After a short battle with cancer (though we really don't know how long she may have had it), my Aunt Sis went Home to be with the Lord this morning. She was the eldest of 5 siblings on my dad's side and was always called "Sister", even from childhood. So it just seemed natural that all of her nieces and nephews would call her Aunt Sissy, though her name was Mary (Vaughn) Kephart. She was married to the Reverend Charles Kephart (my Uncle Chuck) and they faithfully served at the same Christian & Missionary Alliance (CMA) church in Martindale, PA for about 30 years. He retired from the ministry about a month and 1/2 ago and they moved into a new house down the street. I think it was only a couple weeks later that she went to the hospital, where she suffered a debilitating stroke and where they found cancer in several of her vital organs.
I do not grieve for her because I know that she is now completely free from cancer, sin, suffering, pain, tears, and death. Jesus was her Lord and Savior and she is presently worshiping Him face to face with infinite joy. But I do grieve for her husband/best friend, my Uncle Chuck, and for her children, Debbie, Buck, David & Rachel, who loved her so much, as well as her 5 grandchildren. It saddens me that my grandmother, Mam Mam, has to see her firstborn precede her in death. She also leaves behind her siblings and MANY nieces and nephews, whom she touched in so many ways over the years.
My fondest memories of Aunt Sis are from my Mahaffey Camp days. She was my sponsor from the time I started going (age 13) until I turned 18 and didn't need a sponsor anymore. It was during those years that I became a follower of Christ, but was incredibly immature in my faith and still had a lot of snotty-teenage tendencies to shake. Like her younger sisters, Aunt Sis was a spiritual mom to me, always encouraging me (and oftentimes rebuking me!) to live a life that was consistent with my calling as a Christian. It was such a formative time for me, spiritually and otherwise, and she did not shy away from the responsibility of helping me to turn from my worldly ways and to grow in my walk with Christ. As a teenager, I didn't appreciate it as I do now, but looking back I now know that she invested herself in me because she loved me and cared for my spiritual growth. I only wish I could have told her all of this before she left this world.
This is the verse I think of when I think of Aunt Sis and her impact on my life:
"I therefore...urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called..." (Ephesians 4:1)
And this is the verse I think of now that she has preceded us in meeting the Lord face to face:
"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep...Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord." (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 17)