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Five miscarriages.  Five failed attempts at having a child of her own.  Five seasons of hopeful potential shattered by disappointment and loss.   She broached her husband with the idea of adoption but he was unwilling to pursue that option.  For her, motherhood was not to be.  My husband’s Aunt Mary would tell me in her elder years that not having children was her biggest life’s regret.  photo-1458731909820-5850bdcaee0b

Visiting her at her home in Florida when my husband and I were still newlyweds, I took an immediate liking to this striking woman.  She was fun, vibrant, fashionable, and adventurous.  Before long I felt that she was MY aunt as much as his.

Widowed before I joined the family, she seemed to me to be more of a girlfriend who wanted to share my adventures than an older woman who wanted to give me advice.  We bonded while shopping and swimming and watching the boats from her balcony.  It was the beginning of a long and rich relationship, one that I treasured a great deal.

A few years later when we welcomed our first baby, Aunt Mary flew to visit and share the Christmas holidays.  Fascinated with all things baby, she played with him, sang to him, rocked him and took dozens of pictures of him in his Santa sleeper under the tree.  She seemed mesmerized by the world of infants and asked multiple questions about birthing, nursing and the care involved in one so small.  It was as though she were a little girl again and Santa had dropped off a real live baby doll for her to enjoy.

She would dress the baby up in something frilly and parade her through the condominium complex like a rare souvenir she had brought back from some exotic travel.

I kept her involved in his progress with phone calls, letters and pictures at regular intervals.  Her phone conversations usually began with “Ohhh, how’s that darling baby?” and ended with “Kiss that baby for me.”   And I always did.

By the time our baby girl arrived, our son was already in school.  So I talked my mom into a week of grandmother duty with him, packed up the new baby and headed for Florida to see our Aunt Mary.  The look of sheer delight on her face when she spotted us walking off the plane and her voice saying “Ohhhhh, just look at that baby!” are still fresh in my mind today.   I knew I had brought her more than a baby.  I knew I had brought her joy.

For the next week, after the baby’s early morning feeding, I would go back to sleep to the sounds of Aunt Mary cooing and talking to my infant daughter.  Later in the day, she would dress the baby up in something frilly and parade her through the condominium complex like a rare souvenir she had brought back from some exotic travel.  photo-1439920120577-eb3a83c16dd7 (1)

Because Aunt Mary’s delight at this experience was so evident and complete, I brought my daughter back for another visit the next year.  This time she splashed with her in the pool, fed her, entertained her with squeaky toys, watched her while she slept and again proudly showed her off to anyone willing to look or listen.

When baby number three arrived, I had two in diapers and one in school and it had become more challenging to travel so Aunt Mary came to us.  Through the years she shared our world of sand boxes, swing sets, doll houses and toy trucks.  We have pictures of her with us at Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and Fourth of July.  Never fond of household chores, she would spend her time playing with the children while I cooked, cleaned and did dishes.  I never minded this arrangement as watching her pleasure in them always gave me joy.

Her sense of wonder and appreciation for something she could not have humbled me and made me grateful for my blessings.  And I love that in some ways I was able to fill a void and unmet longing in her life.  

Those three babies were a precious gift I could share with a woman who would never have a child of her own.  What has God gifted you with that could possibly bring joy and cheer to someone you know?   I encourage you to take a minute and meditate on what that might be.  If you are listening, the Holy Spirit will inspire you with ideas and insight that could hugely affect the quality of another person’s day or life.  Are you listening?  Are you willing?  If so, write your idea down and commit to fleshing it out.

What has God gifted you with that could possibly bring joy and cheer to someone you know?

A few years back, I stood at Aunt Mary’s memorial service to speak about her life.  Among other things, I mentioned how she loved my children and how she continually affirmed me as a mom.  She increased my confidence and made me feel like a motherhood star.  In turn I provided her an experience she otherwise would not have had.  The way I phrased it in the speech following her death was that “We shared motherhood”.

Her generosity of spirit applauded me in an arena where she would never shine.  That, in my opinion, is graciousness at its best.  My willingness to draw the circle that was motherhood large enough to include her in it was a gift I gave her which I will never regret.

While Scripture teaches that it is more blessed to give than to receive, I have found that in giving I also receive.