Imagine with me a misty spring day – a gentle rain falling – before you a vista of modestly rolling Midwestern farmland leading to an understated hill. Atop the hill is a small tent, a canopy really, the kind posted at a grave to protect people from the elements during a committal service. This is the scene from a week ago, when several Adrian College people made pilgrimage to the resting place of someone we consider a friend.
That friend is a woman named Elizabeth Margaret Chandler, a Quaker by religious tradition – literally The Society of Friends. Only our friend passed away 180 years ago, in 1834. We visited her grave with umbrellas and raincoats to dedicate a plaque in her memory.
Elizabeth Chandler was a poet who wrote about slavery at a time when people did not want to hear such truth. She became known as the first woman in America to make the abolitionist cause her principal theme. She was published in the nation’s best literary journals, and she was known as a fearless advocate for equality and freedom. She died of disease not ten miles from here.
Elizabeth was born in Delaware and came to the Michigan territory with her aunt and brother. Her parents had died while she was a child out east. Life was not easy for her. But writing was her passion – next to God and the value of all people. Elizabeth was in love with God, and because of this she could do nothing less than love others.
Class of 2014, when Elizabeth Chandler died, she was 26-years-old. And we remember her today. Twenty-six years old.
Hearing the story of a twenty-six-year-old hero can be intimidating, or it can be inspiring. I invite you to live lives of courageous abandon, to be open to the movement of God – such that 180 years after your passing, people will know you as a friend.