Daily Archives: April 9, 2014

Rest in peace, Aunt Esther

“. . . the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully their hidden lives, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

~George Eliot in Middlemarch


My great-aunt Esther Marie Gutshall Summers has gone to glory.  She died at 10.10 this morning.

She was 101 and a few days shy of 102 years old, and so ready to take the last journey home.

But, damn, this one hurts.  Badly.

Now she is reunited with her husband John, with my mother (her namesake), with her sister (my grandmother) and brothers, with two nephews, and with countless friends.

She is in a far better place on that distant shore.

But I grieve.

Thou only art immortal, the creator and maker of mankind;
and we are mortal, formed of the earth, and unto earth shall
we return. For so thou didst ordain when thou createdst me,
saying, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” All
we go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make
our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Give rest, O Christ, to thy servant with thy saints,
where sorrow and pain are no more,
neither sighing, but life everlasting.

Her birthdays have become the one time a year that our far-flung Gutshall family comes together.  Somehow, this childless woman became the matriarch of a large clan, including 11 nieces and nephews in the generation prior to me, and scores of great-nieces and nephews in my own generation, most of whom now have their own children.  No matter how much we expected this day, we are all in grief.

I’ve written elsewhere about this saint, a woman who was as much a grandmother to me as a great-aunt.  When her husband died, I sat with her.  As an adult since that day, I have never passed up a chance to visit her.  How I wish now that I could sit vigil with her again as her soul passes over to light and glory.  She was so much to me in so many ways, and I hope that I was, in a way, so much to her too.

An era has ended.  The last of her generation, on either side of my family, is now still.

This anchor in my life, this saint on earth, this soul with whom in 52 years I spent more time than any single woman save my mother and sisters — she is now gone.

And I am lost.

Into thy hands, O merciful Savior, we commend thy servant Esther.
Acknowledge, we humbly beseech thee, a sheep of thine own fold,
a lamb of thine own flock, a sinner of thine own redeeming.
Receive her into the arms of thy mercy,
into the blessed rest of everlasting peace,
and into the glorious company of the saints in light. Amen.

Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening into the house and gate of heaven,
to enter into that gate and dwell in that house,
where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light;
no noise nor silence, but one equal music;
no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession;
no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity;
in the habitations of thy glory and dominion, world without end.
~John Donne

1963, in Columbia with Aunt Esther and Uncle John Summers, and my mother.