By Mark A. Taylor
What should we note about the life of Eleanor Daniel? Thousands of her former colleagues and students are telling what they remember about her now, after her death March 2 and her memorial service yesterday, March 6.
They speak of her skill and passion as a Christian teacher.
The remember her encouragement in their own teaching ministries.
They recite her faithfulness in Christian service.
They note the impact she made on three seminaries among the Christian churches and churches of Christ. (Some are quoting from Bruce Parmenter’s tribute, published last December, in which he describes her work in higher education.)
They comment on her leadership in ministry situations where men usually kept control. But while she was always an encourager of women in ministry, this was not her theme or her cause. Her focus was on the mission, not on the barriers she encountered pursuing it.
The litany of Eleanor’s accomplishments illustrates the way she always found and finished important tasks in the work of the church, in a day when women have been told much that they cannot do.
But it seems to me the most important fact to note about Eleanor’s life is the way she died.
I had to read twice her last Facebook post February 28 to make sure I was absorbing the meaning:
Life is undergoing a big change. I have been on dialysis for over three years and had anticipated being on it for sometime more. That is not to be. In the progression of things it is important to stop dialysis. My final dialysis treatment was this past Friday. And I can anticipate a couple of weeks to live.
As matter-of-factly as we might predict the weather, this great teacher taught us how to approach death. Her post also spoke of peace, “the peace that passes understanding.” She said those living with her in the nursing home could see her peaceful spirit as she prepared quietly to give up living.
Perhaps it’s simply a factor of temperament, this ability to look unemotionally at the realities of life and seek God’s will in spite of them. But surely such an attitude can grow in any heart surrendered to God. I’d like to believe I could learn this final lesson from Eleanor. I’d like to think I would be willing simply to take up the task at hand regardless of the obstacles or pressures conspiring to distract or discourage me. I’d like to think I could be as persistent in life and peaceful in the face of death as she was. What a tribute to her it would be if all who knew her could learn to submit to God as she did.
When we posted Parmenter’s piece about her, I commented that only God knows how many lives have been influenced because of her. The tributes pouring through social media last weekend are just an indication of her life’s impact. And now many are thanking God for the way she continued to teach us, right till the very end.