I guess I start with who my Aunt Loretta is.
My Uncle Gene had a common law marriage with Aunt Loretta, a woman I never really knew. Since my uncle wasn't close with our family, we didn't see him or his wife (which is sad, because I know I'd've loved her).
Anyway, Aunt Loretta passed away when I was still pretty young. Her passing wasn't even a blip on my radar because, as a child, you're preoccupied with childish things - especially when the person who passes is someone you barely know.
Fast forward to when I was about 9 years old. For a brief three minutes my family and my uncle's family were close. I half think it's because his new wife, (my current Aunt Jeannie), is the sweetest person ever and was really looking to reach out to our side of the family. I became close with one of her daughters (from a previous marriage) and the two of us would badger our respective parents in order to hang out. During this very brief span of family bonding, my mother, siblings and I were enlisted to help my uncle move out of his old house.
I can't speak for my other siblings, but I really - REALLY - enjoyed clearing out my uncle's house. I was also pierced by a deep sadness for him. Everything - and I mean everything - in that house was a testament to his love for Aunt Loretta. He had so many pictures of her, so many of her books, so much of her jewelry, so many of her dresses, and countless scrapbooks full of her Astrology clippings (Aunt Loretta wrote for several newspapers as their professional astrologer).
At this point in my life, I didn't know much at all about Uncle Gene. He was just the silent, brooding uncle who showed up for family functions wearing cowboy boots, never said anything to us kids aside from the obligatory "Hi" and "Bye" and played the piano. I saw him laugh a couple times, and he had a laugh very similar to my Grandpop's. Grandpop's was definitely more jovial... it seems to resonate from deep within himself. Uncle Gene's, though it carried a similar raspy tone, never carried the full depth of joy that Grandpop's did.
I didn't dislike my uncle. I didn't fear him, either. I was just confused by him. I could tell he was extremely uncomfortable around children (he never had any of his own) which just made us kids extremely uncomfortable around him. As a result, I knew NOTHING about him. So going through all of his stuff was like putting bits and pieces of his personality together. That day forward I had a very, VERY different perspective on him. And it was all because of Aunt Loretta.
In all of their pictures, Uncle Gene was a different person. The amount of love and admiration he had for her - it oozed out of the pictures. He looked so relaxed, so overjoyed, so happy in all of them. There was even one where he was full-on laughing as his arm hung over her shoulders. I realized by looking through his stuff that he was a person with emotions, too. Deep ones that really came alive for her - likely even because of her. And I wonder if his aloof and brooding personality wasn't a reflection of the deep pain he felt at loosing the person who so obviously gave him so much joy. He kept all of her things because he didn't want to let go of her. So as we moved out all of Uncle Gene's items, we were also moving out Aunt Loretta's. I felt as if I was getting to know her, too, and ever since then I've always been incredibly bummed that I'd never gotten a chance to really know her.
She seemed like such a wonderful, vibrant woman. That she was able to bring about such a different side of my Uncle... she must've been something special.
Anyway, fast forward again through the years. Most of my readers know that I've always had a very special place in my prayers for the souls in Purgatory. Whenever I pray, I typically toss a nod their way. I always keep in mind my friend, Karen, who passed away too young. I always keep in mind Grandmom and Grandpop in the very off chance that they haven't reached Heaven (because even if they have, and I believe they did, those prayers will still be effective for helping someone else). I also keep my Aunt Pat as a prime intention because I adore her and want to make sure that she not only makes it to Heaven if she's not already there, I want to make sure she knows I'm still harassing her like I said I would when she was with me on Earth.
However, for all the times I've prayed for the souls in Purgatory, I've never once specified Aunt Loretta. She just wasn't a person who came to mind as I said my prayers.
So as I closed out my Divine Mercy chaplet, I made sure to remind God that the chaplet was for the souls in Purgatory. No sooner did I finish the final prayer than did I feel completely overcome with joy. Joy is a terribly pathetic word, too. The tidal wave of emotion I felt caught me so off-guard that I began tearing up as I crossed the bridge into Philadelphia. As the tears began pooling, I immediately cried out, "God, don't let me cry before I get into work!"
As soon as I said those words aloud, the wave of unspeakable joy passed, but I was left with the distinct impression that my Aunt Loretta was in the car with me. I half expected to see her in the rear-view mirror!
What's odd about that is I've never connected Aunt Loretta with purgatory. I haven't connected her with anything except my Uncle Gene, and considering how seldom he pops into my thoughts, she pops in even less. So what was she doing attached to that intense feeling of joy?
We never know where our prayers go or who they help. I think God chose to use my chaplet to help Aunt Loretta either enter Heaven today, or at least move up the level so she was closer.
I realize this sounds crazy. I accept that. But I have no other explanation for the sudden and inexplicable experience of radiant, fathomless joy that solicited an immediate physical response from me. Stranger, I have no other explanation for connecting my aunt, a non-Catholic who I never really knew, to it.
I'm appreciative, however, that I was given such a generous gift this morning. I want to share it with you to remind you of the importance (and POWER) of prayers for those in Purgatory. Never forget them.
(These photo spaces will remain blank until I'm able to find ones of Aunt Loretta. Again - this is just more proof that I have very little connection to her at all. That doesn't mean my prayers can't help her, though! How gloriously merciful is our God!)