It’s a cold, and it’s a broken Hallelujah.
I remember the first time I heard about godparents. I was fascinated with the idea that at some point my own parents had to sit down and have a conversation about who they would entrust their own children with should something happen to them. I’ve always been a worrier, even at a very young age, so as soon as I heard the meaning behind godparents I freaked out. I was young and terrified that such things even needed to be discussed. When I asked my mother with trepidation who my god parents were and she answered “your Aunt Nina and Uncle Dick”, I felt a small sense of relief with this bit of information.
Although my aunt and uncle didn’t live near by, they never ceased to make me feel loved or accepted when I saw them. I didn’t want to consider even for a second that my parents might die, however deep down I knew I’d be in good hands if they did. When I asked my mother why they had chosen them she simply stated “we know you will be raised like we want you to be”.
I can only imagine the conversation that must take place before you ask someone if they would be willing to raise your three children for you. I am certain you play up their charm and talents, as well as the likelihood they might someday be extremely successful and wealthy. At the same time I’m sure you don’t mention their firecracker tempers, their phobias of all things living, and the bed wetting phase you’re sure they’ll outgrow by their teen years. It must be horrific for both parties involved to have this conversation.
Regardless of the immeasurable responsibility my aunt and uncle agreed. Little did they know that 22 years later they would be put to the ultimate godparent test. Anyone who doesn’t understand why someone would still need a godparent at the age of 22, obviously didn’t know me when I was that old. When I first moved away from home I put a mere 45 miles in distance between myself and my parents and still returned home on the weekends to do laundry. (Read that as, have my mom do laundry for me). Rarely did a day pass by then, nor does one pass by now, that I don’t speak with my parents. I recently heard a story on NPR about a woman who walked downstairs and found a grizzly bear in her kitchen. She ended up successfully scaring it away and the interviewer asked her what she did as soon as it exited and she replied “well, I called my dad of course”. I remember thinking that the only thing I would have done different would have been to call him while I was trying to scare the bear away.
So at the young, energetic, optimistic, and incredibly ignorant age of 22 I moved to Boise, and Aunt Nina and Uncle Dick got their shot as godparents. I arrived in this town with a Uhaul of my belongings, a class schedule for my semester that started in a few days, and the phone number for Nina. Over the next 2 years I wore the keypad to my phone out dialing those digits. They provided me a place to live. They found me possible jobs. They fed me every week and sent me home with leftovers, came to my rescue when I had dead car batteries, they cheered for me at speaking events, checked in on me religiously and made sure I was always surrounded by family for the holidays. They moved me into their rental property and then when my life fell apart before my own eyes they quietly swept up the pieces, and moved me out. They flourished in their role.
It is no wonder that my parents would have chosen these two as my godparents. As the oldest sibling in my father’s family, Nina was a born mother. She has the greatest ability to nurture and mentor all at the same time. The mentoring is not intentional. She would never seek out to be a role model. For myself, I was always attracted to her because she was as tall as me. It sounds like a silly characteristic to value unless you are a 6′ tall femaile. Then you know how incredibly important it is. I wanted to walk like her. I wanted to stand tall like her. What I really wanted to do was to be able to speak like her. She was never shy about telling people exactly what she thinks about things that matter. I wanted to be able to feel that convicted and powerful. Sometimes when I’d listen to her talk I would want to shout out Hallelujah! when she finished. She had a passion for social justice and a mind as brilliant as few I’ve ever met. Only the word Hallelujah seemed appropriate.
Her mothering was probably fueled by this sense of justice. Because it was not the type of mothering that stops with her own kids. It doesn’t even stop with her godkids. Her mothering in some ways, whether it’s through beautiful quilts, hats or other gestures of her love, has reached every corner of this earth. If she had it her way I think she would physically have reached them all herself. I can’t think of a single person in her life that at some point she hasn’t mothered. Always with respect, always out of nothing but love, and always with incredible grace.
As I visited my aunt in the hospital tonight, it dawned on me that I should possibly say goodbye to her. That I might not get a chance to see her joyous smile or hear her bellowing laugh again. She is someone I’ve always known I could never say goodbye to. So instead, I found myself wanting to say Hallelujah.
Hallelujah Nina, that you were the glue to our family for so many years. Hallelujah that you were a powerful woman who was never afraid to be anything less than powerful. Hallelujah that you have touched so many lives in so many ways through your compassion and grace. Hallelujah that I was lucky enough to be your niece, and even luckier to get to experience you godparenting.
Tonight it’s cold because I’m uncertain of your future, and broken like many of our hearts, but always for you Aunt Nina it’s Hallelujah.