I felt helpless as I watched my father help his younger sister, my Aunt Celia, into our family car. As a child, I looked forward to the yearly visits that she and my uncle Joe would make to see us. She carried such a vibrant spirit that radiated of love and happiness. You couldn’t help but be joyful in her presence. I loved how she would randomly burst out into song throughout the day. She mostly sang hymns and old gospel choruses. However, she sang them with conviction and passion. One couldn’t help, but picture that somehow her voice would bring a smile upon the face of her God, as she sang to him. As I grew older, I would accompany her on the piano when she would visit. When I was about eleven years old, she bought me my first piano. She found out that an old friend was trying to get rid of hers. She called her and made an offer of $35.00, her friend accepted, and she called us to go pick it up. I still remember going to pick it up in my Dad’s red-orange 1978 Ford F-150. I convinced my dad to let me ride in the back of the truck, so I could play the piano throughout the neighborhood on my way home. As I look back, I realize how dangerous that was. Nevertheless, my dad let me, and I gave everyone with in an earshot a free mobile piano-recital. The Summers that followed were filled with sounds of my dad and his sister singing as I accompanied them. That was, until she took ill.
I helped my dad put my Auntie’s wheelchair in the trunk of the car as he and my mother helped her settle in the back seat. As I climbed in the back seat, I looked at her face with the sad realization that she was no longer able to see mine. Her gray hair was set into a French-braid with fly-away strands of hair surrounding her face. What was once a strong and independent woman with perfectly styled hair, a colorful array of clothing, matching accessories, and contagious smile had been over-powered by diabetes. She sat in the seat, weak and dependent on others to care for her.
As everyone situated themselves in the car, I couldn’t help but stare at her. What I observed would impact me for the rest of my life.
Although her voice was weak, I could her say under her breath, “Te doy gracias padre” (I give you thanks, Father). In fact, she hadn’t stopped praising God from moment that we arrived to pick her up. As my father and uncle began to push her chair towards our car, I could hear her say things like, “Te alabo Jesucristo,” (I praise you Jesus), “Tu eres bueno Señor,” (You are good, Lord”), and “No me canso de alabarte” (I never get tired of praising you).
As she sat in the seat, she began to hum the tune of a familiar worship song that I had heard in our Spanish congregation, “La belleza de mi Señor, nunca se agotara…. La hermosura de mi Señor, siempre resplandecerá….” (The beauty of my Lord is never ending; the sweetness of my Lord will always shine on).
My aunt’s willingness to praise God despite her circumstance impacted me greatly. That day I became determined that I wanted to be like her. Although I had yet to make a personal decision to follow Jesus, I was certain that I wanted to be a follower that was willing to praise Him regardless of what came my way.
As the years have passed by, I have encountered many difficulties. There are moments where I have felt paralyzed and blinded by the circumstance before me. There are times where I’ve had to depend on others to help me get to where I need to go. Nevertheless, in those times, I have never stopped praising Jesus….. and praising Him somehow gets me through.
John Eli Garay
I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth. Psalm 34:1 (NKJV)
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