Friday, August 31, 2007

Ellen..the eulogy

I am honoured to be here this morning. I will be speaking in behalf of some
of Ellen’s blogging friends from around the world. I hope I can convey their thoughts to you in a meaningful manner.

A short explanation of a blog would be a:
Blog is short for weblog. A weblog is a journal (or newsletter) that is frequently updated and intended for general public consumption. Blogs generally represent the personality of the author or the Web site.

I have received so many messages from her blogging friends this last week, and they all wish me well, and assure me they will be the wind on my back while I am speaking, and reflecting their thoughts of this wonderful woman.

Many of her friends have been so kind to give me some direction where to go with this. Her blogger friend Susan summed it all up in a email to me, and this is how she described it:

For people who are not part of the Blog community, it may be difficult for them to conceive the depth of feeling and care that Bloggers develop for each other. The Blogesphere, as it is affectionately referred to by those involved, is a network of people from around the world, that otherwise would never have had the opportunity to know each other. These relationships are very real and the support and encouragement amongst this huge group of friends is deep and genuine.

When fellow Bloggers are in crisis of any sort, word goes out on the web and friends come to leave offers of prayer and kind words on their blog. She went on to say Ellen was an inspiration to her during her nieces trying battle with Cancer last summer. She said, Ellen was a huge support, though she herself was battling the same demon. Perhaps her own suffering made her more understanding of what other cancer fighters were going through. Instead of being bitter or resentful of her condition, she was graceful and courageous, she used that understanding to encourage others and their families through similar times.

That, sums up how the blogging community works. We are just like your next door neighbour when a crisis occurs, but sometimes we are miles apart.

I would like to thank all the bloggers who took the time to write me and give their thoughts. I won’t have time to put all your thoughts in this eulogy, but I will try to do a short version of it:

Brian – from Oklahoma – a fellow teacher

Here in Oklahoma we refer to people like Ellen as someone who had “her head screwed on straight”. She had morals and values, a sense of right and wrong, common sense, and sense of perspective. She had a relationship with her husband that she treasured. She fought valiantly, exhibiting a sense of grace and courage that many of us can aspire to. Godspeed my friend. somewhere USA:

Ellen’s generosity of spirit, her willingness to help others whether she met them in person or not; her compassion when she thought we were hurting. I will never forget the many, many hours she spent cross-stitching a beautiful piece or art she made for me at one of my weakest moments. She was always trying to make other feel better even in her own time of pain and crisis.


Who was a blogger friend from Holland, from where her parents originated.
Some of his thoughts were when he and Ellen would chat on “Live Messenger,” and he would communicate in Dutch and she in English. He said “Such a chat party could take sometimes more than an hour or more because we had so much pleasure in “talking” this way with each other. She felt a strong link with this country and sometime almost became “Yankerd”…(cryer) because she had found a Dutch contact.

Goodbye Ellen, look down now and then, bless each of us who love you so much with good memories of a wonderful friend.

Curtis and Ellen kept me believing that true love exists. I am not saying this lightly. I had given up on ever finding anyone but their blogs kept me believing that it would happen for me too. “And it did.” Ellen is one of the world’s most beautiful people. I am so honoured that I have had the opportunity of know her through blogging.

Penny Halston:
A mother of a student Ellen taught in school.

I began reading her blog before she had cancer. I read all her delightful stories of her youth and adventures as a high school teacher. I read about her dear husband and the loving marriage they had. I was lucky enough to meet her twice. Once when my dad was having treatment for cancer, and then when she was in the hospital. Ellen has appreciated the wonder and joys of this life more that some people do in a lifetime. It is an honour to be counted a friend and I will never forget you.

Anne Baldwin:
Who called Ellen “puppycakes”, and was a member of her cancer support group for 5 years. Ellen wrote short stories on their site, which they encouraged her to get published. We all loved her, she said. She gave her support to everyone. She will be missed by us all.

We have lost a wonderful member of the blogging community. Ellen inspired me with her warmth, her giving ways, her sense of humour and her wonderful ways with words.

I knew Curtis first, then got to know Ellen and love Ellen also through blogging. What I remember most is her enthusiasm for decorating for Christmas. She would be so excited to bring everything out and would share pictures of their “Magic Christmas Tree.” Then after Christmas she would wonder if maybe it was her last time putting away the decorations. I’d be thrilled when another Christmas came and she could start over again.
The love between Ellen and Curtis was beyond comparison.

People who don’t blog don’t understand how close a community we’ve become. They don’t understand when we speak of each other as friends.

Daughter of Ellen’s brother Lawrence.

Despite the problems she had, she remained supportive and enquired about how YOU were doing. I had medical problems and when I last saw her she was asking how I was doing. She even managed to give me some support and advise as how to handle it. I am glad my aunt had such a huge support network.


Ellen and I began corresponding via email. Ellen had been diagnosed with renal cell (kidney) cancer in July 2001, at the time we began corresponding, 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 my son 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.

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.
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 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. 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.
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.

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."

That my friends is what the blogger community is all about, I have only touched the surface here, and wish I could have read each and everyone I was sent. Some from complete strangers. Like Jenny from Spokane WA, who will make a donation to the “Dawn of Hope” in Johnson City TN, in memory of Ellen Crush and in honour of her brother John Holloway.

