The Blessings of Bunny Slippers
I’m wearing bunny slippers as I type this post. My late Aunt Tracey gave them to me two Christmases ago (her last Christmas). I wear them, but I don’t even like slippers. I’m not a fan of slip-on shoes. They always slip off. I wear them because Aunt Tracey gave them to me.
Aunt Tracey was the super-super-glue of my Dad’s side of the family- the one who always had get-togethers to make sure we got together. She and my Uncle Mark were high school sweethearts, and she was one of my Dad’s best friends. You couldn’t help liking her. She made mostly accurate character judgments, had a sassy sense of humor, was always up-front and kind, and loved her family. The last five years of her life were spent in her home, as she battled various diseases and cancers that she would ultimately succumb to in April of 2010.
Every break of college, I would visit her and then leave thinking that would be the last time I would see her. Even so, when she actually died my senior year of college, I felt like a train hit me and then kept rolling over my body. Maybe it was the fragile emotional state I was in (mere days before I orally defended my thesis and other academic exercises for graduation), but I sobbed for hours the day she died. I do not cry easily, nor did I have time to cry. It was crunch time, and I remember begging Christ for mercy.
Fast forward over a year: my Uncle Mark is recently engaged to a woman nothing like my late aunt, and this relationship is a practice in Christian charity for our family. I’ve been wearing my bunny slippers a lot more recently: shuffling around the house, sitting on the floor as I write articles, lying on my bed. Christmas is going to be tough again this year. The woman my uncle is engaged to was born on Christmas, so she celebrates it as her birthday first.
My family used to go to their house every Christmas Eve and hang out until late, when my parents would shuffle us off to bed so Santa would come. As I got older, I was allowed to stay even later, watching Christmas films in their basement and laughing and eating popcorn until Dad practically carried us to the car so we could go to bed.
Aunt Tracey always got us kids each a present. I say “each” because there are six kids in my family, and the other families usually give us a joint gift. Not Aunt Tracey: she would spend the whole year looking for something nice and personal. The presents weren’t always “the best,” but we loved them because we knew she picked it out for us. Like these bunny slippers- I never would have asked for slippers for Christmas. But Aunt Tracey got them for me, so they are perfect. They are soft, cozy, fit my feet well, and are very pink (two shades!).
My aunt wasn’t Catholic. I remember telling my Dad I was worried about my aunt’s soul when she died, and him telling me to stop worrying and start praying. He told me I can’t worry about souls; that’s passive. If I really care about other people’s souls, I’d pray for them and trust in God’s mercy and grace.
Still, by the end of her life, she was more a believer than not. She had been raised Anglican, just as my uncle had been raised Roman Catholic, but neither really practiced. She had a Catholic friend, though, who shared holy water, medallions and icons with her, and Aunt Tracey treasured those in her final days.
I wasn’t able to go home for Aunt Tracey’s funeral. I had too much going on, which sounds callous, but Uncle Mark told me not to come and to graduate strong. Aunt Tracey would have wanted that. So now I shuffle around my house in the damn pink bunny slippers and pray for her soul and smile at the thought of her swimming in God’s eternal mercy. In this season of Advent, as we prepare for Christ’s coming, we must never forget for what he is coming: to save our souls. Not just us Catholics, but all of us – the sinners, the saints, you, me, and my Aunt Tracey.
And yes, that’s what you get to read from a girl wearing bunny slippers.