garden statue of a girl

My Aunt Leah was rarely sick and always bounced back. Fell and broke her hip this past Christmas. Returned to work by February. And she was 74 years old.

Quiet, gentle, dignified, but tough as nails when it came to perseverance. Leah was steady. Without pause, always there, sure and steady.

A nurse by profession, she once took in my mother and I when we needed a place to go. Years later, when my mom was dying, Leah came to be with her youngest sibling for a week. She stood in my mom’s kitchen stirring soup made of carrots and celery she’d diced into tiny cubes.

Leah was the first person to French braid my hair. I’d come to visit that summer. I may have been 10, perhaps younger, so I don’t remember sitting still as she weaved the plaits tightly, an exercise she missed with her three sons. A picture remains to bear witness to those perfect braids.

Most of her life she lived in an old house with a rambling yard and a vegetable garden so big that I never did walk to the end of it. Her youngest son and I traversed that garden one evening as children. We navigated between squash and cucumbers and bushes of beans.

We climbed to the top of the compost pile. Then he said, “Snake!”

I never saw it. I bolted out of the garden all the way back to the house. Aunt Leah yelled from the yard for me to stop that ridiculous screaming.

Last summer, I returned with my husband and son to visit my Aunt Leah and Uncle Abe in their newer house. Their big garden was left behind, but the table was forever full. Salads and sauces and pasta to eat in the late afternoon.

She was the eldest of six children. The mother of three. Grandmother of six. Faithful wife of Abe for 53 years. She was unwavering in prayer for our family. The pages of her Bible were falling out from use.

It happened this spring, a cascade drawn out over weeks that started slowly and picked up speed as days rolled along. Leah had trouble breathing. Leah went to the emergency room. Leah developed pneumonia.

Leah was hospitalized. Leah was given oxygen. Leah was in critical care. Leah’s lungs sustained damage. Leah was on life support.

Then this past Tuesday, at 2:34 p.m., my Aunt Leah died. Surrounded by family here on earth, she was ushered into the arms of family there.

another view

It’s been almost 16 years since my mother died. Sixteen years since my family last experienced death. Years filled with so many challenges, but such a long stretch without funerals.

I wonder what they’re talking about now. Has Leah told my mom she saw me last summer? That I have a son with hazel eyes? Are they sitting with my Grandma and Grandpa V?

Are they sipping cups of tea while Grandma has coffee? Is Grandpa wearing his fur coat? Are they gushing and waiting with ease for the rest of us to meet them at the table? For dinner to begin in the late afternoon?

Over the next few days, I’ll be off the grid. Look for me in real life as I travel alone to gather with the family that’s left. To pay tribute and grieve our loss of Leah, steady and true.

We’ll miss you, Aunt Leah. Wait for us there. Unwavering, wait for us.

Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his faithful servants. Psalm 116:15 NIV

This past Monday, we celebrated National Poetry Month here on the blog. The response to Poetry Slam Party has been intelligent, thoughtful, and moving. Ariel Price graced us with poem by John Donne in the comments. Seems fitting to end this week with another of Donne’s most excellent works.

Death, be not proud (Holy Sonnet 10)

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou'art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy'or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Who is waiting for you in heaven? How do you grieve here on earth?

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48 Responses to Leah

  1. Beautiful, Aimee. I’m sorry for your loss. What a gift you’ve given your son — your words, your memories, collected here and not just spoken into air.

    May God’s peace and grace be radical for all of you.

  2. Lara

    I’m so very sorry to hear about your aunt. The love that you so wonderfully expressed made my heart literally ache for you. While you mourn here, I know that a part of you is celebrating knowing that you will once again be reunited with her, your mom, and the others who have gone home.

    Pey and I were talking last week about heaven and it brought to mind the scripture that says 1000 years is a day with God. So we figured it up that if one lives to the average age of 70-75 years here on earth–that’s roughly 2 hours in heaven. Granted heaven knows no time, but it helped to put it into perspective for us.

    It brought comfort to me because I miss so many who have arrived home. The thoughts of heaven being in 1 HUGE party with saints arriving home one after the other brought joy to my soul. The thought that I only have 1 more heavenly hour to wait to see them helped ease the ache that I deal with everyday. I only hope that it brings you the same comfort as it did me.

