Monday, March 7, 2011

Elegy for Ellen


My friend Ellen De Bondt was killed yesterday by a drunk driver. It was a Sunday morning and who in the hell thinks about drunk drivers on a Sunday morning?

My former boss called me this afternoon to let me know. I was stunned. I hadn't seen Ellen in awhile, but when I was a staff chaplain at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance I used to bike to work and Ellen and I would chat in the locker room every morning.

It's a bonding experience when two sweaty women discuss their ride (or sometimes in Ellen's case her run) into work while shouting over the shower and hair dryer. My hair dryer that is. Ellen always let her amazing hair air dry.

She had a wide grin, wild hair and bright blue eyes. It astounded me that for someone who loved the outdoors, she managed to be happy while being indoors most of the day. Ellen was a nurse in the pain clinic and like being a chaplain in a cancer center, you get a different perspective on life. I can't remember her complaining about anything. She was always cheerful, sweet and enthusiastic.

Ellen referred a lot of patients to me--people who were learning to live with their chronic pain or hoping for relief from their crippling pain. When I saw the photo of Ellen's destroyed car, all I could think was, "I hope you did not die in pain. I hope you died instantly and flew out of your body in a rush of joy and freedom."

I've been walking around the house all day weeping. I was touched by the call from my boss that he would think to let me know. I realize too that hearing his voice and remembering Ellen brought up some grief I still have about leaving my staff position.

Ellen and I used to talk about living with pain and how if you can't relieve it physically, it is sometimes relieved psychically. I found this to be true for myself. When I was working in the clinic I had a bad mountain bike crash and broke six ribs, each one in two places. It was unbearable most of the time, that is, until I went in to see a patient. Then I never noticed it. Seriously.

It seemed that in reaching to out to others in pain, my own disappeared.

So perhaps this afternoon my dog Max and I will go visit one of our hospice patients. A little pain relief.

I can still grieve for Ellen and miss my job but rejoice that I knew this wonderful loving Bright Spirit. I hope she is running, biking, kayaking, hiking, swimming in some lovely precious world that is free of drunk drivers.


Lisa Preston said...

So, so sorry about Ellen.

kathy byrd said...

Dear Deb,
I am so sorry to read of this tragic loss. The photo of the car is horrific and I echo your prayer that she died suddenly and not in pain or fear.
Blessing, my friend.

Genny Monahan said...

Hello Debra. I was one of the nurses lucky enough to work with Ellen in Port Angeles and wanted you to know that she had a big home health family here and we all loved her very much. She will be missed.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for your loss.

Jim Barker said...

Wow - I remember so well and always appreciated her happy energy. How terribly sad. I found this article on the hutch site with a photo of the pain clinic staff, including Ellen:
I love your wish for her passing as "...a rush of joy and freedom" That is my wish for her also.

Amanda said...

Hi Debra,
Ellen is my aunt, and I just wanted to thank you for everything you said. She really was an amazing person, and I truly believe the world will be a different place without her.

Stephanie said...

My heart bleeds for all the suffereing cancer patients who will no longer have Ellen's understanding and tender ministrations.
God must not have been watching at that moment...

Anonymous said...

I only just met Ellen at the La Push Pummel, but I am devastated by this tragic event. You said it brilliantly, "It seemed that in reaching to out to others in pain, my own disappeared." It is a spiritual law - when we are in pain, our first line of defense is to help others. Yes, her spirit must of fled instantly, in joy!

KP Brack

Pia said...

Dear Debra,

thank you for what you wrote. So true.

Ellen is my cousin.
To me she was like sunshine. Every time I met her, I felt it. Ellen would enter a room - and the room would light up. It always felt good to be in her presence.
It is incredibly hard to believe that she is no longer walking around on this planet. What a loss for us!

The circumstances of her exiting this life, make it so much harder for her family and her "found"family to cope with it and accept it.

I wish you all a lot of strength and may you be able to find peace with this in the end.

fly free Ellen!

Debra Jarvis said...

Thanks to all of you for your love and compassion. We were lucky to have her!

gabriele said...

I am her sister and am still reeling from the photo- literally sick to my stomach. I hadn't seen that before. Is there a reason you wanted to post that photo? My mom could NEVER see this.

Your story is wonderful.

Debra Jarvis said...

I'm sorry that the photo was so upsetting. That surely was not my intention.

I wanted to communicate my outrage and grief at her death, that it was a not matter of simply getting clipped by another car, but that this drunk driver forced her off the road.

I'm still outraged. My heart goes out to you and your family as I know you all continue to be stunned by this.

Ferocious hugs to you all.