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Death, Grief, God, & Love

I attended the Home Going Ceremony for my Aunt Linda today. It was full of grief and praise. Full of moments of hugging family members that I haven’t seen in years and being unexpectedly met with smiles and or tears, from them, from me. Oh, how good my uncle looked. Oh, how frail my aunt looks. Hi Uncle Don, I haven’t seen you in so long I almost didn’t recognize you. I then didn’t want to let go of him.

The joy of seeing how big the once little ones are getting and meeting the new little ones.

The shock at seeing my Aunt Linda in the casket, it looks nothing like her. The surprise in me needing to go back again when they offered the family a last viewing. The mother strength I felt holding my 19 year old baby girl as she looked in the casket to say goodbye to her great aunt with tears streaming down her face. The gratitude that I had that she got to know, in more than just name, our Aunt Linda.

The grief that hit me hard when I saw the picture inside the obituary of my Aunt Linda with all of her siblings except my mother. My mother was the 1st to die so she wasn’t at my Aunt Sally’s 70th birthday party. Since then three more of them are gone.

“Lament is not a threat to our survival but a means to it. It’s how hope’s salve knows where to go.” - Cole Arthur Riley (Black Liturgies)

Listening to people talk about how much my Aunt Linda loved the Lord and how this is how they knew that she was going to make it to heaven. Remembering the part of me that has lived this story. Knowing the part of my Aunt Linda that had more room in who she knew her God to be to carry that story and a bigger inclusive one. Knowing the part of God in her that knew the part of God in me. I loved her for this.

“Still, it would be irresponsible of me to guide you into lament without caution. There is a difference between lament and despair. This distinction is vital. You are so much more than your pain. And the world, for all it’s terror, is awake with tremendous beauty.” - Cole Arthur Riley (Black Liturgies)

So this brings me to the legacy of the Roberson family. My grandparents instilled in each and every one of us a knowing of God’s beauty even when our earthly eyes can’t see it. Now, I don’t care what people call it. To me it's the beauty of love in all the ways it shows up in the world. Today some of the ways I experienced it was, a gentle touch on the arm as I was tearing up. A wink from a cousin across the room to let me know that she's got me, my daughter finding me a chair, and a little boy remembering me and starting to play a magic trick that we played the last time I saw him. It doesn't take much because it really is all around us all the time.

I don’t spend a lot of time with my family. Some of my family members question if I feel loved by them. I never question their love. I hope they don’t question mine. I just often find that the God in them isn’t big enough for the God in me. I find their God often has had them assume they know what relationship I have with my God.

“For someone who is made of more doubt than faith I find that christians tend to want to talk to me about salvation. They seem quite concerned with the future of my faith but they make the mistake of showing little interest in my present conditions.” - Cole Arthur Riley (This Here Flesh)

My Aunt Linda paid attention to everyone's present condition. During her eulogy they even talked about how if you mentioned you didn't have money to pay your gas and electric bill she would find a way to help you get it paid. My cousin Nikki joked that she was better than Good Will. She knew all of my family's clothes sizes just in case she was out shopping and they had a deal on something in your size. I know I only have two children but she was one of nine and they all have children. She was that generous with all of us. I will miss her. I already miss her.

I have the most caring, loving, generous family. I haven’t always been able to say that. I haven’t always believed it. But now, the 52 year old version of me can see it. As I wrote in my book The InnerGround Railroad, “At my Granny’s kitchen table generosity, like bread was baked into their (our) bones.


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Oh I’m so grateful to witness the tender beauty of love - what a gift 💙


Thank you for this generosity of sharing your experience of this intimate family passage. I am so glad you wrote it. I am honored to have read it.

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