I first learned of Ellen Crawford through her Forum byline while studying journalism in college. Years later, I’d know her as more than an established journalist in whose shadow I’d walk, meeting her through the North Dakota Professional Communicators. By then, she’d left her long newspaper career, and I’d advanced in mine.
Within this professional community that has fed and inspired me, Ellen was the steady, lifetime treasurer who kept our finances in line. Several years ago, our lives merged in a different way one day in discovering we were neighbors, living a few blocks apart.
When a mutual friend of ours alerted me that Ellen, in a second bout with cancer , might benefit from a check-in from time to time, I gladly responded, and began offering to run errands, and sending occasional texts with encouraging words.
I was getting to know Ellen better, recognizing that, as fiercely independent as she was, like every human, Ellen needed others.
Recently, her needs increased, and I helped bring her to some significant medical appointments. Ellen was struggling, and it soon became apparent that her third cancer trial was wearing her down.
When the text came, “I’m dying. There’s nothing more they can do for me,” those of us attentive to her ran to her side.
As our days wind down, the world becomes smaller. An inner circle of family and friends grows sacred and near. I wasn’t worthy of being in Ellen’s circle, but I ended up there anyway. During her days in the hospital, I was among those who kept her company, and was especially grateful for the chances to pray with her.
I was visiting Ellen the day the nurses came to wheel her to her hospice room; to her deathbed. She knew it was going to happen, but not so soon. Since there’s no guidebook on how to help a friend die, I thought about what I’d want in that moment, and settled on my presence being my best offering, hoping it was enough.
Fred Rogers once said that the greatest thing we can do is to let people know they are loved, and I was honored to help assure Ellen, as she entered her final battle, of this fact. An orphan at an early age due to her parents’ illnesses, she also had no spouse nor children. But she was undeniably loved.
By now, Ellen was no longer just a colleague, neighbor and bylined name, but someone who’d become dear to me. God had pulled me into a place of holy, by some divine plan I still don’t understand. She died on Feb. 27, and on March 6, I was privileged to help sing her into eternal life.
While I can’t be sure how much I meant to Ellen, I know how much Ellen came to mean to me. And there’s no doubt how much she means to our Lord.
Requiesce in peace, dear Ellen. Your life has been a gift that I am grateful to have received.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on April 3, 2023.]