After my aunt passed away, my mother asked me to speak at her memorial service. Other friends and family spoke about her outgoing, vibrant personality, the way she filled up a room when she entered, and the funny things she did and said. She was a great storyteller. Since others covered those parts of her life, I spoke about her faith.
In loving memory of Lynne Walker DiGilio.
March 6th, 1952-September 2nd, 2017
I am Julia Lynne, Lynne’s niece.
We call her Auntie Lynne.
Auntie Lynne was not a religious person, and yet in her own way, religion was important to her. She liked going to church when she could, and she understood the importance of God in her life, even though it seemed she struggled with exactly what that was supposed to look like. She was raised Baptist, joined the Unitarian church in her town, and often visited a Catholic parish with her dear friend.
This past June 25th was an unusual Sunday because I was home alone. My husband was away with our boys on a father/son camping trip with church, and our daughter was on a service trip with our youth group. Because I was alone, I got ready quietly, and actually had time to think. I thought of Auntie Lynne. I prayed for her. I thought that I should call her and invite her to come to church with me. I did.
Knowing Auntie Lynne, I wasn’t confident she would answer the phone, but she did! The first miracle.
She was so happy to hear from me. I asked her if she wanted to come to church. She hemmed and hawed about getting her old, aching bones ready on such short notice, but she said yes! The second miracle.
Anyone who has ever made plans with Auntie Lynne knows that you can never be totally certain she’s actually coming until she gets there. I told the elder at the door and the usher in the back to watch for her, saved her a seat, and prayed she would really come. Just as the service was beginning, she came hobbling into the sanctuary, leaning on the cane that supported her through severe back pain. She was a few minutes late, but she came! The third miracle.
The pastor preached on II Corinthians 5:1-10. He began the sermon by telling us that this passage is frequently read at funerals, but that it is not really meant to remember the dead ~ it is really meant to encourage the living.
Auntie Lynne kept looking at me in disbelief as he read and spoke, because the words so directly applied to her life.
2 Corinthians 5:1-10
Awaiting the New Body
5 “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile, we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
We know how Auntie Lynne groaned in her body, and how that affected her spirit. She was weary and world-worn, and told me that sometimes she wished she would just die, because she said, “What’s the point?” But the words of verse 7, which were the theme of the sermon, “Walk by faith, not by sight,” grabbed hold of her heart and changed her.
She started reading her Bible, and, in her words, “actually understanding what it says.” This was new for her. In the past, she had tried to read her Bible, but whenever she did, she said it was like a wall came down that kept her from understanding. That broke my heart, so I rejoiced in this new insight. The fourth miracle.
“Walk by faith, not by sight,” became Auntie Lynne’s mantra as she faced new health problems over the summer. She decided that she would undergo tests and seek treatment as needed, because she was going to let God define her purpose and keep living as long as He kept her here.
But still, she struggled. She groaned in her earthly tent. Through His Word, prayer, and a few more visits to church, the Lord was preparing Auntie Lynne all summer for the late night or early morning hours of September 2nd or 3rd, when He called her home. September 3rd was a hard day, and I could not watch when they carried her out, even though I knew she had left her earthly tent.
That night, I had a dream. It was not a normal dream that comes in whisps and shadows and flies away in small bits with the morning~it was the most vivid dream I’ve ever had, and rather than fading with the morning, it remains clear in my mind as time goes by.
Two angels stood at the end of Auntie Lynne’s bed as she slept, and said, firmly but gently, “Lynne, it’s time to go.”
She hesitated and said, “Really?”
They answered, “Yes,” and each angel reached out a hand for her. She rolled up out of bed, whole, and beautiful, and dressed in white. She took their hands, and she was gone.
After a lifetime of resisting God’s call on her life, she finally received the gift of Grace that he had so long been waiting to give her. And then she was free to go.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,
“they are before the throne of God
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
will shelter them with his presence.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ ”
This is what God has done for Auntie Lynne. She is before His throne, dressed in the white robes of Christ’s righteousness. Someday, I know with the sure hope of God’s grace through His Son, Jesus Christ, that I will see her again.
You, my dear friend, can know it too. God is calling you to walk by faith, not by sight.