Tomorrow we will bury my Aunt Thelma Smock. Over my lifetime she taught me many lessons about living and serving the Lord. During the past few weeks she taught me many lessons about making the final journey home to heaven. Aunt Thelma has always been a part of my life. She helped care for me as a baby. Her wedding and reception are the first that I remember attending. I recall going to visit her and Uncle Bob when they led tent meetings at their mission work in Trenton, New Jersey. Later I loved visiting them when they ministered in Staten Island. There they taught me to love and enjoy the city of New York. I can recall going swimming there and riding the ferry and the subway to visit museums and zoos. For most of my life they have been part of Christmas, sharing in the family celebrations in Bethlehem and Sunbury and hosting the family gatherings where they ministered in Terre Hill, Royersford and Ephrata. When I was a teenager they cared for me while I worked to set up tents at Mizpah Grove and later a second week when I helped tear them down at the end of the season. In the evenings we would go to Hellertown to swim and to the parsonage in Bethlehem to play games. Yes, in those days I enjoyed playing games! During times at Mizpah they introduced me to pizza - well, maybe that wasn't a good thing because now I can eat too much of it. For many summers we spent a week together as a family at Mt. Gretna. As a teen, growing up in a small newly formed church in Lancaster, they often included me in their teen activities at their church in Terre Hill. They cared about my spiritual and social growth. They attended my high school graduation and I can still remember Aunt Thelma complementing me on the special number sung there by our choir. But maybe the biggest influences upon me came from their work with children. They had a huge bus ministry in Ephrata and their DVBS's were exciting and spectacular everywhere they ministered. Some years they had nearly 1,000 children attend. They always featured some large mechanical model - a train, a boat, a space ship, a car - something that would actually move and kids who earned the most points could ride. Aunt Thelma used a vent figure - she wasn't really a good ventriloquist, but she did keep the attention of the kids as she shared Gospel truths. They had a Bible verse put to music for every letter of the alphabet and would rotate teaching these over three years. They loved and reached many thousands of children over the years. They influenced us in ministering to children. As we've now spent about 50 or more years doing that, we have borrowed many of their ideas, like using ventriloquism and teaching verses by putting them to music (I've probably written 50 or more of these choruses). They always shopped for bargains and their storage areas were always filled with tablets, paper goods, candy, food and you name it. If there was a bargain to find, they found it and would buy large quantities for future uses at church or in entertaining others. They had the gift of hospitality and were loved by many. In recent years, one of the highlights of our summers has been attending the same week at Pinebrook that they attended. We'd sit and talk and play games (there is that ugly word again) until late in the night. It was just special being with them and learning from them. We will miss this time greatly. But Aunt Thelma also taught me much about dying. After her husband passed away she continued to joyfully serve the Lord and others. She was faithful in visiting and caring for those in need until she could no longer do it . We first visited her in the hospital a few weeks ago when she was having an ultrasound in her room. They allowed us to stay while this was being done. Aunt Thelma was so kind to the technicians - they said they loved her - and she was so faithful in witnessing to them, despite her discomfort. She told us that she was looking forward to our annaul New Year's Day Kauffman reunion. In our hearts that day we knew that she might actually be attending a more important reunion that day, and she will. She determined that she was ready to move on to heaven and that she would not take any treatments or surgery to try and prolong her life here. Later, when the doctors fearfully came to tell her that her situation was terminal, she rejoiced and told them that the Lord had given her 87 great years here on earth and that she was ready to go home. As we visited her in Calvary Homes, her mind was so alert. She always smiled and asked about others. She never complained and I always went home helped more than I had helped her. She was a witness and an encouragement to all who crossed her path. The last time we were with her I asked her to give our love to our loved ones when she arrived in heaven. She said that she would spend the first 100 years there doing just that. When we were ready to leave her, I decided that since she was so weak and tired that I would not pray this time - that was a very bad choice on my part. But she grabbed our hands and closed her eyes. We just waited thinking that she might have gone to sleep. But moments later she opened her eyes and said that she was praying for us. And that one action just portrays the godly woman that she was. Sixty hours later the Lord took her home. I have been blessed to have family members, especially on my father's side, who lived godly lives and demonstrated their genuine and deep faith to me both in life and in death. I deeply miss all of them, but they are now so much better off. And I know that someday we will be reunited and I look forward to that time with much anticipation. Thank you Aunt Thelma. You are special! We will see you again.
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