Mum, Granddad, Grandma, Uncle John and Aunty Jill
A birthday invitation to my aunt’s 80th has been lying around on my desk for a while now. I’m sure it’s here somewhere. I push a hand underneath the pile and tip it all upside down. There it is! A lovely sheet of pale, silken paper in a stylish font.
I look at the calendar. I can make it if I pull the pin on these other guys—but then I did that last time over a wedding. I probably shouldn’t stretch the friendship.
I send a text to my cousin explaining that I won’t be able to make it. Perhaps I could ‘visit’ via Skype, I suggest. I can already hear her laughing (with her mother’s laughter and a twinkle in her eye) and saying something about this being a rather cheap way of ‘assuaging my guilt’ at not coming.
I add (in the text) that I’ve always enjoyed her mum’s warmth and grace and her beautiful imagination with its storehouse of knowledge, music, art, jokes and memories—and her quiet prayers and joy in Jesus. I want my cousin to know that I thank God for this lovely lady.
In an afterthought I tell her I would have loved to have been able to go back in time—just once—and to have been close by (incognito) when her mother and my own mother were two young women having a picnic in a park. The laughter, conversation and joy in life would have been at once silly, deeply reflective and so human.
While I’m thinking about that I recall something one of my other aunties once told me. She was with my grandmother—on my mum’s side—at a time when it was clear that her daughter was going to lose her struggle with Motor Neurone disease. The news had been a crushing blow to my grandmother.
‘So,’ she said to my aunty, whilst looking up at the heavens. ‘Is there anyone up there?’
I don’t say anything about that in this message. It just sits there in a melancholy space in the back of my mind while I type. I finish the text and touch ‘send’.
Putting the phone down, I look up, and there, scrolling into view on my laptop screen is a photograph of my mother (looking a little gaunt) and the aunty who’s about to have her 80th. Between the two of them are my mother’s parents and her brother. I can’t take my eyes off my grandmother. She’s smiling. She looks so happy!
Once again, heaven has been reading my mind—has told me it’s thinking of me—and I’m losing it. It overheard my deepest longing and took me back in time. It’s so lovely and so terrible. Something deep inside is breaking open, again.