Today, my aunt Ronda Peasner passed away after a nine-year battle with leukemia. She was surrounded by her loved ones, singing her into the next stage of her existence, just as she had done for so many others that had their time before her. She was a singer (and I say ‘was’ not because of any belief about the future existence, but because there is so much mystery as to what that next part looks like). God blessed her with some pipes, and although it took me up until adulthood to start blossoming a taste for Southern Gospel, I always knew her voice was beautiful. She also had a strangely eerie, yet soothing whistle she would do on long car rides that always made me smile. My aunt Ronda came from a family of twelve brothers and sisters, which she was the youngest of. They migrated to the North West in the early part of mid twentieth century (I don’t want to mess up the details so I will leave the history rather vague, for others to fill in). Ronda and her brothers (a few sisters from time to time) would sing at church and even would put on Southern Gospel shows to draw people in to our small Pentecostal churches. Although my own faith has evolved into something I am not sure my Aunt would see as tasteful (not so orthodoxy), I will never discount some of the words she instilled in me, words that have never left my head.
One Sunday afternoon, leaving church, my mom and I got in a tiff (which happened many times as I entered my teenage years). I chose my “un-cool” aunt Ronda to ride with, anything to get me away from my mother. I expressed my frustration with my mom (as most kids will do) and assuming the topic would stay there, my aunt did a rather strange thing; she sat and listened, and did not try to give me wordy advice about how one teen ought to respond to their mother; she waited patiently until I was done, and then spoke. She brought up some sermon she had recently heard, where the preacher clarified Jesus’ statement that “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” This text is surrounded by some rather bold statements, saying that Jesus is the only way to speak to God, and that those that believe in God also ought to believe in him. But the fact remains that the text seems to say, “If you love me, you WILL keep my commandments.” My aunt understood that and did her very best to get it through my thick skull that my actions are the proof of my love for God and others. It was on that day that my teenage façade of egocentric fantasy faded away and I started living for something more then what I had been at the time.
That day was not the end of either one of our journeys, but I can say that for me it started much of my deep appreciation for God, it reignited and refocused me towards the important things, and for that I can never be anything less than grateful. I love my aunt, and as much as I will miss her until my time comes, the one thing she would want is a continuation of that love-in-action message that she lived. Her life is beautiful and complete melody of love.
I leave all those that care a recording of my aunt singing: The Baysingers – Have a Safe Journey Home. Even if you did not know her, see her example of a humble life of love as a reason to do something kind.