I want to tell you about my friend Ellen. I met Ellen about 5 years ago and the thing I remember about her is her sense of presence. Ellen had invited me to speak to her church group. When I came in, she was bustling around the kitchen in her apron, smiling and chatting and directing traffic.
Throughout the evening, I watched Ellen as she comforted a friend who shared her mom’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. I saw her joke with someone sitting alone, taking time to cheer them up. She hugged and encouraged and obviously LOVED every person there. I heard her pray for the group with power and conviction. At the end of the night, Ellen asked me how she could pray for Team Up. I added her to an email list and started regularly sending her needs to pray over. She was faithful to do just that.
Over the next 5 years, Ellen brought meals for Team Up’s programs and recruited other groups to do the same. Her Apron Brigade spearheaded the effort that ended with so many groups wanting to bring meals for Team Up that there is now a waiting list. Yes, a waiting list to volunteer! Ellen also kept praying. There was such comfort in knowing that I could confide any need to her for prayer and I reached out to her often.
Even when Ellen was diagnosed with cancer the first time, she didn’t miss a beat. But with each subsequent diagnosis, I knew the cancer was taking a toll on her physically. Still, Ellen kept praying and working (and riding her bicycle whenever she could).
The last time I saw Ellen was just a few weeks ago. She came bustling over between serving meals to Team Up kids on a Tuesday night with a big smile and her apron. She had a handwritten note of encouragement she wanted me to pass along to one of Team Up’s parents. This amazing young woman is a single mom juggling kids and work while also going to college (and earning As and Bs).
I had emailed Ellen asking her to pray for this young mom. Ellen handed me the note, chatted for a minute, and then went back to serving meals. It was just like Ellen – kind, unassuming, and taking the extra step to ensure this Team Up mom felt seen by writing a personal note.
Ellen passed away just a few days later. I had no idea her cancer was back and I can’t imagine the pain she must have been managing that Tuesday night while cheerfully serving meals and penning notes of encouragement to a woman she’d never met.
I think, of all the things I loved about Ellen, this is what I’ll remember most about her: In the face of death, Ellen kept reaching out to others. She held onto the truth that each day is a gift and she kept reaching out, leaving impressions of love and care on so many life stories.
I hope and pray that we follow Ellen’s example and leave an impression of God’s love wherever we go.
With love and an abundance of gratitude,
Founder & Executive Director