Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Being an Aunt III

Many of you know that my mom raised 12 fiercely independent and successful children alone. We are all in ministry first as licensed pastors, missionaries, chaplains and evangelists and have served nationally and internationally. We are professionals and entrepreneurs second. Early on it was the strength of my Aunt Dorothy, my mom's oldest sister, that meant everything to her. My maternal grandmother died at my mom's birth and it was Aunt Dorothy who was like a mother to her and a second mother to us.

Besides my mom, never have I known a more intelligent, thoughtful, talented (she was a composer, writer and painter) deeply spiritual and compassionate woman. I remember her counseling many mothers Sunday after Sunday and throughout the week. She never married and had no children of her own. But she was over the children at my uncle's church of 10, 000 members, 4,000 of whom were her children. My great-grandfather was the founder.

Aunt Dorothy composed the songs, wrote the Sunday school lessons, painted the paintings, drew the sketches, and designed the series of children's literature that our church produced and sent to the thousands of other churches in our organization around the country and overseas. We had our own separate service in our own mini cathedral off of the main sanctuary. These were grand times that I will never ever forget. We got to participate in our own service: singing, doing drama skits, writing and composing.

This aunt was very dear to me. Early on she must have known that I needed particular guidance. So, every Sunday morning before service she would invite me over for tea and biscuits--just she and I. It started when I was four. She seemed to understand that I came here with eyes to see and sought gently, but firmly to guide me.

Her apartment, spacious and beautifully and tastefully decorated, was on the grounds of our church. There were three very large apartment building complexes on the grounds which before my grandfather bought it in the late 50's was a Jewish synagogue. It was cavernous, rich in color and deeply reverential. But believe me when I say we found ways of cutting through all of that as young people. We had fun and hide away from our parents in all of the many empty hallow crevices.

During tea on Sunday Aunt Dorothy would set the table in the finest setting of silver and we would just talk and talk. She was always so patient and didn't seem to be concerned in the very least that I had so many questions that demanded answers. She allowed me to express exactly what was on my mind. Now, there was plenty of teaching going on too, but it was done in a way that I never felt inhibited. I listened and learned so very much. Many of the lessons learned then I tried to instill in young people when I worked as a substitute teacher for years while in graduate school and when I meet them just about anywhere today.

Aunt Dorothy died when I was seven and my mother wrote this poem in remembrance:

Dorothy I thought that you'd like to hear
The thoughts I have of one so dear
My heart is bowed so low in grief
But there is one thought of blessed relief
Of one who truly loved the Lord
And served him in a sincere way
Who bore your trials in the heat of day
You sat like Mary at Jesus' feet
Deeming his precious words so sweet
You cared not much for earthly gain
And felt that deep within you heart
Yours was to choose the better part
To labor in the vineyard of this dear friend
Encouraging others to work for Him
You loved to work with little children
While their minds were young and bright
You gave your strength to this endeavor
Putting up a vigorous fight
I can't just once recall the time
You didn't have the Lord in mind
You always felt what could be done
Before the setting of the sun
You often spoke of the beautiful city
And how to miss it you would dread
You also spoke of God's requirements
How to His spirit you must be led
You were a mother one who cared
My grief to bear my joy to share
My heart is so overwhelmed in me
To think that this no more will be
I truly say of you Dorothy
I'm so glad God gave you to me

Aunt Dorothy gave me the gift of love and patience when I was very young and I seek to forever whenever possible give a bit of what she has given me to others. These many years later I still miss her, even though sometimes I think I can still hear her voice. She is forever with me.


Dave Wheeler said...

Auntie J,

You could not find a better way to honor your Aunt or your Mom than to be the type of person that I know you to be...kind, supportive, involved, engaged...(the list could go on for quite a while). I know they are proud of you and your brothers and sisters for living the lessons that they taught you. You're the best my friend!

Judith Ellis said...

Thank you, Dave. Your words mean a lot. So many days, like today when my brother sent me this poem which I had not read before, I become overwhelmed all over again with the love and compassion they showed each of us and so many many others. I only pray that I will be half the woman that they were. They were really extraordinary. I love the thought so much, Dave, of "living the lessons that they taught" me. Thank you so much for that, my friend. It's encouraging indeed.

septembermom said...

Judith, so very beautiful! Your Aunt and Mother valued faith, family, life in such real tangible ways. It is clear how much their amazing example has motivated you and your siblings to be fuller human beings who generously share that wonderful spirit filled with love and graciousness. This may be my favorite post of yours! I will save your mother's poem with other poems that inspire and move me. I'm sure your Mom and Aunt watch over you with love and pride as they see you connect and engage with all who cross your path. God bless you, my friend.

Judith Ellis said...

Kelly - Thank you for your encouraging words. I so appreciate them. Yes, my mom and Aunt meant so much to me and my siblings and countless of other people who relied on them.

They would both be on the phone or after church counseling others for hours as we would be playing on the grounds of the church waiting for the sessions to end. There were long lines usually.

My mother had three other sister who were also both loving and formidable: Aunt Georgia, Aunt Geraldine, and Aunt Jeanette. Aunt Jeannette is the only one remaining. They had one brother, Uncle Lewis.

Remember him? :-)