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Woman's book recalls faithful journey

January 24, 2001

Woman's book recalls faithful journey



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

Mildred WellerBOONSBORO - The pages of Mildred Elliott Weller's life are steeped in faith.

Weller's faith in God illuminates each chapter of the Boonsboro resident's 255-page autobiography, "The Spirit Within."

The book was recently published by St. Michaels Press of Frederick, Md.

"My heart and soul is in this book," said Weller, 87. "It's brought me joy in my elderly years."

The author leads readers along a spiritual journey that stretches from her childhood on a farm near Inwood, W.Va., to a long-awaited pilgrimage to Israel in 1998.

Weller's words revive her years as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in Berkeley County, W.Va., and her courtship and marriage to the man whose "brilliant, toothy smile" at once captivated her.

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The book's most poignant passages recount Weller's feelings after her husband, Ted Elliott, was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in 1959.

"I felt the bottom drop out of my world," she wrote. "I will never forget the day, nor how the world looked. I did not weep. I did not talk for a while. I only thought this was not the way I had so firmly believed it would be."

The author and her husband resolved to relish each of their remaining days together. They grew spiritually and found strength in their faith and their love for each other, Weller wrote.

She kept notes detailing much of what happened during the four months her husband lived after his diagnosis.

"Many was the time that Ted would ask me to lie down on the bed beside him, where he would put his arm around me and say, 'Put your head on my shoulder and cry now while I am still here to comfort you,'" Weller wrote.

"His generous and protective gesture let my tears flow freely, releasing me, for those precious few moments, of all that I had to hold inside the rest of the day. I thank God, and Ted, for the unspeakable comfort of those sustaining respites."

Weller said she counted on God to see her through her loved one's illness and death, and she infused the portion of her book that addresses this time in her life with inspirational biblical passages.

"God is with us in our suffering and will help us create a noble life," for example, was taken from James 1:12.

Weller noted the positive impact that her faith, the support of her friends and family and her teaching job in Frederick County, Md., had on her ability to heal after her loved one's death.

"The balm of grief is staying busy," she wrote.

Weller eventually remarried but she didn't discard her written memories of her past.

Nearly 40 years after her first husband's death and two years after her second husband's 1995 funeral, Weller decided to sculpt her life story around the experiences recorded on that long-kept stack of yellowing notes.

"I didn't want the graveyard to have my book," she said.

Her daughter-in-law, Marianne Elliott, typed the manuscript that Weller completed in longhand.

"The Spirit Within" is being sold at Shepherd's Table Bookstore on Wesel Boulevard in Hagerstown.

Weller, who published a book of poetry in 1979, is now chronicling many of the humorous moments in her life for a book on the importance of laughter.

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