Memorial Day is approaching. “The first national celebration of the holiday took place May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery, where both Confederate and Union soldiers were buried. Originally known as Decoration Day, at the turn of the century it was designated as Memorial Day.” (Library of Congress)
Speaking of memorials, I found a wonderful tribute in Kauffman’s book, Faith, Family, and Fruit. It’s a story of caring in a time of tragedy that really spoke to me, a perfect example of their service to others.
Caring for Each Other (Page 21)
“On December 15, 1941 A.L. and Sue Kauffman suffered a profound loss; their third daughter, Elsie Mae, died at age 23 of complications from childbirth. She left her young husband Aquilla Stoltzfus, a newborn baby girl Vera and nineteen-month-old daughter Susanna.
Susanna Stoltzfus’ memories:
In the midst of their own sorrow, Grandpa and Grandma generously opened their home to my father and me for the next two years, while their son Melvin and his wife Erma took care of newborn baby Vera. Since our father was too overwhelmed with grief to continue his work on the Stoltzfus family farm in Atglen, Grandpa and Grandma gave him a job in the orchard.
A.L. and Sue fed and sheltered us, paid for childcare during the week, and provided a stable and loving family environment in this time of immense upheaval. I have warm memories of Grandma making cup cheese in the kitchen and riding on Grandpa’s ankle to the tune of the PA Dutch nursery rhyme, Ride-a, Ride-a Gauli.
They made sure that Vera and our father and I all stayed connected to one another. When our father remarried two year later, Grandpa offered to give Daddy and our stepmother, Mary yoder, a new house. Even though, my father decided to return to the farm, their great generosity continued to impact our family the rest of our lives.
Vera Stoltzfus Keener’s memories:
When I was three weeks old, I went to live with Uncle Melvin and Aunt Erma Kauffman who lived across the street from Grandpa and Grandma. They had had their first child, Marlin, in February of that year so we were raised as twins. They truly cared for me like one of their own. When I was two, my father remarried and I left to live with my parents. Four months later Aunt Erma went to the hospital and delivered a baby girl!
Years later, when Uncle Melvin and Aunt Erma retired, they lived at Landis Homes Retirement Community in Lititz where I worked as a nurse. The cycle of life repeated and I was able to take care of Uncle Melvin when he needed help, just like he and Aunt Erma had cared for me when I was an infant.
Susanna and Vera eventually moved with their father and new family to North Carolina. When A.L. and Sue visited, they trimmed the Stoltzfus family’s grapevines down to almost nothing and the next season they had the best grapes ever!
On visits to Lancaster County, Susanna and Vera remember the aunts and uncles serving them cups of cold cider. They also remember eating sweet bologna sandwiches and cold fruit soup meals with Grandpa and Grandma and helping themselves to Grandma’s special candy in the living room china cabinet. Even though their Mother Elsie was gone at a young age, they were always treated as part of the Kauffman family.”
As I read this story, I couldn’t help thinking of my own family and others who have shown such kindness and generosity to me throughout my life. All of us have been shown kindness by others in our own lives, sometimes kindness and service that we’re not even aware of. As we approach Memorial Day, take some time to think of these people; people who have put others before themselves; people who have acted unselfishly on behalf of others. If there is a way to thank them, do it. If there is not, tell their story to someone. Tell their story so that their memory may live on and that we also might be inspired to love and serve others.