My Aunt Maureen with her children Tommy and Suzanne. Tommy is living with schizophrenia.

The Wise Man

My Aunt Maureen died last month. After the eulogy, we were quiet. Some of us got hives, some got bone-tired, some put their sadness in a box, storing it for another time. In my aunt’s home we returned to our safe routines, telling jokes, crazy-but-true family stories, and cleaning. We are really good at cleaning. My cousin Tommy, who has schizophrenia, was the wise man. He poured out his sadness in measures that made sense to me. He told us he missed his mom every day, he told us why, and he cried a little. Always the gentle soul, he told me he missed his mom’s pancakes.

He described the home he would be leaving as love and God. Some of my family thought that sounded crazy. I thought he got it just right. He captured the essence of our loss. It wasn’t just that our aunt was gone. We would be losing a place we’d all known for half of our lives. If we sold the home, we’d lose our refuge and a piece of our lives.

Tommy spent every day with his mom, in their home on Caraway Drive in Orlando, for thirty years. The porch was my favorite spot. It’s where my aunt dispensed the best advice while we drank our morning coffee. She had an uncanny ability to see emotional truths that eluded the rest of us. She accepted us all broken or bent and gave us the perfect counsel. For my Aunt Maureen forgiveness was a way of life.

That home is love, and it is godly. It has been a sanctuary for all of us. A place where you can feel the air. A place where Tommy’s illness didn’t seem so bad. There is room to hear more than the voices in his head. He has calm space where he can share his insights which were sometimes even deeper than my aunt’s. Tom doesn’t have a new home yet. The search has been brutal for his sister. Wherever he goes, we’ll have a mass, and we’ll make a book of love to live on his dresser. And we have to honor Tom. He is the one among us who is closest to our ideals. He’s kind, gentle, compassionate, and thoughtful. He loves us without measure.