Bonnie Hester Carter
December 20, 1946 – January 12, 2011
I loved my Aunt Bonnie. She was an amazing woman: strong, loyal, intelligent, beautiful, and caring. She came into my life on March 21, 1969 when she married my Uncle Roger. Right away, I knew she’d be special because when she came, she brought playmates — my cousins Renee and Robin. Instant cousins! And girls! Because when you’re the only girl in a neighborhood full of boys, it gets kind of tough. You either have to play whatever the boys want to play or play alone. Up until then, I had no allies. Robin and Renee immediately evened-up the boy-to-girl ratio.
I grew up in a neighborhood that was all family. There wasn’t a house in sight that didn’t belong to someone to whom I was related. Right away, Aunt Bonnie and I were family and this is how I knew — Aunt Bonnie was given immediate permission by my mother to spank my behind if I got out of line while playing at her house. Since our houses were only separated by my grandmother’s house, I didn’t have far to go, or enough time to come up with some sort of story to make me more sympathetic in my mother’s eyes if I came home before she called me inside. You see, coming into the house early or in a pout were sure signs that something was going on. Aunt Bonnie had full authority to send me home to play alone, without question, and my mother would back her up 100%. I vowed never to play alone again, so I was a pretty good cousin for the most part. My mother got the same authority from Aunt Bonnie so Robin, Renee, and I became fast friends. I’m not saying that it was smooth sailing every day. We’d get mad at each other and go to our own houses, but it wasn’t that often. I don’t think I’ve ever really expressed my gratitude to Robin and Renee for being on my side during childhood, but I love them so much and they mean the world to me.
What I am truly grateful for is that it didn’t matter one iota that we weren’t cousins by blood. No one ever said anything about the fact that they weren’t born into our family the “usual way.” I was as close to my Aunt Bonnie as I was to my mother’s biological sisters. All that mattered was that we were (and are) family.
“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Ephesians 1:4-5 NLT
I’d like to say that these were verses I learned as a child and applied it to how our family operated, but they aren’t. All I knew as a child was that our family was seamless. I credit all the adults involved for this gift. I know that all families are not as fortunate. Some adopted children are never considered equal and that is a shame. No, I didn’t make the connect between my life and this verse until we started our home study with the Cumberland County Department of Social Services. One of the questions we were asked was “How do you know that you will be able to love a child that is not yours by birth?” Kelly and I had both experienced adopted cousins so our answer was easy — we were already loving people in our families who were adopted.
When we adopted Martin, Steven, and Claire, Aunt Bonnie was ecstatic. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that her birthday became the “adoption birthday” of my sons when we finalized their adoption in 1993, I think it was only fitting that Martin and Steven share birthdays with the person who first introduced our family to adoption. Even though it’s very close to Christmas, Aunt Bonnie always gave the boys a small gift on “their day.”
It was then that the verses in Ephesians became so crystal clear to me. If I, in my sinful, human nature, could love people so much through the miracle of adoption, how much more does my Heavenly Father love me? He gave his Son so that my adoption to Him could take place because He wanted to do it. “It gave Him great pleasure!” And He wants us to adopt each other in the same way.
Yesterday was the first anniversary of my Aunt Bonnie’s Resurrection to Life Eternal. She fought complications with her liver valiantly in the last few months of 2010. When doctors were sure that there was nothing more they could do for her, she made her peace with her family on earth and waited for Jesus to bring her the Peace of her Father in Heaven. There has been a huge void in our lives in her departure. I have missed her since she left us here, but am assured that I will see her again one day because Jesus was her Lord and Savior just as He’s mine.
God chose Bonnie for our family and it was our great pleasure to know her and love her, and to be taught by her that family is more than being born by flesh and blood; family is born of the heart.