Last week a dear friend of mine suddenly died. Claudia was her name. She went by Aunty Claudia. Technically in Hawaii, you don’t call someone Aunty unless they are 15 years older than you. She introduced herself to everyone as Aunty Claudia. She was one of my Ohana from Hawaii and one that stayed connected with me even after we moved away. She was quick with a prayer or would share pictures of her growing moo’puna (grandchildren). She was a real Hawaiian, full of aloha and deep faith in God.
This was a tough one. Claudia’s death leaves a big hole. She was both a lightning rod and a gentle reminder of God’s grace. When our family moved to Hawaii, she said, “Stick with me. I got your back.” And she did. Occasionally she would comment on how white I was. She wasn’t calling me a haole. It was her loving way to say that I was working too hard and not getting beach time or rest. When I was on the platform leading worship and struggling a bit with my attitude (she sat behind one of the big cameras we used for live streaming the service, so she saw me up close), I could tug on my right ear, Carol Burnett style, and she would know to pray for me.
I got the message that Claudia had died moments before heading to rehearsal for a play I’m working on called “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.” It’s a story of a rabbit who, in losing everything, learns what it means to love. As I sat in rehearsal, grieving my friend, I hear a line that stands out. “When those we love are not with us, we miss them. I will miss you. But instead of feeling sad, I will look forward to the wonderful moment when we see each other again.” What poignant words to hear at that moment!
The only thing I would change about that statement is that it is okay to feel sad. As All Saints Sunday approaches, I’m adding her to the list of people I will remember and rejoice in as I reflect on their Christian walk. I also may feel a little sad even as I hope for the day I will see them again, see Aunty Claudia again. What a wonderful moment that will be.