Live with Gusto: Goodbye Auntie Ellen!

As I was preparing for my upcoming Balcony Girls lesson, I couldn’t help but think of the greatest Balcony Girl in my life. My Auntie Ellen.

Auntie passed away just last month, but as I reflected on her life, how she impacted mine, and as I watched about 500 people pay their respects and share what she meant to them, it was this verse that hit home for me. As great of a person as my Auntie Ellen was, she was very humble in how she thought about herself and in the way she loved others. (This was shared at her service: Phil 2, Eugene Peterson’s The Message)

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care – then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Her Life
Auntie knew how to build others up. She was a great cheerleader to many. She was energetic in life. And everywhere she went, her life left an imprint. She wanted people to know that they deserved the best that she could give, often putting others before herself. I love how she valued the simple things in life, as simple as a casual walk, as she would listen and help work out problems. She was one of the wisest women I’ve ever known. (A stroll through St. Louis with Auntie and my children.)

Her story
Auntie was widowed at age 34 with 3 small children, and life was not easy. She wanted her 3 children to succeed, so with God’s help she set foot to do so herself. She remained single, focusing on her kids, and she went back to college and got her master’s degree in business and started a multi-million dollar business back in the 90’s. She literally opened her life and arms to people around her. She lived her life with purpose, knowing that life is often shorter than we want it to be.

She remarried about 5 years ago to wonderful “Uncle Ed,” who became a huge asset to our family. In their garage hung 2 huge collages. Both were filled with pictures (matted and framed in a classy way) with every employee who has ever worked for her through the years. People loved her. Her life was the epitome of hospitality and love.

Her ways
I have gleaned so much from Auntie Ellen. She had such a way of bringing people together, including them, making them feel special and unique. Of seeing into people’s lives and creating lively conversation. Of seeing talents and gifts in others and pulling those out of them. I’ve benefited by watching and learning, as she showed me how to throw a party, and how well people and food go together. (Auntie showing Abby how to make a flower arrangement.)

She taught us all that relationships are more important than anything else. (Her nieces loved her dearly!)

She showed us how to make family “fun.” (Tea Party in St. Louis.)

She prioritized family gatherings, many to the Oregon coast. (Ellen with her kids at Cannon Beach, years ago.)

And she so adored her children and grandchildren. (The loves of her life!)

The party
Which brings me to the last celebration of her life. In Auntie’s honor, a traditional German Party was planned in which 500 people came together to celebrate and reminisce. Every graduation, college graduation, wedding, or special event party always had this German theme. It’s just the way Auntie did it. (One of many memorable dances.)

The room was decorated with Auntie-style cool chandeliers (Fun dancing to the German band!)

The food was a traditional German spread. (Last picture of the “food” for Auntie.)

With yummy German cake! (Amazing, killer cake!)

The cousins, and Dad and Ginny, came together to sing our last song to Auntie. (This World is not my Home … I’m just a passing through, and Blessed be the Tie that Binds … Our hearts in Christian Love.)

Auntie, thank you for providing us a glimpse of heaven!

You knew how to live life with gusto!

Thank you for teaching us all!

Thank you, Auntie Ellen, for inspiring me as one of the most influential Balcony Girls* in my life.

Goodbye for now, Auntie Ellen!

Our lives will never be the same without you!

(The German sign behind the Friesen family says: High Shall You Live!)

(My Aunt and I shared and discussed the concept of Balcony Girls years ago, long before I ever had children.)

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38 Responses to “Live with Gusto: Goodbye Auntie Ellen!”

  1. #
    Teri — March 21, 2010 @ 9:52 am

    It sounds like your Auntie was an incredible woman! I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your celebration of her life! :)

  2. #
    Nancy — March 21, 2010 @ 10:53 am

    She sounds like an amazing woman who’s friendship was a gift to everyone she met. I’m sorry for your loss, however so grateful you shared a a glimpse of her precious life. Peace to all of your family.

  3. #
    Tara G. — March 21, 2010 @ 11:04 am

    What an amazing woman! And what a wonderful legacy and heritage to pass on!!

