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Happy Birthday Aunt Jeanette

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
II Timothy 4:7 NKJV

It’s amazing what God can do during your life with the life span He gives you. On February 17, I said my final goodbyes to my beloved Aunt Jeanette as they lowered her lifeless body six feet under. With tears in my eyes I still couldn’t shake the fact that she was gone. (In a sense, I still can now.) Last Thursday, would have been her 70th birthday. Nevertheless, God has provided me with great peace and for that I am beyond grateful.

As the “professional photographer” of the family, my Aunt Jeanette was one who loved to bring joy and laughter to the family. She would catch great photos of every family functions, church events and even a sleeping beauty every now and then.

A week prior to her funeral, I had the opportunity to view a few of her old photo albums and boy was I shocked. From her 70s afro to her 80s/90s jheri curl,I couldn’t help but smile. It was a true phenomenon to witness her life transformation— especially after surrendering her life to Christ. Tight bell-bottoms out and long skirts in, my Aunt Jeanette began to pursue her calling and before you know it many began to follow. In 1985, at the ripe age of 37, she joined Philadelphia Independent COGIC (the former church I attend now) and that’s when God truly began to work in her life.

There she wore many hats such as the church secretary, treasurer, photographer, Minister and church school department instructor. Talk about diva! I couldn’t believe what a impact she’d made with the various roles she played. That doesn’t even count her natural giving and bold speech personality.

My Aunt Jeanette was one who would never hide her true feelings. If she felt some type of way oh she’d tell you and sometimes it might have stung a bit, but she meant it out of love. She’d even test me a few times when taking me to places I needed to go like work, school and various events. However I didn’t mind because that was my Aunt Jeanette.

Many might have considered her demeanor mean, but I considered it bold. My Aunt Jeanette is definitely one who kept me intact with God. As a child she instilled the Word in me and until this day I can do nothing but show great gratitude of how her legacy still lives on—especially through me.

After putting away the old album books that night, my mind raced back two weeks prior to a Saturday afternoon, which was the last time I had saw her. One leg amputated, her salt and pepper hair braided back and matted to her sulk, there my Aunt Jeanette laid in her hospital bed still holding on, trying to get the food in her mouth her nurse had just provided her with.

Of course my mom with a big smile and dramatic voice walked in her sisters room with willing hands to help feed her. However, my Aunt Jeanette, now weak and frail, still held a stance and declared she didn’t need our help. Looking at my aunt I couldn’t help but giggle inside because even through all of the turmoil she had dealt with after being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2014, her personality hadn’t changed one bit. She still knew how to stand her ground and wasn’t afraid to tell one how
it i-t- was. I finally stood up to the plate after the back and forth madness with my mom and her and stated how we weren’t going nowhere and we’d be there to stay.

Reluctantly, my Aunt Jeanette gave in and humbled herself to have my mom feed her. For the unknown last three hours we would see her alive, my mom and I sat by her bedside. We both went down memory lane to remind her of great memories we had of her and the great joy she brought to over lives. The Holy Spirit even stopped by and began to speak through me as I spoke to her. He said that she had a great testimony to share about how He had brought her through,to a great amount of people and that many lives would be changed. He then went on to explain many positions of His profound disciples like Peter and Paul and soldiers like Moses and David and how they all fell on the bandwagon during their journey when God, but found their way back stronger than ever. Before departing from her that afternoon, I lead prayer and declared grand healing over her body inside and old. Once the prayer was complete I leaned over and gave her a huge hug and kiss on the forehead and stated the famous words, “I Love You” for the very last time. With a now huge smile on her face she said,” Goodbye” and watched intensely as my mom and I walked out of the door.

Back to the present, a tear rolled down my cheek as I reminisce our last encounter. After leaving my aunt’s house headed home, that evening I shared with my mom what I had shared with my Aunt Jeanette. It was then I received revelation from my mom on who the prophetic word the Holy Spirit placed in me to share with my Aunt Jeanette was for… ME.

As I continue my journey with Christ, I am unaware of all what the future may hold, but I do know that God is leading me in the right direction. It so profound that I even have angels and heavenly family members to back me up. Although my Aunt Jeanette is now gone, I see she made a difference in this world and she passed the torch to me. I humbly accept it and truly believe that one day laid up for me [in heaven] is the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing just as my Aunt Jeanette did. II Timothy 4:8 NKJV

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Erica Relaford is the founder of As a strong woman of God, Erica is willing to spread the Gospel to all who walk in her path . Outside of her career as a teacher, mentor and motivational speaker, in her free time, Erica loves to travel, cook and spend time with family and friends.

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