Daisy Styles' faith became sight earlier today.
She was the oldest of my Dad's siblings (8 of whom reached adulthood; now just three of them are left here). She made it into her 90s, living the last few in a facility in central Alabama. In her mind, she has been on a bit of a long vacation, and was uncertain of the details. She was always happy even though she wasn't fully aware of her situation in recent years.
She was our neighbor in the last place I lived as a single guy, which was also our first home as a married couple. She & her husband owned the trailer park where our place was located, and their place was just across the road. Thus, Lisa & I consider ourselves SO VERY blessed to have been in their orbit for the first 3 years of our married life. Many a meal there at their home. Lisa & I still remember Uncle George's "German vegetables." I still remember him "helping me with a garden," which is more accurately rendered "planting & keeping up with the garden for me & letting me take credit."
They put on a clinic about how to cherish & adore a spouse, even after long years of marriage. Perhaps by the grace of God, my marriage has faint echoes of theirs; I sure hope so! (Lisa's first reaction to Aunt Daisy's passing was "She's with her sweetie again!") They also modelled faith & faithfulness to their church and to their Lord. Uncle George sang in the choir for years & years with his beautiful tenor voice. Aunt Daisy never missed a service that I knew of. Rock solid & steady. Pretty much unflappable & even-keeled. One of our great treasures is a compilation called Love Letters During Wartime. Their youngest child edited the collection of letters they wrote to each other during his training for & deployment in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Talk about a clinic on loving a spouse! We have both shed many a tear of joy-filled memory & smiles reading the letters they wrote.
As much impact as they had on us as a married couple, Aunt Daisy (& Uncle George too, whose faith became sight some years back) had perhaps a greater impact on me as a single college student. As I've written about her before, I was not in a very good place emotionally & expecially spiritually when I moved up to Tuscaloosa in 1980. Aunt Daisy & Uncle George used to invite me over for Sunday lunch. Every male college student wants to get invited over to a good cook's home for Sunday lunch, so I took them up on it! The "price of admission" so to speak was joining them at Alberta Baptist Church first. I wasn't really interested in church at that time, but I was VERY interested in a good home-cooked meal! Also, even in the spiritual fog I was in, I still enjoyed time w/ these two joyful relatives. So I'd go.
I grieves me greatly to remember that Aunt Daisy would hold the hymnal sort of between us during the hymns so I could see too. I would read along, but wouldn't sing. A very sad testimony to my spiritual state then. A few years later, after I got my life back on course by the grace of God, Aunt Daisy told me, "I could tell you were so angry; you wouldn't even sing the hymns. But it's OK; I understood..." Such grace!
In fact, it was the grace I was shown by Aunt Daisy & Uncle George that played a large part in my getting back on course in the first place. Those Sunday dinners...helping me get the place in their trailer court...helping me perform multiple repairs on it...working with Uncle George in his garden...laughing together & having such fun with them that I began laughing & having fun on my own too...singing (Uncle George's tenor is still one of my favorite singing voices ever; I can't wait to hear them sing together again...which they've been doing now for a few hours)...just time spent in their presence.
Why am I such a very strong advocate for grace in general & the grace of God in particular? Because I have needed & also received so much grace. The definition of grace is "unmerited favor." Which is precisely what was shown to me by many, and especially by this very happy, incredibly friendly, delightful retired school teacher originally from the woods of central Alabama.who made her home in Tuscaloosa for many decades. Who reminded me what faith is and Who God is. And who taught me to sing again.
In her last days, Aunt Daisy battled several health issues. So I'll not be the slightest bit sad for her tonight. However, now that she has entered Glory, this world is that much less happy a place, and feels that much less like home.. I know of very few with her capacity to smile & laugh so easily. To chat with almost anyone who passes by. To love a spouse for long years, both before and after his passing. To be just crazy about three adult children, & several grandchildren, & a few great-grandchildren.
I'm torn. I'd give anything to hear her laugh again, and to sit there around the table & swap family stories & wisdom (well, "swapping wisdom" isn't accurate; better, "me soaking up wisdom"), and to bask in what I now recognize as the amazing grace of an amazing God Whom she loved in a wonderfully winsome way before me those years ago. But Paul wrote "to depart is far better"...which is absolutely true for followers of Christ. It pains me to think of Aunt Daisy's sharp mind dulled as it has been for a few years now, and I deeply cherish the thought of her smile as her beloved George welcomed her Home earlier today. I can almost see her humility in the presence of our Lord, as He says "Very well done, good & faithful servant...enter into the joy of Your Lord."
Would you join me in praying for their children George, Shirley, & Ben? & for their families? And would you join me in thanking God for this one special lady whose life & faith have an almost daily impact on my own?
She taught me to sing again. I'll never be the same.
See you later, Aunt Daisy. Can't wait! Next time, I promise, I'll be singing loudly right beside you. Thanks for being one of God's instruments that restored my faith & my joy & my desire to sing praise to Him. Thanks for loving an unlovely nephew, and for all the smiles and laughs and phone calls and encouragement and help and, yes, for the meals.
Rejoicing that you & Uncle George are now reunited forever, and that it is eternally well with your soul,
p.s. - Death, be not proud! "Where, O Death is your victory? Where is your sting?" Nowhere to be seen in Daisy Madaris Styles' life & passing!