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I can see her now.  The smile that would light up her face when she saw you.  Never did she greet anyone without it.  The deep hearty chuckle that could fill a room and change your mood from dark to sunshine.  Her round five foot tall(?) frame enfolding you in a hug that made you feel you might disappear, dissolve into her love, never to be seen again.  She was a gusher of love on two feet.

I visited her quite often, not knowing the strong influence her life would have upon me years later.  I just loved my aunt and spending time with her was a treat.

Truth be told she was my Great Aunt Lina.  Also known as Lee.  She helped me with things that women need to know about cooking, sewing, caring for husbands and children or how to sort out difficult knitting instructions.  Always patient and always with that infectious joy of hers.  She was always available to untangle situations in life that seemed pressing to me but only gave occasion for her to willingly share her years of wisdom.

The day the phone call came I was in disbelief.  I just stared out the window for a long while.  She was losing her battle with cancer and I suddenly became conscious of how really important she had become to me.  She passed on a short time later.  That smile, chuckle and hug would not be available any more this side of heaven.  There was a hole in my life the size of the state of Montana.

Great Aunt Lina left a legacy of unconditional love and joy.  The answers to her prayers can still be seen in her family and friends on a daily basis.  I am one of those answers.

In spite of all she accomplished in her life and the fact that we all miss her a lot,  there is still one thing they yearn for often….her most delicious and wonderful home-made cakes and desserts.

You see, she made up her own recipes. Testing each one in her own kitchen. Today she would be on one of those cooking shows for home bakers to compete for the prize.  And she would probably win! Family gatherings revolved around what new cake or dessert she had created.  They were all heavenly.

But here’s the rub, Great Aunt Lina never shared her recipes!  Not one.  From Ricotta Sponge Cake to Triple Chocolate Layer Cake.  They were never revealed.

At least…that is what most of the family thinks.

Can you keep a secret?  I have some of her recipes!  That’s right.  I can create them here in my own kitchen.  Things like the Triple Chocolate Layer Cake, the Golden Pound cake and even the New Year’s Day Apricot Eggnog.

And each time I make one of them she is creating again.  Suddenly, we are together.  She stays with me, in my heart, as I smell them cooking or taste them.  I sense her influence and love and I have to let out a deep hearty chuckle and smile.