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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Cup - 10-25-12 Deadline (10/18/12)

TITLE: Ellen
By C D Swanson


She was five feet one, and on a good day weighed eighty-five pounds. Her petite body belied her feisty personality. She reminded me of a beautiful sparrow. By all accounts a tiny unassuming bird until someone tries to disturb its nest. Then, watch out world! Ellen was the same way.

Her worn-out Bible accompanied her everywhere. She and I had excellent conversations, about God and many other topics. Ellen was brilliant and had the greatest sense of humor. It was dry and over- the- top.

She’d look someone in the eye and say, "what the heck do you want? Can't you see I don't want to talk to you?" The person the pejorative was aimed at would have incredulity painted on their face. Until she'd let them off the hook, "it's okay, I'm just joshing." Her laugh was magical, authentic, and never forced.

She knew all the answers on Jeopardy, and solved Jumble in seconds. Her mind was sharp, her hands gnarly and twisted with rheumatoid arthritis. Twinkling light brown eyes set off prominent cheeks bones, especially when she smiled. I grew to love her so much; she was one of my favorite people. My job was more like a visit to a "family member." It was an infinite honor to sit with her daily.

She shared so many things from childhood, snow-filled winters, to the stew she’d cook over the fireplace in a black kettle pot. I learned all about Mr. Peabody, her Calico cat that lived for twenty-two years. I heard about Maguire, her Pekinese pup who loved to nestle in her lap while she did her crossword puzzle on Sundays. And, about Rocky, the squirrel she fed peanuts to.

She loved apple pie straight from the oven drizzled with caramel in a zigzag pattern. Of course Earl Grey tea was her beverage of choice with the pie by the fire in the living room. She drank it in a delicate white cup and saucer, with a red-rose pattern.

She loved animals, children, and taking care of the less fortunate population in her area. She sang in the choir, and her favorite scripture in the Bible was Colossians 3:15. Ellen’s favorite song to sing while playing her piano was, How Great Thou Art. She was gifted in so many ways. I loved listening to her sing, speak, and laugh.

In her china closet alongside her white red-rose pattern dishes, sat one golden cup. I always wondered about it. It may have been the only thing we never discussed. Somehow, I always got sidetracked and never inquired about it. She was in my life for eight years, and it was a memorable and blessed time.

Sadly, I did find out what the cup was all about while attending her funeral. Her daughter, who lived three thousand miles away, thanked me for loving her mother. She was grateful her mom had someone in her life and even envied our relationship.

In a quiet voice she explained, "Mom wanted you to have this. She received it when she was a little girl from a wise lady in her neighborhood. This cup was given to her because the lady said Mom had a heart of gold for God. She called me the night before she died, and instructed me to give it to you. She said, you too have a heart of gold for God. She wanted you to continue the tradition, eventually giving it to someone else who has a heart of gold for God. She loved you," she sniffled as tears broke free, handing me the cup with quivering hands saying, “God bless you.”

That gold cup is a constant reminder of my patient, friend, and sister in Christ. She was one of a kind, and I’m positive she’s singing and playing the piano in heaven for our Lord, and all of the angels to enjoy.

I know for certain that she has a new gold cup filled with Earl Grey tea at this very moment…

Based on a true story. Ellen lived in the assisted living part of the nursing home.

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This article has been read 485 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Arlene Showalter10/25/12
I loved this and could relate to it in many ways. My only suggestion is this: Overuse of the verb "to be" renders a story quite passive. This story would be much stronger with more show and less tell. But, it is truly a sweet and warm story. Blessings!!
Marie Hearty 10/25/12
I loved your story. I can relate to it because I also used to be a caregiver to the elderly, and it reminded me of the man I would visit four times a week. He could barely walk, could not cook for himself and could not do the things he had always enjoyed- playing the piano and painting. I would love to hear his stories about what it was like to be in WWII and how he used to drive planes in the air force. I miss him and have not seen him in several years.

Good job in showing us what the gold cup was all about. A beautiful message. Keep up the great work.

God bless!
Jana Kelley10/25/12
I would have loved to meet Ellen. What a great idea, to pass the gold cup from lady to lady. Thanks for sharing this sweet story.
Theresa Santy 10/26/12
I enjoyed this story. You described Ellen very well. Toward the end, I was hoping the MC would hand the cup over to the daughter. I know that wasn't the mother's intention, and I can't explain why, but my heart ached for the daughter.

There are many splashes of brilliance in your writing style. It is interesting, compelling. My only comment would be to avoid beginning a sentence with an adverb, unless it is an intentional style choice, for say, a poem, etc.
Ellen Carr 10/27/12
I love your title, of course! But more than that I enjoyed the lovely picture you painted so lovingly and well, of this Ellen. Thank you.
Genia Gilbert10/28/12
I loved this entry. It is both touching and uplifting. Ellen is a joy and a great inspiration for our own lives.
Dannie Hawley 10/30/12
Wonderful story, nicely written. felt like I was a fly on the wall, just waiting to see what would happen next. Brought back memories for me, too, of work in a nursing home when I was at university. Thanks for sharing!
Linda Goergen10/30/12
Oh, I absolutely loved this heart-warming story! It makes me sad how many of the elderly are just cast aside when so many, like Ellen, are a treasure trove of stories and information. I love the gold cup idea, what a perfect gift and gesture to give to one of the many “earth angels”. You made me feel a real connection with Ellen as I read, this was just so well presented. I love good stories that have an impact—that I know will stick in my mind, and the gold cup will certainly do that! Great job!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 10/31/12
This is a delightful tribute to a very dear person. I'm sure her daughter would treasure this story.

The main red ink I have has to do with the dialog. Make sure you capitalize the first word of a complete sentence like: say, "what the heck do you want?
The what should be capitalized. Also if you can avoid taglines like she said and give a sentence about the speaker's emotional state or personality that will help the reader get to know your characters more. This sentence is a great example of just that: She loved you," she sniffled as tears broke free, handing me the cup with quivering hands saying,
The only things I would change is put a period instead of a comma, after you. Then capitalize She and end the sentence with quivering hands. You don't need the word saying because you identified the speaker with the She. So instead of a tagline, you'd have an outstanding example of a show don't tell line.

I could feel your passion in your words and figured right away that it was a true story. What a beautiful tradition and a great idea for many of us. I think you nailed the topic nicely. Though it may have seemed that the story was about Ellen, it was really about how the cup touched the MC and reminds her of the ways Ellen touched her life. So while writing on topic you also honored someone important to you and delivered a meaningful message to the rest of us. This was a delight to read and I feel honored to get to know a bit about a very special lady. Nice job.
Noel Mitaxa 11/02/12
Too descriptive and engrossing not to be based on personal experience. Beautifully told.