emarkthomas

Trying to live love well through the power of the Everlasting.

My Great-Aunt Vivian

So about a week ago, I ran into my Great-Aunt Vivian. I hadn’t seen her in years, and immediately felt guilty about it. We chatted briefly, and I promised to come visit her soon. She smiled, but her eyes didn’t light up, and said she’d like that. I tried to put it from my mind because , quite frankly, I’d always heard that Aunt Vivian was a bitter, mean old lady. I’d heard from my family about how she’d been mean and bitter against everyone for years, and now she was all alone with no one to blame but herself. I didn’t know much about all that , and I didn’t care to find out. I figured that was that until I ran into her again sometime in the next few years.

That night I kept on thinking about her, and specifically her eyes. Her mouth had obeyed her brain’s commands to smile, but her eyes carried a sad look about them. The eyes are supposed to be the window to the soul, right? I knew she didn’t believe me when I said I’d visit. That’s why her eyes didn’t light up as well. Pangs of guilt shot throughout my chest. I tried to shake it from my mind, but I kept thinking about her eyes.

My last year attending Roberts Wesleyan, I had a class with a spectacular girl named Lindsay. She was – and I hope still is – brilliant, kind, compassionate, and authentic. I didn’t know her extremely well, and so never thought about her all that much. About a year later, I found myself working with Lindsay at a summer job. In the time that had passed, I had dropped out of school, attended a semester-long discipleship program, and finally – FINALLY – heard the gospel. The Spirit moved in my heart, and my eyes were opened  to the good news of the Living God. Fresh from this experience, I went to this summer job, where I ran into Lindsay again.

One night, while we were walking around after spending some time together, Lindsay brought up the subject of us being in that class together, nearly a year previously. She commented on my eyes. You see, the tables in the classroom had been arranged in a large square. Lindsay and I always sat on opposite sides, and Lindsay had paid attention to me throughout that semester. My eyes, she said, had been dark and vacant. There was no life in my eyes, no spark. My facial features obeyed my brain, but she knew that when I smiled or laughed it was only skin-deep.

Lindsay brought this up, she said, because over the past few weeks she’d been struck by the intensity and life in my eyes. They were burning, fully alive. She loved it. She was so happy for me. I was so happy that she told me that. It was a moment of beautiful, deep honesty between us that I feel honored the Father. I feel that, for that brief second, Lindsay and I tapped into true community. Sadly, life took different turns for us both, and I’ve not seen her since that season. But I remember that story, and I think I always will. I hope I always do.

I thought about Lindsay and her comments on my eyes as I contemplated what to do about my Aunt Vivian. I had the next day off from work. So I showed up at Aunt Vivian’s door, and she threw her arms around me in a bear hug. When we went inside and sat down, her face was beaming, and her eyes were smiling. It felt spectacular. I stayed a little while and we made plans for lunch one week later.

So this afternoon, I took Aunt Vivian to lunch. We laughed and talked and she proudly showed me off to all of the people she knows at the diner down the road. I was the only person there under 70, I swear. I had a blast. After lunch we sat in her living room as she pulled out photographs, letters, and newspaper clippings from my great-great-great grandparents time all the way down to the present day generations. We looked at the family through the many years and talked about all the different family traits. With a smile, Aunt Vivian told me that she had heard me whistling as I walked out to the truck last week. I told her I whistled constantly, usually without thinking about it.

I never knew it until today, but my great-uncle used to whistle. Constantly. Without thinking about it. We talked and shared on and on, and suddenly I realized how lonely my aunt was. She was desperately starving for community. I could’ve been visiting her for years, but I didn’t. In a flash, I suddenly comprehended the will of the Father in this situation. Who cares if Aunt Vivian was to blame for being all alone. She’s still a human being, and a widow at that. God has a lot to say in the Bible about widows. I realized that perhaps my family members – mom, dad, aunts, uncles, and the like – can’t reach out to her yet. Perhaps they were hurt too badly, and they just can’t do it. But I can. I most certainly can.

I don’t know the future; I have no idea how long I can continue to visit Aunt Vivian. I don’t know how long she’ll even be around. But I am determined to press in and find out what the Spirit has got for me and us in the meantime. I didn’t think I was doing much, and perhaps I wasn’t, but to Aunt Vivian it was a lot. And somehow, the light of the Living God is going to shine through this love I show to her. I don’t know how, I don’t know when or why. I don’t even know if it will make any difference in her heart at all.

But I know that it’s my Father’s heart to show her love. So I will, as best as I’m able for as long as I’m able.

As I pulled out of the driveway, I looked back and saw Aunt Vivian waving and smiling from her window. I smiled back at her, hoping that my eyes were smiling along with my mouth. I know hers were.

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