My brother called early this morning. That’s not so unusual, but I had been waiting for this particular call.

“Janet, your Aunt Louise died at 2:15 this morning. It was peaceful.”

Louise Huddle was about 92. She lived a long, mostly sad life.

“She will be cremated. I’ll take her ashes up near Bowie. Tom Huddle was buried up there.” (Tom was her grandfather).

I didn’t ask but I imagine when my brother does this he will memorialize his Aunt Louise, with private words and memories, as he lets the elements of her earthly body mix with the north Texas, wind blown dirt.

Louise was a paranoid schizophrenic. We don’t know when the symptoms started, but we do know her father worried very early in her life who would take care of her as she aged. When her father passed away, our father tried to help her. Over the last 15 years, the only person she regularly called when she was desperate was my brother.

All three of the men I mentioned tried their very best, always hopeful, that they would be able to help her achieve a functional life. It never happened. She was highly intelligent and firmly in the grips of paranoia and insanity most of the time. Her mind fed on conspiracies, the villains almost always those who most tried to help. When she finally went into a mental health care facility about 6 years ago, my brother tried even then to be a good nephew to her. At every accusation she leveled, several of them at him, the social workers in charge of her would report them as the law requires. The outcome was that everyone she implicated would have to go through the rigors of investigation. She was very clever at this when the rotation brought a newly sympathetic, gullible case worker. I must say I wondered how thorough her medical charts were kept.

In the end, my brother served his aunt well. I know that his grandfather and father in Heaven are proud of Neil. So am I. While she shunned any visits from the only person she recognized as family, he made sure she had good health care, had her nails and hair done regularly, new glasses, clothes, dentures and always a safe home.

The last time I saw Louise was a year or so before she went into the mental facility. She knew that she needed family but she had little intent of following the plan that was being laid out for her. Her acquiescence on that trip was a ruse on her part. It would be a tumultuous year. As we talked, one thing became clear. She clung to God and had increasingly put her trust in the peace and power that Christs life meant. She had carried her Bible, one of the few possessions that she was able to keep up with, everywhere. She had poured over it, her intellect and her disease reading the scriptures. She had marked her Bible with notes and colored pens and thoughts. Some of it was scary. But I believe that somewhere in the  lines of words she read, penned over thousands of years and directed by her Creator, she found Grace. And some measure of peace.

And the truth is that now she has a wholeness of spirit and mind she never had here.

Rest well and free from the hard life you had and a bright, blessed welcome into your new one, Aunt Louise.

And God, thank you for men like my brother.