Elaine Chapin passed away on November 1, 2008 after a long fight with MS that ended after three years in a nursing home. Elaine was a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, a wife and in her final years she was a grandmother. She was also a fighter, an inspiration, a role model and a hero. I had never met a true hero until I knew Elaine.
When we married, Elaine was relatively healthy and while we knew she had MS, she lived a normal, happy and productive life. Sure, she would have her episodes but she always smiled and told us all that "I am fine." Elaine loved life and was the kind of person that everyone loved. No matter what obstacle she faced, she would find the positive and work around it. One of her passions was reading. When her sight started to fail, she got glasses. When the glasses didn't seem to be working as well, she started reading large-print books. When she could no longer read the large print, she got books on tape. That was the kind of mindset that she had and it served her well.
At some point in the late 90's, Elaine's sister took her life. Elaine was very close with her sister and this devastated her. They say that stress is not good for those with MS and I have to agree. It was shortly after this that her health began to decline. After a while, her positive attitude returned but the damage had been done. In a matter of years Elaine went from walking on her own to being wheelchair bound with a variety of health issues that would have depressed the heck out of a normal person, but Elaine kept smiling and laughing and singing.
When her health got to the level that she needed more specialized care than my family could provide, she entered a nursing home. Even there, Elaine kept her positive attitude and radiant smile. Everyone there loved Elaine and she enjoyed her life there as it was. That was not enough to keep her health from declining and eventually she was called home by God. I remember her last days in hospice like it was yesterday. I could tell she was struggling but even through the pain she continued to smile until she fell into a coma two days before her last breath.
I could go on and on about what a wonderful person Elaine was, but I think at this point, it would be better to pass along the words of others as relayed to me in cards and letters by those that she touched.
"Elaine was such a ray of sunshine here at the nursing home. Everyone knew and loved her. She knew how to have a good time and was so upbeat in spite of her health." – Nancy (Activities Director at her nursing home)
"I will always remember Elaine's smile. It was radiant and perpetual and the window into the soul of a loving, giving person. As Elaine's ability to talk at length faltered, her smile took over. It said much more than mere words could have - that she was a woman of grace, good humor and resiliency. She was a true warrior against a disease and refused to bow to it. But her smile belied all of that. It was an inspiration that will remain with me always." – Cathy (Elaine's cousin-in-law)
"Elaine came into my life like a breath of fresh air. She loved me and I loved her. I admire Elaine so much for her sense of grace. Knowing she had been dealt a bad hand, she still smiled every day." – Liz (Elaine's mother-in-law)
"I always have very fond memories of Elaine. She was the sister that I never had and someone to look up to. Her faith never failed her, even when most of us would have been cursing the god's for being the one hampered with MS. She was always upbeat and optimistic about life. As much as I miss her, I am happy that right now she is probably dancing in the halls of heaven with a piña colada in her hand. No one deserves it more." – Karen (Elaine's sister-in-law)
"Elaine was here with us only a short time. Her warm smile and gentle personality will be missed. She brought a lot to us who knew her. I will always remember her." – Shirley (Nurse at her nursing home)
This was the woman I knew. This was the woman I married. This is the woman that I miss dearly. To honor this woman and her life, I started a scholarship fund in her name that benefits students that are impacted by multiple sclerosis. Whether it be a student with MS or a student that has a parent with MS, I want to help because I know that Elaine would want that. I want to make a difference in her name, in her memory.
If you know of a student that might qualify for these scholarships, please let them know about this opportunity. I am awarding (7) $1,000 scholarships for the fall 2010 school year and expect to do that each and every year as long as I am alive.