Elise promised that it would be an easy three or four mile hike. No problem! So, why was I in so much pain?
When Elise first mentioned the idea of a hike, I thought it would be great. After all, I liked spending time with the Kallemeyn girls, and I thought it would be wonderful to enjoy nature with people who loved beauty as much as I did. But somewhere into the second half of the hike, I began to realize that I didn't really care about beauty anymore; I just wanted to make it back to the van in one piece. It was all I could do to remember to breathe and take the next step forward. Forget about taking pictures! I wasn't the only one struggling either, but somehow, we all managed to make it back to the van, and the Kallemeyns were nice enough to pretend not to notice how tired everyone else was. We found out the next day that our "short hike" ended up being about eight miles long, not three. That’s when I realized that "short" and "easy" are relative terms. I also decided then that, although I trusted Elise's judgment in art, I no longer trusted her choice of hiking trails.
Elise was frequently planning things to do. Art days, movie nights, project times, girls camping trips, day hikes, and backpacking trips... These activities weren't just for her friends either. She would often extend an invitation to any of the younger siblings who wanted to come, too. Age wasn't an issue for Elise. It never bothered her to have little kids tagging along. In fact, I am pretty sure she enjoyed it. She would always help the younger kids with their projects, making sure they felt included and wanted. And she did her best to pick hikes that everyone going could manage and enjoy. (Of course, there was that one time...) She also was very good at making things fun. Even on backpacking trips, she had been known to bring along glow-sticks and bubbles.
My first memories of Elise are from about age seven. I didn't actually interact with her much for the next few years though, because honestly, I was extremely intimidated by her. She was tall, beautiful, and very grown up. (I think she was probably thirteen or fourteen when I first met her.) However, I did get to know her in other ways. As Hannah and I would play with her younger sisters, Giselle and Christiana, we would often hear the words "Elise made this." Whether it was fairy dolls dressed in flowers, a tree made out of felt with numerous hidden openings to house woodland creatures, or beautiful doll dresses hot-glued together (because she didn't like to sew), it seemed that there was nothing Elise could not do. Somewhere along the way, I realized what an incredible artist Elise was. My awe of her only grew.
Not long after I began taking art lessons at age twelve, I found myself in direct contact with Elise as she intentionally came alongside and encouraged me. I really wasn't sure what to do. It was hard for me to believe that someone like Elise would not only notice my existence but would actually take an interest in helping me. At times, I honestly was scared. I knew I would never be able to meet her standards, but for some reason, she never seemed to realize that. Elise had more confidence in my artistic ability than I did. She was often pushing me to try something new, and she made sure that I didn't have any excuses. If I needed a ride, she would drive out of her way to pick me up, or if I didn't have the right supplies she would just happen to have extra that I could use. I never did figure out how to tell Elise "no". Usually though, I would discover that I had found a new art medium that I loved. Elise never appeared to be surprised if I succeeded with my art, even if I was.
I never completely outgrew feeling intimidated by Elise. Everything she did seemed to be perfect. Among our friends, it was often said that Elise had a magic touch. Under her hands, a pile of random plant clippings would become a beautiful centerpiece. She would scribble on a napkin and everyone wanted to frame it. A cake she decorated was such a masterpiece that some of us almost felt guilty eating it. I never saw Elise do anything half-way. We were planning a baby shower, and Elise asked if she could help. Although we really didn't want to add anything more to her plate, we told her that if she was able to put together a small centerpiece it would be a blessing. Elise showed up at our door the night before the baby shower with her arms full. She asked if anyone was available to help her unload her car. It took multiple trips. The "centerpiece" she brought ended up decorating the whole room as well as some of the kitchen and even the bathroom. And of course, everything was beautiful.
I learned a lot from Elise, and not just about drawing or painting. Most of what I learned though wasn't through verbal instruction; it was primarily from observation and quite a bit of hands-on experience. Elise had a habit of giving me a few vague instructions and then leaving me to figure out what she was expecting. When I was finished, I would ask her if I had done it the way she wanted. I usually received one of three answers. "Yes, that's perfect", "yeah... but maybe add a little bit more here" or "I honestly didn't have anything in mind when I told you that. But I love how it turned out!" I don't know if Elise realized how often she pushed me out of my comfort zone, but each time she did it, I had a choice to make. The first option was to accept the challenge and choose to grow, while the second was to say 'no' and shrink even further into myself. Somehow, the second choice never really seemed to be an option when I was with Elise. Besides, I didn't want her to find out that her confidence in my ability was misplaced. With time though, I began to realize that I had my own opinions. I had developed my own taste, and I could make some decisions for myself without always relying on someone else's judgment. I really believe that a lot of that came from Elise's "vague instructions".
In the fall of 2015, Elise told our family that she had cancer. We were devastated. As we watched helplessly, she fought for health the same way she approached everything else in life, wholeheartedly. Daily, we prayed that she would be healed, and on March 12, 2018, God answered our prayers, just not the way we were hoping. Selfishly, we wanted to hold onto her longer, but we are grateful to know that our separation is temporary and that we will see her again.
I doubt Elise knew the impact she had on those around her. If she were here, she would probably brush aside everything I am saying and instead claim to have done nothing. She would most likely say she had enjoyed it, that it had provided her with excuses to work on projects, or any number of other things. But the truth is Elise gave me an incredible gift. It wasn't all the frames and art supplies that she "really didn't need any more". It wasn't the advice or knowledge she passed on. And it wasn't including me in the different events and activities she had planned. All of that was wonderful, but the real gift she gave me was something much more. She saw me. She didn't see the me that I saw, or that most people saw, instead she looked past that Elisabeth Macy and focused on what I was capable of doing and who I could be. And she didn't wait for me to invite her into my life (because I would never have dared to do that), instead, she pulled me into hers. I know that Elise was only human and that it was really God working through her, but she was a willing tool in His hands that He used to impact my life as well as countless others. I will miss Elise more than I can say and more than she would ever have guessed. She has left a hole that no one will ever be able to fill. A hole that will never disappear, but instead will be a constant reminder of the beautiful life that touched so many. I take comfort in knowing that she is in the arms of her Savior, perfectly whole and strong, without any pain. She is in the presence of the Master Artist, surrounded by beauty beyond what she could have ever imagined. Although I rejoice for Elise, I grieve for our loss. I wouldn't wish her back, but I do look forward to one day joining her there.