Eulogy for Isabelle Elaine Ellis

December 17th, 2008
Presented by Pastor Michael Tomson­-DeGreeff

Last Thursday, Dec 11th, 2008 Isabelle Elaine Ellis died of heart failure at the age of three and half while waiting for a heart transplant at St Louis Children’s Hospital. We gather together today as family and friends of Isabelle to grieve our loss, to pay our respects, and to celebrate Isabelle’s life.

Isabelle was born February 4, 2005, in Topeka, the daughter of Chris and Amanda Ellis.

Isabelle enjoyed and embraced every moment of her brief life – singing, dancing, making things, playing with her sister Elorah and her parents, taking swimming lessons and picking flowers, cherry tomatoes and strawberries from the garden in the back yard. The strawberries would not even make it back into the house because she would eat them all up on the way. That was Isabelle – savoring all of life - living life to its fullest. Isabelle lived as if she knew that she would not be here forever.

To know Isabelle was to love her. Everyone adored her. Her light burned so bright that she lit up any room she entered. Isabelle was the welcoming committee where ever she went. Especially at her pre-school at the University of Kansas called Sunnyside and EduCare. She would greet people with a smile and a compliment: “You are so beautiful”, “You look like a princess”. She won people over with her out going personality and her genuine sweetness. She was always the teacher’s pet.

Clearly, Isabelle had the heart of a princess...
Isabelle also had the heart of a warrior!
Isabelle was the Warrior Princess.

She faced her many medical challenges with an incredible toughness and quiet calm. She endured tremendous pain with a courage and strength that many adults wished they could have. Isabelle did not resist or refuse any medical procedures. She was not fearful or anxious. She did not complain.She accepted the situation with a peaceful poise and wisdom beyond her years. Many have said that Isabelle had a really old soul.

Isabelle would even show concern for those who were caring for her. She would pat her mom and dad on the back or the nurse on the back and offer a look like “it’s okay.” She wanted to help those who were trying to help her. Isabelle is an inspiration to so many nurses, doctors, teachers, friends and family. As is evident by your presence here today.

It is astounding to think about all the diseases and serious medical conditions Isabelle endured. She had multiple heart attacks, at least 8 heart catheterizations, 4 open heart surgeries, acute liver failure, dialysis, a bacteria infection called C-DIFF, edema caused her to swell up with a gallon and a half of fluid, and she had a large blood clot called a thrombus. It is truly miraculous that Isabelle survived for three and half years! How did Isabelle survive for so long?

Isabelle drew her strength from all of you who surrounded her with love, especially her mom and dad. Chris and Amanda love Isabelle with such intensity and dedication. They were always by her side through everything – doing everything they could to help her. When others would have given up, Amanda and Chris kept their hope alive. Chris and Amanda’s tireless devotion to Isabelle through out this ordeal is an inspiration to all of us. Your deep love for her is very evident. Just look at all the care and attention to detail that went into planning Isabelle’s service today with the decorations, the bulletin, the harp, the choice of songs, photos...

Chris and Amanda told me that they feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to know and love Isabelle. Isabelle was also blessed to know and love you. Amanda and Chris, I hope you find some comfort in knowing that you gave Isabelle the best you had to offer.

I have to share one last story about Isabelle - a miraculous and sacred event which occurred for about two weeks around Thanksgiving in St Louis. Even though Isabelle was tired and weak from fighting so hard and for so long, she dug down deep and pulled it together for one last hurrah. She came to life – she had an “awakening” so to speak. Isabelle played with her sister and family; they had tea parties and took care of her stuff puppy dog. Elorah sang the alphabet while Isabelle played her drum. Isabelle played with her dolls, made art with stickers, watched movies. Isabelle was being old herself again. Isabelle gave her family the gift of one last precious memory of her.

Isabelle fought the good fight. She gave it her all. She poured out her heart – the heart of a warrior princess. Now, she has left us and gone home to live in the God’s palace in heaven having made her part of the world a better place. It is truly astounding how such a short life can touch so many lives. The out pouring of love in cards, poems, music, and art are a testament to how much Isabelle affected so many people. I want to share with you a poem written about Isabelle by Tangela Welch, one of Isabelle’s many angels who cared for her.

poem reading

*The Dancing Ballerina*

Your little toes danced so softly across the hearts of all
The twinkle in your eyes so bright, a battle in hands so small

Upon your smiling face, the light of happiness all day long
A heart so delicate in anatomy, but in love a heart so strong

As we listened to your stories about adventures in your days
We were delighted by your laughter and your little "kitty cat" ways

And the preparation for your dancing debut was nothing short of detail
A pink polka dot ballerina dress and a single ponytail

Isabelle, may you dance everyday in heaven, as the angels sing your song
May you shine the light of faith upon us with your sparkling magic wand

May the river flow of chocolate to share with daddy every day
And may you pick the sweetest smelling flowers for mommy's beautiful bouquet

Upon the lawn of Eden, may you set the table bright
For a tea party with Elorah and "Twinkle Little Star" throughout the night

You are the "princess ballerina" and in the heavens you will reign
As a blessing to us all and to God his greatest gain.

You gave the best performance and it was perfect in everyway,
A ballet never forgotten with a silent courage along the way.

May we all continue to hear the sound of the sweetest voice to speak
and may our lives be guided by your strength when we are feeling weak.

You have truly touched our hearts in many special ways
And for future ballerinas, we will share your dance throughout our days!

It is time for us to say good bye to Isabelle Elaine Ellis. While her brief life on this earth has ended, she lives on in the memories of her that you carry in your hearts and she lives on in eternal life with Jesus Christ.

Discussion about loss

This is a devastating loss - a gaping whole in our lives. This tragic loss of young life reminds us just how fragile life really is and how precious it is. All funerals are times of sadness, but the funeral of a child - a baby - is especially devastating...

The grieving process is all the more difficult and all the more essential, there is: no one way to grieve or right way to grieve, numbness and confusion, disbelief and denial, anger and resentment, feelings of failure, guilt, deep sorrow and sadness. As you grieve together try to be patient and understanding with one another.

If you are struggling to hold onto your faith right now, you are not alone. Many people of God, good and faithful people, saints, leaders have called out to God in scripture lamenting their losses, and pain, and struggles.

scripture reading
Psalm 13
How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.

You may be asking...
How could God do this? How could God let this happen?

Discussion on the Story of the Death of Lazarus

How could you let this happen?

Is this God’s will? It’s tempting to give answers as form of comfort, try to fix it, make it better. There are no good answers. How do you offer a satisfactory answer in the midst of profound questions about life and death? Are we comfortable with ambiguity, mystery, unknown?

God’s grace and healing power is released when we just gather together.... listen, be present, lean on each other, share in the grief, hug, say I love you.

Trust that God is walking with you, weeping with you, worrying about you and washing over your aching hearts with his healing grace - even if you don’t have the desire or strength to pray.

scripture reading
Romans 8:26
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.

Matthew 11:28
Jesus says to us: "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.”

poem reading

Foot prints in the sand

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.v
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.

This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,

“You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”