last time I visited her getting around with a walker, I led in prayer before I left. She spontaneously followed my prayer with a tender prayer for me that I will never forget. Aunt Evelyn finished well for the Lord. She showed us that Jesus is worth serving all the way. Younger people need that example.
She made a special effort to attend important life events. Over the years she came to two of my graduations. She came to my wedding on the proudest day of my life. She also came to the airport in Chicago to rejoice in the arrival of our adopted son from Korea. Coming to those special occasions seemed like a small effort then, but it lingers in my heart to this day. Being there said I love you, I support you, and I want you to feel encouraged. In this day in which we often have lost the support of extended family making us feel less connected and accountable, making extra efforts to attend these big occasions for one another makes us feel more connected and more accountable. We need the sense that our family cares and expects the best of us. Doing well or making the proper choices in life is often caused by the encouragement of godly adults who took time to be there.
She always spoke well of her relatives giving us a positive image of our extended family. How easy it is when family gets together to be negative and nit-pick the faults of those we know so well. We can do it without even thinking or realizing the damage we are doing to the younger generation who hear our words of criticism about aunts, uncles and cousins and sour on the family. Aunt Evelyn did the opposite. She referred to my dad as her “wonderful brother.” What brother is really that wonderful! She spoke with loving admiration of my deceased uncle in his funeral service. She regularly reminded us with gratitude of all my parents had done to care for my invalid grandmother whom I never knew when Aunt Evelyn, the only daughter, was at one time unable to be near her dear mother’s side. With comments like these she fostered appreciation and gratitude in our hearts for our family. The way we speak about others reveals the way we feel about them and ultimately the way we will treat them. Thank you Aunt Evelyn for showing us how to be respectful, appreciative, and grateful by speaking words seasoned with grace about others. You showed us how to love others.
Your friend, learning from others, Pastor Brian (:-}).