A trip to Aunt Bertie's is like stepping into a fairy tale, complete with a musty old farm house and a magical godmother whose lilting spirit seems to remedy all that ales you with the wave of her hand and a prayerful ditty.
In the past year her eyesight has dimmed. She is blind in one eye and the other sees through a hazy "white out". She hears only when the speaker is shouting and laughs, saying "Eh?", with full appreciation of her joke. She struggles to walk now, tottering slowly from one chair to the next, all the while affirming in her sing-song voice, "I am walking upright and with confidence"or "I give thanks for my perfect sight and hearing, my limitless strength and energy, and my perfect health". She smiles often.
When I first arrived she said that she hadn't really played the piano in months but soon she was seated on her familiar bench pounding out songs with gusto, groaning at her missed notes and smiling brightly while singing songs of yore.
She can not stay upright for more than 10-15 minutes before she finds a little nest on sofa or bed and smiles peacefully while meditating, her lips moving silently, blessing us, all of us, with a love so big that you dissolve into it. She still lives alone.
While she rested long hours, I took long walks through corn fields and prairies, woods and dales. I smiled at flowers and cloud banks and cried wide rivers of salty tears.
My Bertie has been my Godmother all my life, in her eyes I have always been beautiful...not beautiful through worldly eyes that ebb and flow with time and fashion, but a beauty that is unchangeable, unspeakable and divine. When standing in her gaze it is as if everything the world has ever said of me or thought of me was a lie and all my pretense at littleness has been a laughable farce. In her eyes I am radiant, I am whole, complete and perfect. In her heart I have always been home, without effort or apology. And to me she is beauty and light personified. She is ninety-four with a body approaching it's final rest and a spirit so effervescent that it leaves you glowing and vibrating in its wake. Leaving her this time was one of the hardest farewells I've ever made. I have been growing in her sunshine and taking refuge in her shade for so much of my life that I can hardly imagine it without her. She is one of those fundamentals in my existence, like oxygen, water and rest. She talks of leaving with a gentle peace, like one talks of moving out of a well loved house that is growing small. She talks of life with the grace and ease of a life well lived.
I love her with abandon and I pray that in some small way I will always see myself in my Bertie's eyes and perhaps I will learn to see you as she has seen you, through a heart intent on God, smiling.