  4. #
    holly herick — March 21, 2010 @ 11:35 am

    Bringing tears to my eyes. It reminds me of my grandmother, what wonderful legacy your auntie left for all.

  5. #
    Rebecca — March 21, 2010 @ 2:15 pm

    It was my honor to call Ellen my Mother-in-Law. She was an inspiration to me as a woman, mother, and wife. I am a better person for knowing and loving her. Thank you Sandy for such a beautiful tribute. You are walking in her footsteps of love and caring.

    • Sandy replied: — March 22nd, 2010 @ 6:25 am

      You were all so loved …

      She taught us well, didn’t she!?

      Love you Rebecca!

  6. #
    Joy — March 21, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

    What a fine job you have done in sharing just how wonderful our Auntie Ellen was. She was a woman I admired from a very little girl. Our auntie inspired and motivated making each of us feel like we were so important!
    Auntie Ellen has led us by example in showing all of us how we can make a difference in our world.
    All of us are better people for having known such an amazing woman…and we were so fortunate to get to call her our Auntie!
    Thanks Sandy,
    Cousin Joy

    • Sandy replied: — March 22nd, 2010 @ 6:26 am

      Her first stamp on my life was love and red lipstick! SO miss her.
      Love you, Joy!

  7. #
    betsy — March 21, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

    What a beautiful tribute to an obviously beautiful woman! I love the verses you added…and the way The Message words them. Thanks for sharing a glimpse of your aunt’s life!
    .-= betsy´s last blog .."F" Is For… =-.

  8. #
    ellen b — March 21, 2010 @ 3:45 pm

    What a lovely tribute to your inspirational Auntie Ellen. What a great legacy she has left…
    .-= ellen b´s last blog ..Mosaic-Blue Monday ~ My Apple Tree… =-.

    • Sandy replied: — March 22nd, 2010 @ 6:27 am

      I’m so glad I got to share in person with you my love for my special Auntie E. I know you are an Auntie E too! xo

  9. #
    Pat — March 21, 2010 @ 4:25 pm

    A beautiful tribute for an obviously amazing lady! I had a very special aunt that seemed to be so much like yours and their legacies are such a treasure for us. Thank you for sharing the beautiful memories!

    .-= Pat´s last blog ..~ Happy Saturday! ~ =-.

  10. #
    randee — March 21, 2010 @ 4:31 pm

    what a sweet, sweet tribute to her. it brought tears to my eyes. how blessed you must have been to have her in your life.
    .-= randee´s last blog ..this is my story, this is my song =-.

  11. #
    Traci — March 21, 2010 @ 4:44 pm

    What a wonderful tribute to a precious lady! I know you will miss her greatly.
    .-= Traci´s last blog ..Great “before and after” Pictures! =-.

  12. #
    suzanne — March 21, 2010 @ 6:19 pm

    Oh, Sandy, what a legacy your Auntie left!!! And what a fantastic job you did in sharing who she was and what she meant to so many…….that’s a treasure! Thanks for sharing with us!

    .-= suzanne´s last blog ..The Spring Break that wasn’t….. =-.

  13. #
    Natalie at Mommy on Fire — March 21, 2010 @ 6:57 pm

    What an amazing woman and what a wonderful tribute! Judging from her sassy spirit, she would have just loved that party. I enjoyed reading about her and love the idea of “Balcony Girls”!
    .-= Natalie at Mommy on Fire´s last blog ..Caffeinated Randomness: Really Random Stuff =-.

  14. #
    sonja — March 21, 2010 @ 6:58 pm

    Was she ever precious!! And how God used her years and her life… which continues in all of you.

    Thanks for sharing her with us!


    .-= sonja´s last blog ..a few words on Mediocrity… =-.

  15. #
    Julie — March 21, 2010 @ 7:31 pm

    This is sweet. Thanks for sharing.
    .-= Julie´s last blog ..Simple Distressing or "How to Make Something Look Really Worn Out" =-.

