Happy Monday, my friends! A precious few of you know that my aunt, Kris Zimmer, one of the closest people to me beyond my immediate family, was diagnosed with stage four cancer several months ago. Two weeks ago, yesterday, she was in the critical care section of Grant Medical Center in Columbus and was ready to have more visitors beyond my parents. While she was clearly very sick, she perked up a bit when I walked in, and we spent a few hours together talking and joking like any other time we had been together. Four days later she was informed that she had at most three weeks left. We were obviously all devastated and while I wasn’t sure she would be up for a phone call, I had a feeling that I needed to call her. We spent about twenty minutes crying, saying goodbyes, and she made it abundantly clear that her love for me knows no bounds and that she is very proud of me. I will forever value that phone call. Two days later our family was called to her hospital room because she had declined and was barely lucid. The following day after church I went back to the hospital where she had declined even further. On the morning of September 18, a week ago today, my dad called to say that she had passed away.
How do we measure our lives and our contributions to the Kin-dom? Well apparently, you can measure a year in daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee; in inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife; in 525,600 minutes. But lives are trickier and longer and filled with so much more nuance.
I’m not sure how any one of us will measure our lives or the lives of the people around us. But for my aunt her life will be measured in times with friends, hanging out with drag queens when the Short North was the seedy part of Columbus, touring art galleries and eating her way through several decades of the Columbus food scene. Her life will be measured in weekends spent exploring museums, teaching me how to be a food snob, encouraging me to shoot for all the dreams she never had a chance to accomplish, being the first family member I came out to and telling me she had figured it out by the time I was about eight. Her life will be measured by achieving home ownership, rescuing two dogs, taking in her brother when he had nowhere else to go. Her life may end far shorter than it should, but she will have left quite a legacy in the lives of her nieces and nephews and one grandnephew to say nothing of her sister, brothers, mother, cousins, and many, many others.
Yet as Christians we know that death is only part of the story. Resurrection and new life are just as important and in the midst of my family’s sorrow several important and joyous moments have also occurred. On September 19, my nephew Jack turned four. Everything I know about being an uncle and being whatever Jack needs me to be in his life, I learned from my aunt. One day in the hospital after my aunt’s health had declined substantially, Jack was allowed to visit. He immediately ran over to me, gave me a hug, and for a while just wanted to stand or sit with me. Life has a strange way of coming full circle. Today is my mom’s birthday. Some people have suggested that my Aunt Kris was a second mom to me and it’s true that she introduced me to, supported, and indulged interests my mother isn’t a fan of, but I have only one mother who has always been and, because I’m gay, will always be the most important woman in my life.
Finally, today’s Monday Moment is the 100th essay in a weekly series which began on November 1, 2021. As I prepared to be the executive director at LOVEboldly, my mentor and friend Jess Pettitt suggested that I send out a weekly message to the board either outlining the week ahead or reviewing the previous week. A fan of alliteration and settling into a role that sometimes makes me as much a pastor as it does an administrator and activist, I decided to call it “Monday Moment.” The first several messages included a Bible verse, a short reflection, and a brief outline of the week ahead. By December the work outline seemed unnecessary, and I was encouraged to expand the reflection. Our founder, Heidi Weaver-Smith, and our communications coordinator at the time, Diane Gress, encouraged me to broaden the scope and set-up a distribution list beyond the board. Diane also began posting each message on LOVEboldly’s website and social media. Monday Moments now go out each Monday at 5:30am to a group of almost 90 people and are posted on the website at 6am where they typically are viewed by 10 to 20 additional people each week. Most Monday Moments are about 500 words and while I haven’t missed a week, some weeks are shorter than others. At approximately 1,000 words, this one is among the longest. In the future I hope to gather and edit my favorites into a book.
How do you measure your life and the lives of the people around you? What connections and contributions are you most proud about?
Let us pray: God, as you orient Kris to your Kin-dom of heaven where pain and sorrow are no more, bless those of us who continue to build the Kin-dom on earth. Comfort us in our grief and join us in our joy. Bless all the aunts, uncles, and piblings (1) who make our lives more full and more beautiful. Bless all the nieces, nephews, and niblings (2) who give us people to support and spoil. Bless all the parents—by birth, adoption, and choice—who become our rocks and guiding lights. Bless all our families—chosen and by birth and adoption. We ask this through your eternal family the Trinity. Amen.
Blessings on your weeks, my friends! Remember to let your loved ones know that you love them and hold them close because none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.
1 “Pibling” is a gender inclusive term for aunts and uncles meaning “parent’s sibling.”
2 “Nibling” is a gender inclusive term for nieces and nephews.