The year my mother passed our family lost two other significant women as well, Aunt Jean and Aunt Betty. Every family member is significant in their own right. For purposes of this writing, however, I single out these three women and refer to them as significant because of their stature in the family and in my life in particular.
As a child and as an adult, I watched my mother make sacrifices for her family. I saw her give generously to strangers because of the sincere compassion in her heart and never seek a thank you. I learned to recognize my mother’s disappointment at knowing how misunderstood she was by some. Yet, she knew it would be a foolish and futile attempt to try to change anyone’s mind. Wisdom had taught her that people will see and believe what they choose.
Aunt Jean showed us all how to live life gracefully. By no means was her life easy. She raised five children by herself, often working two jobs to make the proverbial ends meet. No matter how tired she may have been from working overnight, she always had a warm and welcoming smile to greet anyone who stopped by, and I often did since she lived down the street from us.
When my mother passed, Aunt Jean was in the midst of her fight against cancer. Even that would not stop her from providing support to us in our grief. She was the one person in the family who allowed me to completely fall to pieces with my head in her lap while she consoled me. I loved, adored, and respected her. While her physical strength was fading, her emotional strength was incredibly resolute.
Aunt Betty was a wonderful woman as well. Her house was where we kids congregated during summers. The cousins had a blast and we made lifelong memories together there because of the atmosphere she created in her home for us. As an adult, I discovered a new and even more meaningful appreciation of Aunt Betty. She was firmly rooted in God. Nothing could shake her faith in Him.
We lived in different states so I did not get to see her often. Sadly, I now realize I did not take full advantage of the opportunities to simply talk with her by phone. I regret that. Hindsight is a great teacher. With Aunt Betty, it has taught me that I missed out on precious moments to glean even more wisdom from her. She had experienced and endured much in life that I could have learned from.
Losing my mom, Aunt Jean, and Aunt Betty in a span of nine months one year was a wake-up call for me. Who in the family will be the next Val Sterns (my Mom), the one who will give without being asked simply because she cares for her family and sees their need? Who will be the next Aunt Jean, the one who will push beyond her own pain to console someone else in theirs? Who will be the next Aunt Betty, the one who will demonstrate faith in action in every aspect of her life by the way she lives? Who? You. You and me! We all have ‘next.’ No matter when you were born, live long enough and you will be up next for the generation behind you.
For me and my generation, it’s time for us to understand and accept we are them now. We are the Val Sterns, the Aunt Jeans, and the Aunt Bettys in our families now. Ready or not, we are them! The generation behind us may not have the forethought yet to realize they are counting on us to take our rightful positions, but they will need us to do so. They simply expect us to be there and be equipped to teach, train, and lead them. I don’t believe these women made a conscientious decision to be the backbones we would later lean on. They fell into those roles quite naturally and by default of living. I pray that each of us will yield to the role predestined for us in our families as leaders when the time comes. The generation behind us is relying on it, whether they know it or not. Be ready. Know that you will be needed. Accept the role with honor.
Time automatically passes the baton of leadership whether we are ready to run with it or not. As the intensity of life’s challenges seems to deepen with each subsequent generation, maybe we should consider taking a more proactive approach in gaining wisdom from our experiences in order to be well-equipped when duty calls.
Have we done the things my Mom, Aunt Jean, and Aunt Betty did?
Are we welcoming to the generation behind us?
Are we able to be selfless enough to give to others before ourselves?
Are we making the proper sacrifices for our children and families?
Are we showing the generation behind us how to stand firmly by faith through the trials of life?
Proverbs 31:28 (ESV) says, “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.” They were blessed women indeed and the children of all three would attest to that. When I read the entire chapter of Proverbs 31, it became clear to me just how much each of them personified a Proverbs 31 woman overall.
The mantle they carried so gracefully was huge and heavy. In a moment of transparency, I can admit it is a bit intimidating to think of having that responsibility. Nonetheless and ready or not, the time is here for some of us or on the way for others!
Although this has been written about three fabulous women, my hope is that the across the board application to men is understood, too.