Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam
Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam

Friday, August 24, 2007

Good Night, Sweet Ellen

Ellen Crush
September 23, 1954 to August 23, 2007

After 52 years and 11 months earthside, our dear friend Ellen departed heavenward on Thursday.

Shortly after Steven finished treatment, I became acquainted with Ellen through the internet, a mutual friend got us together.

Ellen was a teacher and a published writer. Possessed of a sharp wit, a bawdy sense of humor, boundless generosity and great compassion, I followed her writings with great interest.

Ellen and Curtis at their church wedding

Her marriage to Curtis was the stuff of fairy tales. It was the second time around for Ellen, after her first husband ended their 18-year relationship, Ellen met Curtis on the internet. Curtis was living in West Virginia at the time and Ellen always affectionately called him her hillbilly.

Ellen and Curtis at Bears On Broadway

Curtis packed up his belongings in a U-Haul and moved to Canada to be with Ellen. They married in a civil ceremony on December 28, 2001 and three years later, after Curtis had become a Canadian citizen and settled in, they affirmed their marriage with the church ceremony they missed the first time around.

Ellen and I began corresponding via email. Ellen had been diagnosed with renal cell (kidney) cancer in July 2001, at the time we began corresponsing, her cancer was in remission, but in November 2004 it was found to have metastasized.

Ellen was keenly interested in the people she came into contact with, and there was always a special bond between her and Steven. The cancer was a point of shared experience between them, but not the main point, neither of them have ever been defined by their disease. Both of them share great compassion and a strong love of nature and wildlife.

Ellen and Steven

In 2005 we were planning Steven's Make A Wish trip to see the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba and our flight was arriving in Winnipeg. Ellen lived in Winnipeg and we made arrangements to meet.

Bears On Broadway is an annual display in Winnipeg, different organizations paint lifesize polar bears and they are displayed on the main street and around town. Ellen had written to Steven about it several months in advance of our trip there.

Ellen and the Bling Bling Bear

The bears are put away for the winter, and it turned out they would be put away about two weeks before we were due to arrive for Steven's Make A Wish trip.

Ellen was meeting with her financial planner Dwain and when she mentioned that Steven would be coming to Winnipeg to begin his Make A Wish trip, he said it would be possible to arrange for Steven to see the bears in their winter storage area.

Our family with Ellen and Curtis and the gifts they brought for us

It was a magical day, thanks to Ellen and her financial planner and Doneta who rose to the occasion in short order and got us taken care of after our luggage failed to arrive in time for our trip to the arctic.

Renal cell cancer is slow-growing, but relentless. When it recurred, she was forced to give up the teaching job she loved so well.

Ellen fought with all she had to give, and it wasn't easy, she was one of those people who seemed to suffer every unusual side effect of the drugs she took to keep it at bay.

Throughout it all, her main concern was always for her hillbilly, Curtis. She wrote me many times about her desire that he would be OK when it came time for her to leave him.

This last December I got together a few friends of Ellen's, those I could find email addresses for and who responded to me, and together we folded over 1000 origami cranes for her. The cranes represented our appreciation of her friendship and our prayers that she could overcome her illness.

She left before any of us were ready for her to go, but she leaves behind her a legacy of compassion and love.

Ellen and Curtis and our family in Winnipeg

We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet her and Curtis in person. On the day we flew back to California from Winnipeg, we met with Ellen and Curtis for lunch. Ellen tied knots in the four corners of her napkin and put it on her head and pretended to be a Gumby (from Monty Python), sending Steven into gales of laughter.

Two and a half years ago, Ellen wrote:

I have conducted my daily life with two questions in mind: What would Jesus do? And what will people have to say about me after I'm gone? For it is my desire to leave behind as many positive marks, no matter how minute. This has especially shaped me as a teacher, a vocation whose responsibilities I took very seriously. Little did I know that, at the age of fifty, I would be prematurely faced with the reality of my own mortality. I guess you could say I'm glad I didn't wait until the last minute to put my house in order.

Ellen, your work has been exceptional, you get an A. I know what you heard when you stood before our Maker, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

It will be a while before those of us who carry you in our heart get over the pain of this loss, but the lesson you taught us was not to let the bad stuff drag us down. We love you, dear Ellen, from the bottom of our hearts to the tips of the stars.

Good night sweet Ellen, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

- Kathleen

p.s. If you'd like, you can light a candle for Ellen.

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11 Comments:

Blogger Joan said...

You put that so much better than I could have, thanks so much.

August 26, 2007 3:14 PM  
Blogger Kyleen said...

What an absolutely lovely tribute. I can hardly see my keyboard as I type this. Thank you so much for taking the time in you sorrow to share with all of us who grieve for our sweet Ellen.

August 26, 2007 6:44 PM  
Blogger Bobbie said...

This is such a beautiful tribute to Ellen. I can remember when she posted about meeting you and your family, and how delighted she was. Her and Steven had such a special bond. He is a very sweet young man.
Thank you for sharing your reflections of Ellen. My condolences to you, and especially Steven, on losing such a special friend.
Hugs!

August 26, 2007 8:24 PM  
Anonymous Jacque said...

This was an absolutely beautiful tribute to Ellen. Thank you.
Jacque

August 26, 2007 10:58 PM  
Anonymous Sally said...

So very beautiful. Ellen would be touched beyond words. Thank you so much. God bless you and your family.

August 27, 2007 8:45 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

That is a wonderful tribute to Ellen. Like Bobbie, I also remember how delighted she was to meet Stephen and family. I remember the day she recieved that beautiful blanket and how she felt she was wrapped up in your love when she snuggled up within its beautiful blue folds.
I like that photo of the garden, the trarful hedge. Where is that, its incredible, so aptly suited to this post.
As Bobbie said, when Joanie does her blog eulogy on Friday " It's going to be pretty crowded on that podium with Joan, as there will be hundreds of us fellow bloggers standing with her"
Thank you again for organizing the CRANES. Love to you and your family.

August 27, 2007 11:40 AM  
Anonymous Kristin, G's mom said...

Kathleen,
I'm so sorry...
so very sorry.
Ellen sounds like a remarkable woman...and I know she had a treasured place in your heart.

I'm so sorry.

peace,
Kristin, G's mom

August 27, 2007 1:56 PM  
Anonymous iris Atlanta said...

Thank you so much for your beautiful tribute to Ellen, who I loved dearly through her blogs. Peace and Love to you and your family.
Iris

August 27, 2007 5:18 PM  
Blogger Herman Verbrugge said...

It took some time before I could add my comment Kathy. What a wonderful tribute to Ellen and what a privilege to have known her in person. You did a great job by organizing the Cranes project. It made Ellen so happy. Thank you Kathy for all your efforts. And let us continue to be friends.

August 28, 2007 4:48 AM  
Blogger Veronique said...

Ellen was a wonderful teacher. I would like to thank you for such a beautiful tribute. I am sure I can speak for many of her former students from Kelvin that she was a remarkable woman.

September 16, 2007 8:13 PM  
Anonymous Curtis said...

Even though I've read this several times I've never left a comment but today I just want to say it was wonderful to have met you and your family and I wish to thank you for such a wonderful tribute to Ellen.

Her passing was a tragic lose to me and many others but I will always treasure our life together and will always feel honored to have been the husband of such an amazing and wonderful woman.

October 18, 2007 6:16 PM  

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