    You, Ray, and the rest of the family are in my prayers. I pray that God gives you the peace and joy that only He can give. Celebrate the legacy that she leaves you and think of the joy of hugging her neck again…

    Much love sent your way…

    • Thank you, Lara. I appreciate your perspective about the differences in our timing and heaven’s timing. We have a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11)…

      PS: Ray is traveling to attend the services too. It will be good to see him and tell him of your words.

  3. A beautifully written tribute to your Aunt Leah. May you be held in the sweetness of her memory and the grace you shared.

  4. I’m sorry for your loss! Donne always seems to say the right thing for any situation. This is a beautiful post!

  5. May your family remember the positives, much like your post. You and yours are in my prayers.

  6. Fran Cook

    What a sweet and precious memory of your Aunt Leah. I know you will miss her. I lost a very special aunt last summer and as our family and our lives move through each subsequent holiday and special day without her, we lovingly remember what the day would have been like if Aunt Jo had been here with us. Ah, the enormous laughter and that peaceful feeling of being totally at ease with someone. After my grandmother died, she became the anchor for our family. Now, we all feel as if there is no real anchor anymore. I am so sorry for your loss and I grieve with you as my grief is still quite fresh. Thanks for the memories!!

    • Thank you, Fran. I’m sorry for your loss of your Aunt Jo, too. Grief comes in waves. There’s the initial shock, the incident of a person dying. Then there’s a continued loss, as you described, as time passes. For me, it often comes unexpected. Like when you realize the “anchor” is missing.

  7. Many sympathies. I will pray for you and your family. You wrote a beautiful post that has your Aunt smiling as she brags about your son to his grandma in heaven.

  8. lesa


    I’m so sorry for your loss! Will be praying you feel God’s loving embrace as he showers you and your family with peace, comfort, strength, perseverence and all those things you will need in the days and weeks to come!

    While I know you will miss your Aunt Leah dearly, may you also rejoice for her in the new life she is coming to know!

    Sending hugs and prayers your way!

  9. roy

    You keep him in perfect peace
    whose mind is stayed on you,
    because he trusts in you.

  10. I’m so sorry for your loss, Aimee… And your writing, as much as it made me sad, the part about your aunt possibly bragging about having seen your son made me smile. While she left great company behind, who are mourning her departure, I am sure she joined just as great company in Heaven.
    I’ll keep you and yours in my thoughts.

  11. Bill V.

    Well-written Aimee. Aunt Leah was a wonderful woman. I’m saddened that my three boys were not able to meet her.

  12. Christel

    Wow what a sweet and touching tribute. Be safe in your travels and try to enjoy seeing your family. Prayers sent your way. <3

  13. Angela

    Aimee, This story of your Aunt Leah is simply beautiful. Your words paid a loving and vivid tribute to a woman whose life touched yours so gently. Thank you for sharing her inspiration with all of us. You’ll be in my thoughts as you travel this weekend to honor Leah. All the best, Angela

  14. I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. Leah sounds like a very special aunt.

  15. Ginger


    So sorry for your loss. I can tell she was a sweet treasure to you. You’ll be in my thoughts the next few days.


  16. Harold

    Aimee, thanks so much for sharing. May the trip back home be a blessing for you as you share with other family members those memories you have of Leah. Family is such a blessing. You share a story of a lady that knows where her hope is placed. May her failth be an example to many others and may the service be a time of celebration of a life well lives and draw others to the source of her strength. I hope that you are blessed by your trip back home, but even more I pray that you will be a blessing to those you visit with.

  17. Kim

    Aimee, sorry to read about the earthly loss of a precious person in your life. You have wonderful memories of her, may they warm you in the days to come.

    You’re in my thoughts and prayers.

  18. Aimee, I’m so sorry for your loss. And thankful that you had her in your life! I have some special aunts, too, and know that losing them will someday be painful.

  19. Just nominated you for the Sunshine award! Check it out at: http://ipinterest.me/2012/04/27/i-won-the-sunshine-award/ Congrats!!

  20. Joan Bailey

    Powerful piece of writing, Aimee! You’ve touched on something here much bigger than you may realize. I hope you pursue it.

  21. So glad I found you. So sorry for your loss. This was such a beautiful tribute to your Aunt. Beautiful poem as well. I truly look forward to following your posts. :D

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  24. Such a beautiful tribute Aimee. I am sure that your sweet and amazing Aunt has filled your mother in on everything and they continue to watch you in wonder and fulfillment waiting to see you when it’s time…