I’m Al Brooke, from Jacksonville, one of Ellen’s “cousins-in-law.” I’m married to Katherine Davis Brooke, the oldest of the Davis sisters.
Ellen Melinda Morgan Lefevre had a hard life.
In the last ten days Katherine and I have caught ourselves over and over saying “poor Ellen,” and really she did suffer much over the years.
Ellen grew up in Kerhonkson, NY, as an only child just across the road from the big Davis family farm and the four children — Katherine, Holly, Margaret, and Peter. While she was in the big family, there was also a sense in which she wasn’t completely in the joyful and chaotic Davis clan.
Her mother was a large personality, and her father, much older than her mom, was an — eccentric — personality. It was, in some ways, a difficult childhood.
Around her high-school graduation in the mid-seventies she was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes, a chronic incurable condition in which her pancreas would not produce sufficient insulin. It was not a death sentence, but it changed the way she would live for the rest of her life.
After college, she moved to Connecticut and lived with Katherine for almost two years. They found a wonderful church and Ellen had a good job with The Hartford insurance company. When Katherine moved to Texas for school, Ellen remained in Hartford.
She remained on her own in Hartford until the mid-nineties. Early in the nineties her father passed away, and then the next year, surprisingly, her much younger mother died of a sudden stroke and fall.
In those years before remote work, there was no option to move back to New York, so in short order Ellen had to ready her parents’ house for rental and had to return to Hartford and her job.
Having moved all of the beloved family heirlooms to Connecticut, Ellen’s apartment suffered a fire which destroyed everything she had kept. Furniture, pictures, everything.
In the late nineties, Ellen moved to Atlanta and married, but her husband left in just a few years. Still, she continued to work in the insurance industry and loved her work and her church.
Without her own family, she still had her cousins and importantly her uncle Phil, who made sure she was included in all of the Davis family events, and took her on several trips as well.
As the years passed, Ellen suffered repeated — and increasingly severe — health issues, and in 2015, she lost her foot to diabetes. A couple of years later she suffered her second amputation, and had to retire from her job, which she had loved.
In 2019 she had to begin dialysis — kidney failure is a major risk for diabetics — a painful burden. She continued dialysis until last month.
So you can see that Ellen “had a hard life,” and you can see why Katherine and I found ourselves thinking “poor Ellen.”
But . . . .
The apostle Paul wrote: “. . . we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. . . . we do not lose heart.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-10, 16a.
That was Ellen, wasn’t it? She did not lose heart, but was amazingly resilient and cheerful, considering what she was experiencing. She lived what she believed. And continuing in the same passage “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4: 16b-18.
Ellen believed that, absolutely.
Ellen had joy in this life, particularly in her friends, and family, and church. She spent her days in hospice visiting and talking, praying and singing, with all those who were important to her, including many she had not seen in years.
Ellen saw what she was living through as a “light, momentary affliction” which was preparing her for “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”
When her preparation was complete, she left the clay vessel that was her body and stepped through the gate of heaven where she has now been robed in an “eternal weight of [Jesus’] glory.”
This life does not compare. She was not “poor” — she is “rich”!
Would that we may learn Paul’s lesson through Ellen’s life, that we might live faithfully in this transient world in preparation for that which is eternal.