The night before my surgery, 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 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.
ADDITIONAL PERSPECTIVE OF THE ABOVE. “HILDY’S VISION”
WENT TO BED, THINKING ABOUT KIM AND TOMORROWS 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 VERY 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 START TO PRAY. “O DEAR HEAVENLY FATHER” —JUST AS I REMEMBER HIM PRAYING GROWING UP.
KIM WAS NOT DIRECTLY MENTIONED, BUT THE ESSENCE OF THE 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 CALLED MAR TO LET HIM KNOW, AND ASK HIM TO SEND THE ABOVE EMAIL TO JAN AND KIM. (THIS WAS A VERY EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE FOR HILDY SINCE THE PRAYER AND GATHERING WERE EXPRESSLY FOR KIM.)
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 until today I haven’t really grieved her, because I haven’t had it in me to enter into that sadness.
When I was 13, 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 have pushed her death to the recesses of my mind until now because grieving her and dealing with cancer was just too much, I know she knew what she meant to me.
Today I sit at my table, a pile of tissues beside me, and I write and I grieve her as if she just died yesterday.
In many ways it’s too late, but today I respond. Aunt Hildy, I love you and I miss you.