On Saturday my dear Aunt Ellen Derck stepped on the shores heaven where she was greeted by her loving Lord whom she had served most of her nearly 96 years here on earth. While she didn't want to leave her dear husband of 73 years and her family, she had looked forward to sharing the joys of eternity in heaven.
I imagine that she was also soon reunited with many friends and family members, including her two sisters and her brother (my dad), their spouses, her mother, her stepfather, and for the first time ever, her father, H.A. Kauffman. My aunt's real father, my grandfather, died before she was born, so she never knew him. She must be having an exciting reunion with him - one that I look forward to having someday.
Several times over the past several years the doctors were sure that she was about to make this journey from earth to heaven. They even went as far as to summon the family. But each previous time the Lord still had work for her to do and He extended her days. But not this time. She had a marvelous way of making friends and sharing the Gospel with those she met, especially doctors and nurses. Many lives were touched by her outreach to them in the final years of her life. We believe that the Lord prolonged her life for that reason.
My memories of Aunt Ellen are many, going back to when I was just a child. While her husband, Uncle John, was serving in France during World War II, she often helped care for me. But probably my greatest memory was when she led me to the Lord at the age of four on June 12, 1945. I will be eternally thankful for that.
When I was in third grade our families shared a row house in Lancaster. They lived on the main floor and we had the apartment on the second floor. About a year later they rented another home and moved. But we were close enough that we still spent much time together, visiting with them most weekends.
Uncle John was a manager for Penneys and so they moved quite frequently. He started in Sunbury and then was assigned to Lancaster. I'm not sure of all the locations where he served, but I do remember visits with them in Fredericksburg Virginia, Derby Connecticut, and Pottstown PA. I remember visiting with them in Derby and traveling with them to New York City to see the Billy Graham Crusade in Times Square. What a good memory. Dianne and I also visited them in Derby on our first vacation after we were married. After Uncle John retired at Pottstown, they decided to move to Wisconsin to be near their daughter and her husband who were in charge of a year round camp run by Wheaton College. They enjoyed Wisconsin but still rooted for the Penn State football teams.
My uncle and aunt were very supportive of us when we had our family ministry. When we would have the Saturday programs at the Old Mill Bible Conference they were always there with us. When we had programs in their church at Spring City they always entertained us for dinner. They loved us and loved our boys.
And despite the amount of travel involved, when my grandparents were alive they were always with them for Christmas. My father's family all loved and served the Lord and we were all very close. I will never forget the times we all joined in singing "We Thank Thee Lord For This Our Food" as our prayer for our Christmas dinner. This is a tradition that we have continued with our family. Then there were annual family gatherings at Mizpah Grove and Mt. Gretna. The memories of times together will never be forgotten. What an amazing legacy the Lord has given me. And my Aunt Ellen is a major part of that legacy.
Several years ago she had a stroke which took away her ability to walk. At times her speech was slurred, but PTL her mind was sharp right up to the end. She continued to organize and attend a Bible study for the folks in the retirement home where they lived. We had the joy of visiting them in Rhinelander several times and they were precious times. On our last visit she enjoyed listening to my wife play hymns on the piano. My Uncle John calls us about once a week and several times I had the chance to talk to Aunt Ellen. While sometimes I had some difficulty understanding all that she said, those conversations were special and something I will never forget.
Aunt Ellen's son, my cousin Jerry, will conducted her funeral service on Sunday. He expects to speak on Proverbs 31 and use an acronym, SPECIAL, to describe his mother. SCRIPTURE because that was central for her. PRAYER WARRIOR for that was what she was. EVANGELISTIC- she shared the Gospel with everyone she met. CHILDREN - she loved them, especially her grandchildren and great grandchildren. INTENSE INTEREST in others - definitely and people loved her. ALWAYS DETERMINED and among other things that helped her live with her stroke effects. LOVED HER LORD - without a doubt and that was obvious to all who knew her. A fitting description.
Now I will miss her deeply but do not wish her back. I feel for the great loss that my uncle now faces and I pray for comfort for him. She lived a long and godly life and deserves a new body and the rewards of heaven which she has earned. But I will especially miss her because she was a real prayer warrior who faithfully remembered me and my family. I have had a few such people over the years, but one by one they have graduated to heaven and that is leaving a major hole in my life.
And with her passing, I am now the oldest living member in the Kauffman line and that is another reality which is hard to accept. Where have all the years gone?
Thank you Lord for my heritage and for the impact of Aunt Ellen on my life and the lives of my family. I have been blessed.