Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 5, 2007
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
ó 2 Timothy 4:7
The Apostle Paul’s familiar words grace many a eulogy, and a recent Friday was no different. They were quoted at the memorial service for Eleanor Bradshaw, an elegant lady who died at the age of 88.
That same day, two blocks away, hundreds of people also heard them at the service for Paul Mendez, a bright young man who died at the age of 20 after battling cancer.
A long, fruitful life and a short, inspiring one ó no less full, no less worthy. Just not as long as everyone would wish.
We never know how long the race will be, nor how formidable the fight. But the fight itself is a fact of life.
For students at Salisbury High, that was evident during this year’s community awards ceremony. Cam Campbell stood with her son, senior Will Campbell, as he announced the winner of the second Jack Campbell Memorial Scholarship ó named for his older brother, who died two years ago at the age of 19. Jack also fought the good, horrible fight against cancer. Will talked briefly about Jack, and also paid tribute to Paul, who had just died. Not everyone was aware of that yet, and a small gasp went up.
And Will issued the challenge he knows Jack ó and likely Paul, too ó would give the seniors. Make the most of each day and do your best.
Fight the good fight.
Both young men have left behind a legacy of courage and character. And they have impressed on friends who might not have given each day a lot of thought otherwise that each day is precious.
Eleanor Bradshaw’s focus seemed to be on the last phrase in that quote from 2 Timothy: “I have kept the faith.”
As Dr. Jim Dunkin was preparing to speak at her memorial service, Eleanor’s family members gave him a gold mine of material ó her many Bibles and the other writings and clippings she had saved through the years.
She had Bibles placed strategically throughout her home, Jim said, and could always put her hands on one easily.
Apparently she often took a pen to them. Throughout the tomes, Jim found jottings in the margins and stick-on notes commenting on passages that had special meaning to her.
“As I went through these yesterday,” Jim said at her service, “I felt like I was speaking with Eleanor, and that is when I figured out why she was such a special lady ó she lived what she read and studied in scripture.”
I’ve always admired Eleanor’s gracious ways and elegance, but it was not until Jim shared some of her writings that I appreciated her eloquence. Trained as a writer, she was the society journalist for the Shelby Daily Star before she married Salisburian Leon Bradshaw ó “Brad” to her ó on Dec. 6, 1941.
She may have left newspapers, but she stayed with her writing, pouring graceful prose into personal notes that many people now treasure ó and into the margins of her Bibles.
The lovely lady with whom I exchanged pleasantries and nods of hello through the years now speaks to all of us more personally from her writings.
Here are a few of the examples Jim shared, with her words in italics:
– In Jeremiah 7, Jim said, the writer mentions truly executing justice with one another, not oppressing the alien, the fatherless or the widow, or shedding innocent blood.
Read this to those who condemn the social gospel. Jesus’ idea of a Christian.
– Near 2 Corinthians 9:7, which says God loves a cheerful giver, she wrote:Surprisingly, we become cheerful when we place others first in our thinking and acting. World’s worst sin is wanting one’s own way. Our first duty is to God, then family and friends, then all others, and lastly ourselves.
Later, she added:
July, 1991: at my age (72) it will have to be a service to those nearby ó my friends, family and new acquaintances. But I can also reach out by telephone and letters as a joy!
– “Psalm 22 has the title of a cry for anguish and praise,” Jim said. “The writer gives vivid descriptions of how challenging life has become and then begins to offer God praise.”
A change of mood and turning point for the believer, Eleanor wrote in between the verses. And underneath:
Prayers of complaint may be voiced alone but prayers of praise need to be shared ó thus the triumph of God’s redemptive power are reported and passed from generation to generation.
What can one add to that? An “amen” and a note of gratitude. In death, people both young and old teach us a lot about life.
Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.