The Burnett Farm family has lost the last of its third generation. Ethel Leffert was taken into the Lord's hands on January 3, 2014.
Aunt Ethel was the keeper of traditions. Birthdays were special celebrations. A birthday party at Aunt Ethel's meant a table filled with the most wonderful selection of food, both new and old family recipes. There never was just one birthday cake, but at least two. One being the favorite of the person whose birthday it was and another being an equally wonderful choice. For the indecisive, it was just necessary to have a small piece of each. It was there at her table that I found the fun in discovering new recipes and treasuring the old family recipes. No one left her table hungry. I came to see it as another way that Aunt Ethel expressed her love.
Aunt Ethel loved children and they responded in kind. In our family, it began with Bill, then our children, Wes and
finally, our 18 month-old grandson, who would get back to our door after a
stroller ride and say, "effel, effel, yes" and look in the
direction of her house. He wanted to visit. Sharon
Three generations of children were drawn to her genuine true expression of love that children know when it is real.
There are so many years of wonderful occasions to remember, but there is one additional treasure for us. Over the past few years Bill and I had the pleasure of sharing dinner with Aunt Ethel each week. She would bring out the old photos and tell anecdotes that gave glimpses into her life growing up on the Burnett farm.
On the farm is a very large rock located next to the barn foundation. It didn't have much significance until Aunt Ethel revealed why this is no ordinary rock. This rock is for sitting.
One day, I’ll take our grandson, Jack, and we‘ll sit on that very large rock and I”ll tell him the Wednesday night stories that Aunt Ethel told us. I'll point to the pony horseshoe cemented into the foundation wall and tell him about the young girl and her brother who set off in their pony cart going into the woods to gather ground pine for Christmas decorations. And how, on their way back, that pony made it to the tree line, had home in sight and took off like a flash leaving Aunt Ethel, as told in her own words, "holding on for dear life, scared and screaming all the way," until that pony reached the barn and stopped.
Or, I'll tell the story of the little girl who went to town with her mother to purchase groceries. The trip was a five mile bus and trolley ride to reach their destination. On the way home they would pass the most wonderful sweet shop with éclairs - her absolute favorite. One time, Ethel asked her mother for an éclair. Her mother replied that it was her choice, but if she had her éclair there wouldn't be enough money for an éclair and a bus ride home. It would mean walking the last two miles - carrying the groceries - a sobering thought for a child. Bus ride or eclair? What would she do? How long did she ponder this choice? That is not known, but they did walk the last two miles, and at least one had a joyful spring in her step and a sweet taste on her tongue.
I will tell him that this very rock was the sitting rock for his Great Aunt Ethel and her sister, his great grandma, to watch as his great great grandma milked the family cow. The expression on her face as she fondly reminisced is etched in my mind.
All of this we know because she graciously shared the memories of her life adding depth to our family history. We loved listening to these stories as her eyes would sparkle, her voice would become filled with the emotion from that moment in time, and her heart was young again.
We treasure the memories of family get-togethers, the traditions, and stories that have become the ribbon that ties generations together. Aunt Ethel has enriched our lives; we are so much more because of her.
In the words of Helen Keller, "What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us."
She is a part of who we are and we will remember.