This past Monday, I attended the funeral of my great, great Aunt Maggie. She passed this past Thursday, and the immediate family did an incredible job of pulling together a funeral in so short a time. I intended to go to represent my family – mother said she’d not be able to attend (she did) – and to reconnect with family members that I’d not seen or heard from in at least 15 years. I didn’t expect that 101 years and 10 months (Aunt Maggie’s age at death), would be the connecting point.
Words from Aunt Maggie
To my remembrance, I had only been in conversation with Aunt Maggie twice. I couldn’t tell you what we talked about, but I do know that at least one of the times that it had to do with education. She was a stickler for making sure that everyone learned as much as they could, and in return taught it forward. In listening to the remarks, it was clear that she’d modeled that kind of life to a tee.
From memory of the eulogy, she pretty much had what amounted to an elementary school education, but pushed her children and grands to do considerably more. For all intents and purposes, college was not an option for her – going beyond (whether graduate school or entrepreneurship) was the low bar.
Never Too Far From Family
I drove three hours to get there. Some people lived on or near the family land, and others traveled a good bit further than I. There was this draw to see this woman – the last surviving child in a family of 11 kids – who lived long enough to be in a family in NC, start a family in MD, and stitch back together with her family (both husband’s side and her own) back in NC.
This funeral reminded me of that very family reunion, where there were so many names, so many branches, and only association by one of those 11 kids – but a need to connect. We wanted to stay connected. It wasn’t so much that we didn’t, but we didn’t want to lose the moment that this time brought. That too was Aunt Maggie’s legacy.
Faith of a Family
One of the phrases that was used to describe Aunt Maggie was that she modeled being a “virtuous woman.” This phrase comes from the book of Proverbs (versus 6 to the end of the chapter). It speaks of a woman that’s both servant and leader. A woman secure in herself, but more secure in God. She was a part of many churches and other ministry endeavors that had been planted.
Of the church we where had the funeral, I found out that it was our family (her side) that planted the church. Her husband’s side now presides over it. There’s this handover of faith to faith – willingly submitting the spiritual welfare of the family into capable hands, but always looking to build up those whom will be able to serve later. She modeled this not only with her children and grandchildren, but apparently also to the neighborhood to which this church belonged. To me, that was just grounding.
To Rest on a Foundation
And then there was the burial. In times past, when there were slaves and land was certainly rented for service, families buried their members on plots of land that were well off the beaten path. We traveled way to the back of the family land to the place where she and many others were buried. It was just this mound, and it took a bit before I even felt comfortable walking over to the casket to give my final respects.
But, under my feet were people who lived this life… they lived. Their lives weren’t always according to the best script of the day. From what I can tell, whether blood or married in, there was always this streak of going against the grain because we perceive something better than what’s here now. I don’t know what they laid, but as I stood over those graves, looking at the dash (the space between their birth and death years) I realized that I’ve been given a lot. I’ve been given opportunities they dreamed about, moments they’ve also shared, and possibilities to be a part of this foundational mound for others.
To watch as Aunt Maggie would be placed in to the ground, to be a part of this mound on which my family stands… that was humbling.
101 years and 10 Months
As I drove back to my project, I spent some time in silence thinking about all that I’ve just written. I couldn’t really tell you why I needed the silence, but I know that I needed to be there. I needed to see the family, to reconnect with a part of the foundation on which my life was built.
There’s a ton about my family that I don’t know. There’s a ton about the age group I’m in (which was of light showing) that I’d like to know more about. There’s even this vein of pastors/bishops that intrigues me (all of the pastors/bishops in attendance were cousins, I just can’t get away from that collar, hehehe).
If I were to make it 101 years and 10 months, I’d like to have a life that shows the fruit of that foundation. Aunt Maggie did. She raised children and grandchildren to not just know their family, but their roles in life. She presented opportunity, and where possible, she attached her faith to the opportunities that were given and with her family created something that would be worth remembering.
So yea, we didn’t talk much. But, I think that I got the lesson. Only 70 more years to go to walk it out in a way that looks like her’s. Thanks Aunt Maggie, may you enjoy the rest that you so richly deserve.