[ Divine Signs ]

Wednesdays with Aunt Clara

I have the pleasure of visiting with my 92-year-old Aunt Clara one night each week. I do this for many reasons: she doesn't need to be left alone for long periods of time; it gives my cousin, her caretaker, an opportunity to go to church; and because it gives me joy.

You see, this lady is the oldest of 11 children. She is my Mother's oldest sister and has lived her life very much like my dear Grandmother lived hers. She's kind, sweet and loves the Lord with all her heart.

She lost her husband in 1972 and has lived by herself since then, with the exception of the 16 years that my Grandmother lived with her after my Grandfather died that same year in 1972. She had a career in retail, she did ceramics for a hobby and even sold Avon in her spare time. She was very self-sufficient as a wife and mother and has never been one to need or ask for help... until now.

For the first time in her life, my aunt is slowing down and is very dependent on others just to make it through the day. Although she's basically in good health, her eyesight is failing and she's not as strong as she used to be. She's very aware of the loss of her vision, but isn't aware of other limitations and is sometimes very confused.

If you ask her what she does on a daily basis her reply might be, "Well, the usual household chores", or "Just enough to get by with", or "You know what all is involved in keeping a house up."

The truth is, she now has to have someone cook for her, as well as clean the house. She has a sitter during the day and a loving daughter who stays with her each night. Even the simplest of things, like getting dressed are sometimes difficult.

She didn't ask for this assistance, and despite her limitations, she still won't ask for help. Every night she tells her daughter, "I'm not afraid; go on home." Joyce doesn't, of course, and hasn't since the time came about a year ago for someone to be constantly there to help Aunt Clara.

On Wednesday nights, Aunt Clara and I sit down at her dinner table and enjoy a meal together. We have a system: she sets the table and I serve the dinner. Most of the time she says the blessing and occasionally she'll ask me to. She always asks the Lord to bless our food to the nourishment of our bodies and our bodies to his service. There are many other simpler things that she might not be able to recall or do, but she always remembers the blessing and never stumbles on a single word.

Over the past 12 months we've had many good times. Our conversations consist of life, family, and memories, both good and bad. I often refer to our visits as "Wednesdays with Aunt Clara," because of the "life lessons" I invariably learn from her.

She loves her family and often recalls childhood memories and special times she's shared with her ten siblings and her parents, who are my grandparents. Being the oldest, she has a wealth of memories about her childhood and family life as it was growing up in a Mississippi town. They never had much in the way of material things, but were wealthy in spirit and soul.

My Grandfather died in 1972 and my Grandmother in 1988. Never has a day gone by that Aunt Clara didn't say she missed them or had been thinking about her parents, who "are with God now." She speaks of them every week and reveals yet another cherished memory from the past. She might not be able to tell me what she had for lunch that day, or what the weather is like outside, but she can relate to me in detail many things about her parents and the love and respect she had for them.

About a month ago we were sitting in her den watching "Touched by an Angel" on the TV when she said she wanted to ask me something important. Usually, whenever she wants my attention to say something it's either about her daughter, or my Grandparents. So I am always very attentive to what she says because I never know what's coming out.

This time she had a very serious look on her face and seemed to be real concerned about what she was going to reveal to me. Then her look changed and her face softened and she asked me if I ever needed help from anyone. I said, "Of course I do, Aunt Clara. I need help from other people every day."

She then said that she asks for help every day from God first. "But that's not all. I also ask Mama for help, too."

I was somewhat shocked to hear that Aunt Clara of all people would ask for help. I replied that I also relied on Granny sometimes too as she was a great influence on me by the example she led.

Aunt Clara then continued and said that her Mama was there with her every day. If she gets in trouble or gets confused she'll ask her Mama to help her -- which she has on many occasions. "I talk to her a lot," she told me.

That Wednesday night with Aunt Clara I had an important realization. Her health and mind may be failing, but she speaks the truth when she says, "I'm not afraid; go on home," to her daughter and me. With God and her Mama in heaven watching over her, Aunt Clara never is alone -- and this is comforting to know.

I believe that God sends each of us an angel or sometimes a multitude of angels to provide comfort when we need it and to watch over us and guide us through difficult times. No matter where we are in this life, His loving hand is always there to guide, guard and direct our path according to His will.

Cindy S.

Mobile, AL