Growing up in a close-knit family meant lots of family gatherings. People didn’t travel too much when I was a child, but celebrated holidays together with family. Living next door to Gramma and Grampa meant that whenever the cousins came for a visit, whether they lived in-town or out-of-town, my brother and I got to play with them while the adults visited.
I still remember the excitement when a big black and white Ford would drive into my grandparents’ drive. Uncle Vernon, Aunt Dorothy and Doris, David, and Karen had come to visit. They were all older than me and I looked up to them. When I was six, my cousin Diane was born and I no longer had to be the youngest. I finally had someone to give my hand-me-downs to.
It took some time for me to really begin to pay attention to my aunts and uncles. I loved them, but for the most part, they were just my cousins’ parents. Then, when I moved back home as an adult, I began to love them as my mom’s family. As my family. I loved to hear the stories of their lives. To learn from they way they lived.
Aunt Dorothy was always busy and always had a smile on her face. On the peripheral of my life, she gardened, cleaned, scrubbed, saved, and enjoyed life. She also loved to read, just like me. While Uncle Vernon would talk and tell stories, she’d sit beside him with a knowing smile.
She liked to walk. Numerous days as I drove through town on my way to work in Peoria, I’d see her coming home from her early morning walk, usually with smashed pop cans in her hand. She had more energy for her day than I did – almost thirty years younger!
And when my mom passed away, she was there for me. She didn’t say much, she just smiled and understood. She knew what it was to lose your mom.
Uncle Vernon and Aunt Dorothy always went to church. They sat on the right side of the center aisle.They were in Sunday School. They came to evening church – long after their health would have given them a reason to stay home. They didn’t come because it was a habit. They came because their faith made it impossible to stay home. Their love for God, His Word, His house, and His family made them an integral part of the church.
I remember seeing Aunt Dorothy at Ladies’ Missionary meetings, at our Ladies’ Retreats, and often working in the kitchen. She served faithfully. Quietly. She didn’t want any recognition for what she did. Only a few years ago she was still listed on the committee to help in the kitchen for funeral dinners. I was surprised when she volunteered. She is a great example that age makes no difference to service.
Aunt Dorothy had struggles and hardships in her life; however, I never heard her complain. She just put on her apron and her smile and knew that with God’s help, her family would make it through. Several years ago during a Sunday evening hymn sing, she asked to sing “Gentle Shepherd.” Whenever I play this song, I think of Aunt Dorothy. She lived her life following the Great Shepherd.
“Gentle shepherd, Come and lead us, For we need you to help us find our way,
Gentle shepherd, come and feed us, For we need your strength from day to day
There’s no other, We can turn to, Who can help us face another day.
Gentle shepherd, Come and lead us, For we need you to help us find our way.”