In 1875, a little girl by the name of Roberta Aseneth Park was born into a very devout Quaker family in Alliance, Ohio. Roberta was a very lively and joyful child who earned the nickname, “Birdie” because she was always singing. During the summers, Birdie's family would attend the annual camp meetings held at a church camp east of town. The ladies brought picnic lunches for their families and the fathers would come from work to attend. The camp meetings would last up to a month and included preachers like A.B.Simpson, D.L.Moody, and other great evangelists of that day. These camp meetings had a great impact on Birdie’s life and on so many others. Years later, Birdie and her husband Lewis, would bring their adopted daughter, Hazel and her best friend, Mary Walker to the annual camp meetings. It was at one of these meetings that Mary committed her life to Jesus at the age of 16. Mary couldn’t get enough of the Bible and spent hours with Hazel’s mom. She was like a sponge absorbing all the wisdom and teaching she could from this special lady who she called Aunt Birdie.
Aunt Birdie became a widow when she was still very young and she instilled in Mary how important it was to cherish every moment with her husband. While Lewis was still alive, he would read from the Bible while Birdie cooked the meals and they would discuss the passage together. After dinner, Birdie would rinse the dishes and neatly stack them to wait until the morning, so that she could treasure every moment with her husband.
Aunt Birdie supported Mary during the frightening years of illness, when Mary had three babies and nearly died from the birth of her twin girls in 1939. She did not even have the opportunity to name her own twins. Mary endured much verbal and mental abuse from family because of her physical disabilities and not being able to care for her little girls. Aunt Birdie prayed and wrote letters of encouragement and was the only lifeline Mary had for almost two years while the three little girls lived with other family members.
On May 13, 1947, Aunt Birdie went home to be with her Lord and Saviour. Mary’s girls were sick with mumps and the whooping cough, but she wanted the girls to be able to attend the calling hours so much, that she obtained special permission for them so they could come early and leave before the other people arrived. Jean, one of Mary’s twin girls, was in awe of the presence of this great saint, this heroine of the faith and was overwhelmed by the fact that God was pouring out peace and comfort to everyone there. It was a joyful celebration as Jesus said, “Well done thou good and faithful servant! Enter into thy rest”. The girls felt like they were given a glimpse of the throne room of heaven as Jesus welcomed Aunt Birdie home.
Sometime after Aunt Birdie passed away, Mary received a beautiful cherry dresser that Birdie’s father had made. This dresser was a reminder of the love that Mary was shown by this wonderful woman.
Mary wrote a poem about Aunt Birdie as a tribute to the one who had such an impact on her life and on the lives of her girls:
“My Darling Aunt Birdie”
Your gentle face and patient smile
With sadness we recall,
You had a kindly word for each,
And died beloved by all.
The voice is mute, and stilled the heart
That loved us well and true;
Ah, bitter was the trial to part
From one so good as you.
You are not forgotten, loved one,
Nor will you ever be;
As long as life and memory last,
We will remember thee.
We miss you now, our hearts are sore,
As time goes on we miss you more;
Your loving smile, your gentle face,
No one can fill your vacant place.
I wish I would have known Aunt Birdie, but I feel as if I did know her. Perhaps, it’s because, Mary was my grandmother, and Jean, one of the twins is my mother. And remember that dresser? Well, it sits in my bedroom and every morning when I get dressed, I think of Aunt Birdie. There are other special reminders around my house. My grandmother, Mary knitted, crocheted and sewed beautiful things. As a little girl, I would cling to Grandma's aprons and humbly ask for a cookie. Now, her hand-sewn aprons hang in my kitchen and my girls and I wear them when it's time for cooking and baking. Aunt Birdie and my grandmother Mary touched so many lives because they simply shared the love of Jesus. I may have never known the Lord Jesus Christ if it hadn’t been for the faithfulness of these precious women of God. Their faithfulness touched my own mother's heart who impressed on me the importance of knowing Jesus. Now, I have this immense opportunity and responsibility to train up my children in the Lord, as these women have done.
We don’t always realize the lives we are touching. We may feel like we don't have much of a heritage, but we can begin a spiritual heritage as we teach our children, or witness to our neighbors, and to so many others. We need to take hold of this faith and let it be sincere. With God's help, may it live in us, so that others can live.