I have just returned from saying goodbye to my aunt for the last time.
And I have to tell you, it was a terrible, wonderful time.
She was beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous, decked out in a beaded lace red dress. She wore all her favorite jewelry, and her makeup was perfectly done.
The walls and floor were literally covered with flowers and plants. Roses were the dominant flower, and those could be found in almost every arrangement. She even held a rose in her hands.
The visitation was from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. During that time the line of people never died down, but wound around and out the door. People who knew her, people who cared about her, people she'd touched in her lifetime.
The next day at the church the ladies served the family dinner in the basement at noon. I saw cousins I hadn't seen in years, and caught up with long-lost relatives. My aunt would have loved such an occasion.
After I finished eating I went upstairs to spend a few moments alone. I had some final words with the shell that was not her before the service began, then took my place next to the piano, hidden by all the flowers.
Friends filed in to the auditorium, and before I knew it all but the space reserved for the family was filled. And still they kept coming. People stood at the back to pay tribute to this wonderful woman, in the middle of a work week, in the middle of the day. There must have been at least three hundred people there, not counting family.
The family came in, sat down, and the service began. One of her favorite songs, Victory In Jesus, was sung by a local trio. Her obituary was read by a pastor who became a pastor because of the leadership and guidance my aunt and uncle had given him as a troubled teen. My cousin, her son, read a few words she had written about how she treasured the friendships she had during her lifetime.
And then it was my turn.
I sang Sweet By and By for her. I only choked up once, when I looked at my uncle. He sobbed through the whole song. But God gave me peace until after I was through singing. Then I sat down in my place behind the flowers and the piano, and I was able to release all the emotion I had to hold on to until then.
The pastor spoke for a while, then my uncle got up and read a poem about my aunt. I honestly don't know how he got through it. All I know is that he loved her with a mighty love, and he will be lost without her.
We all will.
Today I'm back at work. I'm exhausted, and all I can think about is going home and going to bed.
I think we all could use some peaceful rest.