Aunt Helen

Do JustlyPhotography by D. Plasman

My aunt Helen died this week. She was 87. I spoke at her funeral today. I hope I live the rest of my life more like she lived hers. Aunt Helen was a registered nurse, and when she turned 63—two years after her husband died—she did what few people set out to do in the early stages of retirement. She took, what would turn out to be, the first of twelve medical mission trips. She completed her last at the age of 79.

Offering medical care and compassion, her travels took her to the lost and forgotten, the last and the least of the world. Her passport was stamped with the countries of Honduras, Mexico, Nepal, Ecuador, Iraq, Swaziland, Madagascar, India, Nagaland, Tibet, Bolivia, and Rwanda.

To reach people in need, she made arduous climbs up Himalayan mountain trails. For four days, she and her group were harassed and detained by soldiers guarding the border between Turkey and Iraq. She prayed at the mass graves of 200 Rwandan doctors and nurses who were murdered in 1994. In a rundown African hospital, she held the hands of dying AIDS patients. My aunt had the privilege of working with Mother Teresa on a visit to Calcutta.

Aunt Helen said things like: “If God is the father of all the people in the world, and we’re all made in God’s image, I’d better get to know some of my other brothers and sisters.” Her worldview was such that she once noted: “So often we lose sight. If someone is different, we think they’re bad, or we’re scared of them.”

Had her body cooperated, aunt Helen would have gone on more trips to obscure regions of the world. She knew hurting people needed what she was willing to offer.

I’ve come to the conclusion that my aunt Helen was Jesus’ 13th disciple.

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  1. Mike Holton September 19, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

    Your aunt was a true Christian. She is role model for all of us. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Chris Goerg September 19, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

    What an amazing tribute, Dan. What an amazing lady and how fortunate you are to have her as an example of how we all could be.

  3. Marge September 19, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

    I appreciated the post about Aunt Helen. I wish there were more of them in the world. How fortunate you are to have a relative who took risks and really lived out her life. What an encouragement for “retired” folks to lift up their banner and DO something.
    Marge VW

  4. rholton September 21, 2014 at 7:51 am #

    What an inspiration! Thank you for sharing her story.

  5. Allan Martling September 22, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

    Dear Dan, You have a remarkable global family. Thank you for this blog. It makes me want to live bigger. Grace and Peace, Allan