Updated: May 6
Last week I in my series, “Legacy’s Enduring Questions” I wrote about “Earth Shattering Miracles in The Mountains of Africa”. I received over a hundred messages and some long responses to the blog. It touched something very deep in many of those who read it.
Because of that I want to share one more “miracle” I wrote about in my book, “The DNA Code: The Forensics of Purpose Passion and Performance”. Ellie’s story is the best application I know of someone who followed the philosophy of life I talked about last week. This “miracle” didn’t happen in the mountains of Africa but a mile away from one of the world’s high-tech capitals. Ellie Moore was earth-shattering!
So, who is Ellie? What was her “earth-shattering” act of courage?
Ellie Moore was my 600lbs friend I met in 2000. She had been massively obese for more than thirty years. She grew up in a very abusive home, being sexually, physically, and verbally abused by many of those who were closest to her.
After graduating from high school as valedictorian, she was told by her parents that she couldn’t go to college because she was a woman. Ellie married soon afterward at 18. She had three children and lived in a very unhappy and abusive marriage for many years.
Ellie started to gain excessive weight and also began many attempts to control and lose that weight. She had surgery, tried every diet and drug on the market and went through various weight-loss programs. She even tried “Black Beauties” a 1970’s diet pill that was basically speed. Nothing worked.
Ellie’s weight and life continued to go through many ups and downs. She got bigger and bigger. She went to counseling for over 15 years. She attempted to deal with many of her past abuse issues and save her marriage. She eventually decided she had to get divorced.
I met Ellie Moore in 2000. She worked for a company I had consulted with briefly. The company folded due to a CEO who Legacy meant nothing beyond his own need to defraud investors and live big. The CEO went to federal prison for 4 years.
As part of the fall out, I discovered Ellie had been left unpaid for five months and was on the verge of becoming homeless. I offered her a place to live in a small basement apartment at my home on Lake Sammamish.
Ellie was always smiling but she was quiet and very grateful. I didn’t really know Ellie well other than someone who I saw in a back office who did administrative work, at that now defunct company. She was very bright, wrote beautifully and she had a spark in her that was hard to ignore.
In 2000 I created my first Strengths-Based program called, “The Dynamics of Strong Living”. It started with a group of eleven men, seven of which were executives, a drummer from a rock group and two retired CEO’s. I held it in a conference room in my home.
When Ellie heard about the group, she asked me if she could attend. I was hesitant because she wasn't part of the same world as the people who were coming. It was open to anyone but only men had signed up. Not only that, but she would be the only woman and was an "lowly" admin assistant. These men were very successful and at the top of their careers in large corporations.
I confess I was also somewhat embarrassed. None of my reasons were valid. In my mind, having a woman who was 600lbs, basically homeless and not in the same “class” as the rest of the attendees, was awkward. I said yes hesitantly.
The group lasted ten weeks and by week two the group had embraced Ellie. She was very bright and articulate. She was no one less than anyone else in the group. She asked great questions and responded thoughtfully to questions. She had insights and applications that made an impact on everyone.
As the group continued, Ellie’s perspective in dealing with her past and current struggles changed dramatically. I had told the story I shared in last week’s blog about Lt. Paget and the soldiers at Tsanga Lodge. It was very impactful for everyone in the group, especially Ellie.
Ellie performed an "Analysis of Asset" and began to live life focusing on her absolutely amazing talents and strengths. As she discovered her strengths, the pathway forward in her life began to open. It was bright and beautiful!
Ellie was able to articulate the process better than anyone I know. In her own words, “The more I gain, the more I lose”. She believed the more of life she gained, the more weight she lost. She defined “life” as the giving of her now-known talents to impact lives.
Ellie used to hide behind her fat as an reason not to engage in life. Her past pain and abuse were her excuse to be unhappy and hide away from people. She tried to build her life by looking backward and attempting to somehow undo her past. She got nowhere but fatter and fatter. When she started focusing on what she had the capacity to do and give to others, she discovered the strength to heal and lose weight.
Over the next five years Ellie lost an amazing four hundred pounds. She started grocery shopping at regular hours, not at 1am when no one could see her. Because she was too big to do regular exercise, she spent hundreds of hours swimming with my daughter Amy in Lake Sammamish. (Our beach pictured below) Lake Sammamish is warm for probably three months a year but Ellie was not deterred.
