There is a woman I got to know while working in my former career who is one of the strongest, most inspiring women I have ever known. I have never met a woman as gracious, loving and caring as her.
Her name is Ellen and she is in her mid 80s now. When she was on the Board of Directors, I had the opportunity to see her monthly. Beyond that, she would regularly help out with office tasks and special projects between meetings, allowing me the opportunity to get to know her on a special level. When a holiday would come around, no matter if it were small or large, she would bring a rose to the office as a gift to me in celebration and share God’s blessings. The thoughtfulness of Ellen was beyond what I have ever experienced in my life.
Eventually, she stepped down from the board and I didn’t get to see her as often. Soon after that, her energy declined and she didn’t participate in activities in the office anymore. Though I didn’t get to see her as often, she still never failed to send a card every holiday, no matter small or large, including a $5 bill with the direction to buy myself a rose with it. Some I would use to go buy a rose, but others I would save so that I could donate them back to the organization in honor of her; she has always been a woman who deserves to be honored.
In 2012, Ellen moved to be closer to her eldest daughter after spending over 60 years in Oconomowoc, a city she loved and held dear to her heart with memories of the life with and without her late husband, the love of her life. Right before she left, her extremely talented, musical children flew in from masterful institutes throughout the country to perform in a “farewell” benefit concert at the area arts center, a place that she dedicated her volunteerism to in order to see it become a reality. I still remember that concert to this day. I remember how there were more people in that room to celebrate Ellen than there were to attend any of the concerts my organization had ever held in that hall.
Ellen left and less than a year later, so did I. I still received periodic messages from her while I remained at the organization, but those communications trickled out after I left. Many months went by without hearing from her, but my thoughts often drifted to hopes and wishes for her.
Today, after a fulfilling, meaningful day at work and at mass, I returned home to find a piece of mail from Ellen waiting for me. My heart skipped a beat and I couldn’t help but drop everything else I was holding so I could focus my efforts at delicately opening her letter. She wrote a letter and inserted it into her senior living community’s newsletter, where she starred the sections she was mentioned in; what joy it brought me to see a picture of her smiling with fellow “class of ’12” friends. She was happy and that made me happy.
Her message talked of transitions for both her and for me as we embarked on new journeys in our lives. She spoke of cancer research and prayer for those suffering; things we had never discussed previously, but given my new career path, she uncovered a side I had never seen of her before. It was yet another sign of how intelligent and amazing she is.
The fact of the matter is that her message brought tears to my eyes. I am beyond honored to receive her love and thought after all this time. Yes, I sent a Christmas card with a short message, but it was minimal compared to the communications we had in the past.
Ellen was always a rock to me and a connection to the spiritual side of me that had for so long been kept dormant. I can’t help but connect the fact that today, Ash Wednesday, the first Ash Wednesday I have attended mass in many years, was also the day that Ellen’s message reached me. I can’t help but feel that God intended these two moments to come together.
I can only hope that everyone has the opportunity to meet someone like Ellen in their lives; to meet someone who inspires you, strengthens you, challenges you, and enriches your life. God bless.