Ask any member of my family what they remember about Aileen Ross, and without hesitation each one will say that she was one of the sweetest and most generous people they ever knew. They will also say that she made the most delicious apple pie they ever tasted, and I will agree wholeheartedly with both statements. In my estimation we were the grateful recipients of at least fifty of her pies. She gave us so many pies over a two to three year period we lost count!
I had not known Aileen until she was referred to me by a physician friend, because she was in need of a major surgical procedure. She was already in the hospital as a patient, and I went to her room to introduce myself and explain the details of the operation she was facing. During the visit she was quiet and more subdued than usual, probably because she was not comfortable with a new physician, and also her apprehension of what lay ahead the following morning. After spending the necessary time explaining the details regarding the operation and allowing her time to ask the questions she wanted I asked if I could have the privilege of praying for her. She said she would love that, and before I could bow my head she literally sprang from the bed and was on her knees at the bedside leaving me standing with her chart in my hand. I didn’t want to pray standing while someone was on their knees in front of me, so I laid the chart on her bed and joined her at the bedside on my knees. It was a sweet experience of prayer which remains etched in my memory.
Following a successful operation and a recovery which took approximately six weeks I received a call from Aileen on a Saturday afternoon late in the day. During the conversation which took about twenty minutes, we talked very little about the operation, her recovery or anything medical in nature. Instead, we discussed her family and their ministry in the community, their involvement in church, her pastor, and lastly what was happening in the lives of my wife and children. Toward the end of our conversation she said, “Pete is on his way over there to bring you a little something!” Pete was Aileen’s husband, and they had been happily married for nearly fifty years. Pete had a good job with a utilities company in addition to managing a tree service business with his sons which provided needed supplemental income.
Within three or four minutes of Aileen’s announcement there was a knock on our back door and Pete was standing there with a tray holding two freshly baked pies, an apple and a cherry. I talked with Pete for perhaps one minute, because he seemed to be in a hurry. He always seemed to be in a hurry especially when delivering pies, and although I never asked him I suspected he had more pies to deliver and didn’t want any of them to get cold. Pete was not out of our driveway before I called Cathy and our children to come to the kitchen quickly. I was cutting into the apple pie which was still warm and smelled heavenly. I can remember the first bite and telling everyone present, “Without a doubt, this is the best apple pie I have ever eaten!” My opinion has not changed, and that was more than thirty-five years ago.
For the next two or three years either Cathy or I would get a similar telephone call from Aileen. She called us at least twice a month, and for a short period of time it was weekly. Her call was usually on a Saturday afternoon lasting at least twenty minutes, and her lengthy conversations were interspersed with, “Honey, I’m telling you!” just to emphasize a particular point. When she finished talking, she would say the magical words, “Pete is on his way over there – -.” After the first two or three times she sent us pies we offered to pay her for them, but our offer seemed to offend her. We quit asking to pay, and simply thanked her and thanked Pete over and over. We later learned there were at least ten other people for whom she was baking pies on a fairly regular schedule. For certain her primary physician who referred her to me was on her pie list.
Aileen’s gift of love to us and others was a model for our family of several Christian qualities. She had an on-going attitude of gratitude, demonstrated by giving to everyone who had given to her. I believe she gave to many others she had never met, but had been made aware of particular needs in their lives. Pies were definitely her special gifts, but she also gave her time, her presence by visiting, by phoning, by praying, and by just being there when someone was hurting. She had experienced the deep pain of death of a son and was particularly sensitive to mothers in similar circumstances. We never saw Aileen discouraged or depressed, even when she seemed to have cause. I believe the reasons were the constant trust she had in the Lord Jesus Christ, and her personal belief God would meet all her needs according to His riches in glory.
We moved from our hometown to another state, and during our time there received word Aileen had departed this life to meet her Savior. We were very sad that we couldn’t be there for her family, but we called Pete to tell him and their children of our sorrow and our prayers for all of them. Her memory lives in my heart on several levels. I remember the sight and smell of her freshly baked apple pie and can almost taste the indescribable flavor. I remember the cheerful countenance with her wide, gleeful smile. I remember her neat appearance with a blouse and skirt which were always freshly pressed. But my most abiding memory is of her generous and loving spirit, and best punctuated when I seem to hear her saying, “Honey, I’m telling you!”