  16. #
    Gloria — March 21, 2010 @ 7:32 pm

    Beautiful tribute to our beautiful auntie. Very well done Sandy – thank you!

    • Sandy replied: — March 22nd, 2010 @ 6:31 am

      I love all the pictures that we have with her. I wish we could put them all together … :) We were blessed! Love you Glo. Have a great day!

  17. #
    Joni — March 21, 2010 @ 7:55 pm

    I liked reading about your inspirational Aunt. I had such an Aunt too. What a legacy she left for everyone in enjoying others and life. Joni

  18. #
    Sarah Rachel — March 21, 2010 @ 8:52 pm

    What a beautiful post and what an incredible tribute! She sounds like an amazing woman and I love. love. love. that verse!
    .-= Sarah Rachel´s last blog .. =-.

  19. #
    a woman who is — March 21, 2010 @ 11:32 pm

    What a wonderful tribute to one amazing Balcony Gal ! The concept and the woman who inspired the concept catch my heart strings.

    Thanks for sharing this tribute.

    My Condolences
    .-= a woman who is´s last blog ..My Last Class =-.

  20. #
    Selena — March 22, 2010 @ 7:02 am

    Thank you for sharing with us about your beautiful Auntie. Thank you for taking us down the path of her life and how she intermingled into yours. What a beautiful woman. As I read your words I could really see how influential she has been in your life, as you are truly an amazing woman yourself. Hugs Sandy.
    .-= Selena´s last blog ..Blog Renovation Giveaway =-.

  21. #
    Susan — March 22, 2010 @ 8:19 am

    What a glorious story about your Aunties Life. She obviously had a huge influence on so many people and how wonderful for her memory to be shared as you did. I am sorry for your loss – it is hard to miss someone so special.
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..Simple Black and Blue Cobbler – Jen Tilley =-.

  22. #
    Nancy — March 22, 2010 @ 9:05 am

    What a beautiful tribute! Your life, your family and your blog are a great example of putting others first. Humility and graciousness were things Mom were top priorities. She DID always make us feel special and most important. I miss her so dearly. I am grateful to have learned from the best! Family meant the world to her. You really live that out in your life too. She is proud of you Sandy.

  23. #
    Debbie — March 22, 2010 @ 9:50 am

    Auntie Ellen was a very special lady. Very nice tribute Sandy.

    Love, Debbie

  24. #
    Danielle P. — March 22, 2010 @ 11:22 am

    I am sorry for your loss…but it looks like you had a great time when she was here!

  25. #
    Donnetta — March 22, 2010 @ 3:48 pm

    What an absolutely beautiful and heartfelt tribute. What a blessing and example she sets for us all even now!

    Thank you for sharing her with all of us in this way.
    .-= Donnetta´s last blog ..Lies to Truth =-.

  26. #
    Betty G. — March 23, 2010 @ 12:24 am

    What sweet memories you have of your Aunt. Those are things that just come so naturally for some folks. Everyone benefits. She must have been quite a lady for all the people to honor her like they did in life.

    Betty in Oklahoma

  27. #
    Aggie — March 23, 2010 @ 11:19 am

    I’m so moved by what an amazing woman your Auntie was and how wonderful it is to celebrate her life the way your family did. Hugs sweetie, I miss you.
    .-= Aggie´s last blog ..Grilled Banana Boats =-.

  28. #
    melissa @ the inspired room — March 23, 2010 @ 10:13 pm

    You are so blessed to have had such an inspirational woman in your life, Sandy! I know you will deeply miss her!
    xo & blessings
    .-= melissa @ the inspired room´s last blog ..Spring is here! Create a welcoming front porch! =-.

  29. #
    Gretty Schmidt — March 24, 2010 @ 7:25 am

    Thank you for this beautiful tribute to Ellen. I too was blessed to call her auntie! I hope that my favorite Uncle Ed, her beloved, has read your blog…I will share it with him when I see him this weekend. Great to make the connection with you Sandy!
    Hugs and Ellensmiles!


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