Joan says:
I live in Winnipeg, and only met Ellen once, when she was in the hospital. Most bloggers never get to meet each other. I was one of the lucky ones. She was so supportive when my husband had medical problems 6 months ago, and continually commented on my blog when I was down and out.

What first drew me to Ellen was her sense of humour, all medical issues aside. She was quick, and never missed a beat. We had a lot of laughs over the years, personally I think she was laughing or cringing at my grammar and my spelling, it was hard writing a blog with a “teacher” reading it! And she was a pretty good rapper too, I bet you didn’t know that! Well, I don’t want to be telling tales out of school, so I will leave that alone. I will miss her so very much.

So, Ellen, save a seat for me, I’ll be seeing you on the other side, you will recognize me, I will be the one trying to smuggle in a bottle of wine.

Your friend
Joanie Balonie
I sincerely hope I didn't mix up names etc. if I did I think it remained unnoticed.

I was pretty nervous, but just before the service started Father Robin, sat down beside me. I was on a bench in the back by myself, because I was still waiting for my husband to appear (that is for another blog.)

"Who could miss me," pouring through my notes with fits of anxiety. So he must have caught on and hit on the most nervous looking chick in the chapel. He sat down beside me and asked..if I was Sharon or Joan... He knew we would both be speaking. What a wonderful guy he is. He put me at ease, and we talked for about 5 minutes. Until my husband phoned, and I forgot to turn off my cell phone in the chapel...Ellen forgive me, but fortunately this was before the service.
The service was beautiful, I cried and I laughed. Her brothers are a hoot, and I now know where she got her sense of humour. Her two brothers did a eulogy that surpassed none. They were witty, cried, and told stories of her I had never heard. I didn't realize she grew up on Morley Avenue, where I spent all my vacations as a kid with my cousins.. I loved that area of out city. When we were told she always spent time at the Community Clubs helping out in the summers, I remember my cousin Linda doing the same thing, and she became a teacher after that too.

The hardest part after the service was when we were supposed to go to the front, and greet the family. Because we were sitting in the back, we were the first to go. I wondered how most of them would take to strangers like us giving our condolences; but like Ellen they were gracious. I gave Curtis and handshake, like I usually like to do, but then I thought this guys needs a peck on the cheek....and I did...what's next...I will be hugging people....oy

When we left, I had to go right back to work, because my co-worker had to be in a wedding party for his brother this evening.
So, sorry Curtis we didn't stay for lunch, I would have loved to.
Take care my friend.


Susan said...

Sounds like you did a wonderful job. I admire you being able to do that. I am a blubbering mess at memorials and wouldn't be able to speak at all.
Thank you Joanie, for speaking on our behalf.

Brenda said...

You are a wonderful friend to so many Miz Joan and you did such a fine job representing the blog world at Ellen's memoral. I know she would be so proud of your words and your courage.

If I ever get to meet you in person, you'd better get ready for a good ole southern hug!

Bobbie said...

My first thought when I awoke this morning was that today's Ellen's memorial service. How I wish I could have been there to pay my final respects. Your eulogy was wonderful, Joan. It represented how we all got to know Ellen through blogging, and what she meant to all of us. Thank you for doing such a beautiful job on our behalf.

Sally said...

Your words were beautiful just like you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! I saw from Curtis' post, he was very pleased. I'm glad you were able to meet Ellen's brothers, and I'm sure they appreciated you!

Kyleen said...

Oh, how I wish I could have been there. Thank you for speaking on our behalf. You did a fabulous job.

Joan said...

No, it was not me, I was only the gals put your thoughts and words to paper.

Penny Halston said...

Thank you for representing the blogging community. You did us proud. I guess you left before I had a chance to say, hello. It was truly a wonderful service. I think Ellen would have been pleased.

Kathy said...


You did a wonderful job.

Writing is far easier than speaking is for me.

A San Diego sushi restaurant was doing a fundraiser for St. Jude 3 months ago and they had me come in early one Saturday morning before the restaurant opened and speak to their employees about St. Jude and our experiences there.

The worst and the scariest parts of our experience are a couple of years behind us now and I've done several speaking stints for St. Jude over the past 3 years on the radio and at various fundraisers, it has gotten much easier for me.

At the restaurant I got about 3 sentences out of my mouth before I started crying, I don't even know where it came from. I got myself together and started to speak again but got crying even harder. I almost couldn't finish but after several attempts I eventually was able to finish.

My husband can deliver the same talk smoothly, I have no gift for speaking, I don't think I could have done it.

So kudos to you and thank you for conveying our condolences for our dear friend Ellen.

BarbaraMG said...

Absolutely beautiful; Thank you so much Joan.

alex said...

After our elaboration of the dream problems we found room for most of these contradictions.. Prue laid her hand gently upon the head of our guest, whose eyes were closed, and who breathed softly, like an infant in sleeping...

Herman Verbrugge said...

All I can say is: "You did a wonderful job, Joan". I can imagine how nervous you were in front of all these people. And father Robin was there to support you on the right moment. Thank you.

Mary Lou said...

GOOD JOB Joanie! ANd you managed to keep Balonie in check too. THat must have been HARD!

I am still laughing over your Chinese lady story! GREAT!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your beautiful, heartfelt eulogy of Ellen. It was almost like being there.

Although this is a very sad time to meet you, I look forward to getting better acquainted through your blog.

JUST A MOM said...

I think you did a great job Joan,,,, You should also get my award of courage .. I like the back ground too.... enjoy your weekend