The night before my bilateral mastectomy, I received this email from my great-uncle Marlowe.
Hildy has been feeling punk the last few days and went to bed early tonight. I was washing dishes when she called me to the bedroom. She said, “This is strange. I’ve been hearing the voice of my father praying for Kim and her surgery. Write them and email them and let them know that all is well and the surgery will go without incident. Now I can go to sleep.” You have been upheld at the throne of grace. Peace, mercy and blessing. Marlowe
I didn’t respond.
A few days after surgery, I received the following email, which Marlow titled Additional Perspective from Above.
Hildy’s Vision – Went to bed thinking about Kim and tomorrow’s surgery. Was very tired and fell into a semi-sleep.
I was aware of a wind or spirit showing me a room that wasn’t a room. The setting was bleak. Coming into view were those people that had a special connection to Kim.
In sharp focus were my parents, Gottleb and Frieda. Behind them, more obscured, were Gert and Alvin Swanson, Henry and Lottie Swanson and Lorrie Swanson. I was observing from a distance and I heard my father stat to pray. “Oh Dear Heavenly Father…just as I remember him praying growing up.
Kim was not directly mentioned, but the essence of prayer was “the surgery will go well and without incident.” I was filled with an awesome sense of peace. As quickly as the “vision” came, it left.
I didn’t respond. I read it through tears, but I didn’t respond.
Two weeks later, my aunt Hildy died.
I didn’t go to her funeral. It was so soon after surgery that I didn’t know if I could physically handle the long car ride or emotionally handle the service.
So I missed it.
And I waited weeks to grieve her, because I didn’t have it in me to enter into that sadness.
When I was 13 and my grandma died in the night quite unexpectedly, Hildy became a surrogate grandma to me.
I have wonderful memories of my summer visits to her home in Omaha. I can still hear her voice saying my name. I can feel myself cocooned her great big papason chair. I can remember how the heaviness of her breathing when she rested was so soothing because it sounded just like Grandma. I can close my eyes and get lost in her amazing flower garden in my mind. I can even remember the scent of her car.
I loved her.
And I love it that God would give her that vision for me.
That he would give that picture and those words to my Aunt Hildy in her frailty. Just for me. Just when I needed them. Just before she died. It was like receiving an invitation into a private holy place.
And though it weighs so heavy on my heart that I didn’t respond to her messages, and that I didn’t attend her funeral, and that I pushed her death to the recesses of my mind for too long because grieving her and dealing with cancer was just too much, I know she knew what she meant to me.
When I did finally grieve, the tears came hard and fast. A pile of tissues, a mind full of memories and a tinge of regret. I encourage you, if an elderly loved one shares a message of wisdom or encouragement or hope with you, don’t just read their message through your tears. Respond. Even if cancer or some other hard thing of life is weighing you down. Respond. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.