Early on Saturday morning, February 23rd, 2008, Ellen Senak, dearly beloved wife of Sensei David Senak, and dearly beloved mother of Sensei Mason and Nicole Senak, passed away peacefully in her sleep. She was only 53 years old. Her loss to family and friends has been so profound that only now, almost a year later, does it seem possible to create this dedication page for her.
Ellen was the constant cheerful face in the Dojo office for almost twenty years. She seemed to know everyone and was a friend and confidant to anyone who needed her. She was almost a second mother to a whole generation of children who grew up at the Dojo. They drew pictures for her, gave her little presents, and were always reassured with a friendly “Don’t worry, honey, I’ll get your card. Just hurry and get into class.”
Ellen fought with great courage and determination to overcome her health problems, which were caused by an extremely aggressive case of Diabetes. This was not the courage of baseless optimism. Her courage was far deeper and more genuine. She was very frightened by everything that was happening to her, but she always confronted the new challenges with purpose and a cheerful determination to do what had to be done.
This is true courage, the ability to overcome fear and keep fighting. She took on all the setbacks: kidney failure, dialysis, deteriorating vision, numbness and pain in her feet, and infections that would never seem to go away. She never let the disfiguring effects of her peritoneal dialysis keep her from carrying on as if everything was normal in spite of changes to her appearance that really upset her. She never became depressed or negative. Her warmth and cheerful friendliness was always there for everyone.
Ellen was very happy and frightened at the same time when the time finally arrived for her kidney and pancreas transplant surgery. She had four good years after her operation and lived those years with great joy in appreciation of the wonderful gift she had received. She knew how much she was loved by both family and friends, and was never happier.
Ironically, it was only then, when all of the problems seemed to be behind us, that she was taken away. The only solace we can take from the way Ellen died is to know that, at the end, she wasn’t afraid, was happily looking forward to the rest of her life, and knew how much she was loved when she fell asleep for the last time.
We now look to her courage as an example for us to live by everyday. Our hope is that everyone can take heart from her strength and courage. Ellen fought each battle with grace, dignity and great courage. Amazingly, as she went through all her struggles, she was still able to put her family and her Dojo family first. She never lost her sense of humor and was always ready to laugh at herself and anyone else. She took everything that each day had to offer and loved us all unconditionally.
For her family, words can do little to express how much she is missed and how hard it is to go on without her. We all know how much she loved us and how upset she would be with us if we let her loss keep us from living with hope and purpose.
She will always be alive in our hearts.