My dearest Elli …

I’m sitting here near you wishing you were abed convalescing but still dealing with the medical people saying there was no more they could do for you. I’m reminiscing about things you’ve shared with me about your childhood and wondering if you’ve shared them with your granddaughters (and grandsons).

You told me about one of your best friends, but I don’t remember her having a name. Your daddy had some milk cows to care for, and your favorite you called Pretty Cow.

You would go see Pretty Cow when you were upset or sad or lost. Pretty Cow seemed to understand this little girl leaning on her, petting her, hugging her and crying on her side as she poured out all her troubles. Pretty Cow seemed to understand, and you always felt better after some time with Pretty Cow.

Your granddaughters need to know that it’s OK to have a Pretty Cow in their lives. It can be a bird on the windowsill that visits every day, or a puppy, or even a tree in the yard or an imaginary friend … just an entity, real or imagined, that you can talk to. Sometimes you don’t need answers, just someone or something who will just listen.


You told me about the time in your life when you made a “course correction.” Those you thought were your close friends could not see where the “trail” you all were on was headed, and they did all they could do to make you change your mind and rejoin them in their activities. You told me you had to find a whole new set of friends and drop that group.

Your young granddaughters need to know that you did this, and that you survived. They need to know that they may have to change some friends when the friends they have are leading them where they don’t belong or want to be.

They need to know that you realized the date you were on was not going to be fun or safe for you and that you got out of the car and walked home. And that was all right.

They need to know that your first experience with cancer was when you were 13. And that it came back when you were 15. And that when the chemo treatment the second time made your hair fall out. …

That your daddy saw you running a hand through your hair and hair coming out as you did. He said, “Elli, honey, don’t pull your hair out like that!”

And they need to know that until that statement made by your daddy, you were not sure your daddy loved you.

They need to know that when their grandpa was in college and had a class in swine production, and it included helping on the college’s pig farm, that you went with to help. Because you liked baby pigs. Your grandpa’s classmates asked him what he had to do to you to make you come with to work with the pigs, and that he told them he couldn’t stop you from coming because you liked little animals.

They need to know that when you and your grandpa had your own dairy farm, you were the one feeding and caring for the baby cows. That when Grandpa fell off a load of hay and broke his leg, you were able to milk the cows and see that the hired help took care of things.

They need to know that you were an introvert. That your choice would always be a good book rather than meeting new people. But despite being an introvert, you helped so many people. You chose things that helped people as the people came to you and asked for your help.

You were a librarian. You were involved with emergency medicine for 45 years. Yes, when people call for an ambulance and you show up with the ambulance, it’s for sure they want you to be there and help.

An introvert will usually sit in a corner and not bother anybody for fear of being not wanted. You found ways to be the one people asked for help, so you knew you were wanted.

Your volunteer service with the American Heart Association led to you supervising some 400 CPR instructors in eastern Washington state.

You were the backbone and training officer of a number of ambulance services, mostly volunteer services.

You raised five wonderful children, plus a handful of “strays” along the way.

And you loved and supported and trusted me with a love and commitment so powerful that anyone who knew us well wished they were me.

It won’t be goodbye.

It will be, “See you soon. I don’t get to choose when, but I’ll love you again.”

The tears will not be tears of sadness but of gratitude for having you be a part of my life for over 55 years.

In memory of Eleanore Boerjan Nelson, June 19, 1950 – April 25, 2024.

Editor's note: Our deepest condolences to Brad and the Nelson family during this time. We will always appreciate Elli's service as the first reader and biggest fan of every Tales of a Hay Hauler.