My aunt, Bonnie Haigler, went home to be with her Savior this week. I want to say that she prepared me well for this event: She had been battling cancer for some time, which gave us time; she savored every moment that she could spend with her family and friends, despite distances and probably pain; and she was ready to see Jesus, like really ready! But still I've got something of a hole left.
Some of my earliest memories of Aunt Bonnie were when she (and my Uncle Larry) took me and my sister in as kids when my mother was battling cancer. I was like 5 or 6 at the time and got my own foam mattress in the corner of their bedroom for more than a year. I always felt like this was my own special place (because she had a way of making you feel special!), but the truth is that she took in and took care of countless family members, friends, and strangers over the years. And to my dismay, I found out at her funeral that there were many others that also had the honor of sleeping on her bedroom floor. Ha, I should've known!
I learned a lot of practical things from Aunt Bonnie when I was growing up. Well, at least now that I'm a parent they seem practical, at the time they were frustrating. For instance, we had to hold on to the handrail when we walked down the stairs. This wasn't necessarily for our safety on the world's steepest stairs that my uncle built, but really so we wouldn't touch her wallpaper and get it dirty. Aunt Bonnie also had two containers for ice in the freezer: one for her, and one for the rest of us. Despite the fact that my aunt was blind, somehow she knew when your hand was touching her ice. It must have given off a different frequency or something. There was also a constant sugar ration in effect, especially when it came to cereal, which was ironic given the sweetness of the fruit tea. Now that I think about it, I should have poured the fruit tea on my cereal. For those of you that have no idea what fruit tea is, I am truly sorry for your loss.
Aunt Bonnie never had band-aids in the house, which I always thought was strange since she lived on a farm with animals and barbed wire fences and Uncle Larry's numerous barns full of rusty whatnots, but she believed that fresh air and scabs were better. Did I mention that she required me and a few of my male cousins to sit down to pee? This one goes back to her precious wallpaper again. Unfortunately, I can't dispute that it was yellow and peeling off the wall next to the toilet. I also had my mouth washed out with a bar of soap once; yes, that was Aunt Bonnie too, and once was all that it took.
Most importantly though, she taught me what it meant to walk with the Lord.
I don't think that anyone could ever say that being blind is an advantage, but Aunt Bonnie used it to her advantage. She told me her secret once when I asked her about how she managed to walk around so well when she couldn't see. She said that she prayed before every step and just trusted God with the rest. In fact I have heard a lot of people say in the last week that they didn't even know that she was blind when they first met her. I guess that shouldn't have surprised me since she was always cooking lunches and dinners for the masses of family and friends that just couldn't stay away from her hospitality. I'm still not sure how she pulled that off, but I'm sure that there was also prayer involved when she reached for a hot pan in the oven. Now don't get me wrong here, because we all need Jesus for every breath and everything in between, but I believe her real advantage was that she needed Jesus to be her eyes. I think that she took full advantage of His offer to help her see, and then when she didn't need Him for that in any given moment, she would just be still and keep talking to Him.
I can't even tell you the countless times that Aunt Bonnie pointed me back to Jesus. She was a spiritual giant in my life, but she was also honest and real. I asked her once how she managed to get up so early every morning to spend time with the Lord. She told me that the first few weeks she fell asleep while she was praying, which I just couldn't believe! But she kept showing up; and God showed up and was patient with her. She taught me that it doesn't have to be perfect, I just need to keep coming back and seeking the Lord. Even when I was away at college she wrote me regularly, and for a while she called me every week to pray over the phone. She was always ready to answer you with the Word of God that she meditated on continually. She was always consistently there for me as if I was her own son. My mother, her sister, is surely thanking her now in Heaven for the love and care that she gave to me and my sister. When I got married she embraced my wife and loved her like a daughter. When I had children, she had more grandchildren, and she cherished them. I feel the hole that she has left, but I guess even more I am overwhelmed by the legacy of trusting Jesus that was her example.
Thank you Aunt Bonnie for living your life for Christ and not for yourself — for all to see.
2 Timothy 4:6-8 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.