She moved forward and lighter, pound by pound. She knew where she wanted to go. She told people she wanted to ride a horse, be able to travel and fit in an airplane seat, speak, find love and live bigger while becoming smaller.
By 2006 Ellie was now one third of the person she used to be. She was under 200lbs. She traveled all over the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom challenging women to focus on what their talents as a way to grow and develop their lives. To know who they were, not what they were not. She told them that no one and no past abuse or circumstance could hold them back. It was their choice. Build their live looking forward.
She developed a weight-loss program, "Watch The Fat Fall" that didn't focus primarily on losing weight but on the discovery of personal talents and identifying character strength. hat was the pathway to a life that can be taken back and lived with purpose and passion!
In 2006 Ellie fought breast cancer and again was forced to look at what resources she possessed to deal with this life-threatening giant. She had to deal with weight gain due to the treatment, which included steroids and other medications. In early 2008 Ellie was cleared of her cancer and began anew helping others, including starting to develop a program for obese teens.
The cancer came back with a vengeance. Ellie fought it bravely. She died in the early part of 2009, but she never stopped encouraging people everywhere she went. The last time I saw Ellie, she had just undergone major surgery. She talked about all she knew that was good and strong in her nurse and how exceptional she was. She was helping her lose weight. Even in her extreme pain and discomfort, Ellie kept seeing in others what defined them at their best.
Before Ellie died, she asked if I would conduct her memorial service. It was packed with lives she impacted. There was not a dry eye anywhere. Ellie was my great friend. I miss her because of how she looked at the world and people. She left a legacy of courage and that courage was seen in her choice to face a seeming insurmountable obstacle and win!
What does Ellie’s life teach us about legacy?
1. There is always a way. Ellie showed me no matter who you are or what you face, there is a way. Choosing to face it is only step one. Achieving change, to a set goal, sometimes requires spending years of hard excruciating work.
I have worked with people and families who face seemingly insurmountable challenges. They also have immense resources to hire any professional they choose. I also found more hopelessness in people who have significant wealth. They often look to their wealth and what that can buy, in an attempt to work on the challenge or as a way to escape the reality of it. Both are external options which seldom work.
Ellie had tried everything she knew or believed was available to her. What worked was a choice to view her life and who she was differently. Building a legacy means you leave the legacy that is more than your money but a courageous life.
Stop! What are you facing that seems just too big to face? Everything you have tried didn’t work. You feel God has abandoned you. You feel that you will never get to where you will stand tall again. You sound just like Ellie when I first met her, enveloped in 600lbs of fat. You sound like me at different times in my own journey.
When are you going to ask for help?
2. Legacy is about the future not the past. Ellie taught me it was about perspective and personal choice. It was about being sold on the belief that the past is only the past when it is in the past. Legacy is about building not excavating the swamps of our lives. She came to believe her future was determined by discovering her God-given talents. Waking each day she determined she was going to invest those talents into the lives of others. Looking outward to the needs of others not inwards at her perceived or real deficits and weaknesses became a daily choice.
"But this one thing I set my life on course to do; to forget what is behind me and to give everything I have to reach the future God has for me." Paul Philippians 3 vs 13b
3. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. The people who you least expect can change your life in ways you never imagined. When we look at what people look like on the outside and in our prejudices move us to avoid or reject them, we diminish our own lives. Give everyone a chance because you never know what could happen. Ellie had a major impact on my life!
STOP! Do you feel like the eyes of everyone are on you seeing every failure you make? Do you feel people look at you with all your options and wonder why you have problems? Have you looked at others and excluded them from your life because of what they looked like externally or possessed?
I know Ellie’s amazing story will challenge you. It has to. I hope you find the courage to face whatever you face today or will come your way down life’s road.
Remember when you need clarity or encouragement, I am just a call away.
Mark R Demos
The Legacy Forum is where you come when you look at today and wonder if your dreams for the future might not be as secure as you hoped. We are here when you need to talk about your legacy. When you need to focus on your life, family, addiction, mental health, career, relationships, education, succession planning, philanthropy and other legacy issues. When crisis invades your world, when you need immediate help for yourself or a member of your family. We help reduce fear and anxiety by protecting and bringing clarity to the complex situations of your life. The Legacy Forum can help!