Aunt Maureen with her children Tommy and Suzanne

The Wise Man

My Aunt Maureen died last month. After the eulogy, we were quiet. Some of us got hives, some got bone tired, some put their sadness in a box, storing it for another time. In her home we returned to our safe routines, telling jokes, crazy-but-true family stories, and cleaning. We are really good at cleaning. My cousin Tommy, who is schizophrenic, was the wise man. He poured out his sadness in measures that made sense to me. He told us he missed his mom every day, he told us why, and he cried a little. Always the gentle soul, he told me he missed his mom’s pancakes in a tender voice.

He described the home he would be leaving as love and God. Some of us thought that was crazy. I thought he got it just right. He captured the essence of our loss. It wasn’t just that our aunt was gone. We were losing a place we’d all known for half of our lives. The place he spent every day with his mom. The porch where my aunt dispensed the best advice. She had an uncanny ability to see emotional truths that eluded the rest of us. She accepted us all broken or bent and gave us the best advice. For my Aunt Maureen forgiveness was a way of life.

That home is love, and it is godly. It has been a sanctuary for all of us. A place where you can feel the air. A place where Tommy’s illness didn’t seem so bad. There was room to hear more than the voices in his head. He had calm space where he could share his insights which were sometimes even deeper than my aunt’s. Tom doesn’t have a new home yet. The search has been brutal for his sister. Wherever he goes, we’ll have a mass, and we’ll make a book of love to live on his dresser. And we have to honor Tom. He is the one among us who is closest to our ideals. He’s kind, gentle, compassionate, and thoughtful. He loves us without measure.