Aunt Ruby was always bigger than life to me when I was growing up. Tall, fiery red hair, and a huge voice that could be heard over any family gathering. I was fascinated by her when I was little.
When I was about thirteen, Aunt Ruby let me come with a group of her students to see “The Nutcracker.” I think I was almost more excited to be included with her high school students than I was about seeing my first professional production of the classic ballet.
I remember watching her with her students on that trip. On the way down they talked about everything from school to family to the trials of teenage relationships. On the way back, they talked about the amazing production – the beautiful sets and costumes, the amazing tree that grew right before our eyes, the male dancer that nearly dropped the dancer playing Clara during a lift. She loved them, and they loved her. This is one of my favorite memories of her – happy and excited, doing what she loved.
Because of her, I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to touch lives the way she did. I wanted to have a purpose. I wanted to love my job.
It always seemed that whatever she did, whatever she felt, it was with everything she had and with every single part of herself. There were no half-measures. When I was younger, I admired that; as an adult, I worried about it.
Looking back now, I can see how her no-holds-barred approach fed into her alcoholism. I don’t know how long she had a problem – I didn’t become aware of it until seven or eight years ago – but I know that as hard as anyone else was on her, it wasn’t even close to how hard she was on herself.
I can’t pretend to understand everything that happened in her life or all of the choices she made. Joy and sorrow, fear and hope; sometimes Aunt Ruby’s life seemed like nothing but extremes with no gentle middle ground for peace. It was exhausting to watch, it had to have been even more exhausting to live.
And now, finally, there is peace. We don’t feel that peace yet – this was the last rock thrown in the pond and even though the center is now calm, the ripples and waves are still traveling. Questions and regrets still rock everyone who loved her.
When I’m searching for peace, Romans 8:9-11, 37-39 reminds me:
“You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Aunt Ruby struggled with her addiction, and in the end it probably caused her death…or at least contributed to it. I don’t know if she finally won that battle. What I do know is that absolutely nothing can separate us from God’s love, not our weaknesses or our failures, or any of the mistakes we make. That is what gives me hope, and what will give me peace. I know in God’s loving arms Aunt Ruby is whole and complete, and nothing that came before matters.
Home & Whole
July 22, 2011