Ellen White’s Death

On Monday, February 15th 1915 Ellen White was walking into her study when she tripped and fell. Her nurse, and niece, May Walling was standing and nearby attempted to help her to her feet but she cried out in pain. May managed to help her into her room and to bed. She then called Dr Klingerman at the nearby Sanitarium. Dr Kilgerman moved her to the Sanitarium for x-rays and discovered that she had a fractured hip.

After the accident, Ellen confided to her son Willie that she felt that her work was done and that she was happy to lay down and sleep till the resurrection morning unless there was some special work that the Lord had for her to do. Her health continued to decline over the next few months. She was mostly bedridden and unable to walk though she was taken outdoors in a wheelchair from time to time. She was uncomfortable though not in much pain and had a steady stream of visitors who came to see her and pray with her. Everyone could sense that this was the last mile of her journey and so could she.

On the morning of July 8th, weak and barely conscious she managed to rouse herself enough to quietly tell Sara McEnterfer “I do not suffer much thank the Lord…it will not be long now.” The next day she was able to gather enough strength to spend some time talking to Sarah and her son Willie who prayed for her and assured her that they would now trust all things in the hands of Jesus, to which she replied in a whisper “I know whom I have believed”

A week later on Friday 16th July, Ellen White lay in her bed breathing her last and her nurses sent for W.C White and his wife May who, along with a few others, sat around her bedside. She quietly breathed her last at 3:40 pm. Describing it Willie White wrote “it was like the burning out of a candle, so quiet”

Her Legacy

Ellen White served God faithfully over the course of 70 years. God called her to be his messenger at the age of 17 and from that point forward she dedicated her life wholeheartedly to Him. She made it her life’s mission to turn people to Jesus. Even during her last illness, this was the keynote of every conversation she had with anyone who came to see her. Jesus was her friend and heaven was real. She wanted everyone she met to have the same experience. 

During the final months of her life, she didn’t fear death. It didn’t stalk her like a nameless terror. To her death was nothing more than a short pause. A moment to lay down and rest before she came face to face with her beloved Saviour.   

Ellen White had three funerals. The first was held on the lawn at Elmshaven, the second in Oakland and the third in Battle Creek, Michigan where she was laid to rest in Oak Hill Cemetery beside her husband and two sons. The Battle Creek Funeral took place at 11 am on Sabbath morning at the Dime Tabernacle before a congregation of 3000 people. S.N. Haskell delivered the eulogy.

The local newspapers ran stories on her life and work after her passing. The St. Helena Star wrote  “The life of Mrs White is an example worthy of emulation by all. …She was a humble, devout disciple of Christ, and ever went about doing good, “Honoured and respected by all who appreciate noble womanhood consecrated to unselfish labour for the uplifting and betterment of mankind.” The New York Independent wrote “She showed no spiritual pride and she sought no filthy lucre. She lived the life and did the work of a worthy prophetess, the most admirable of the American succession.”

No matter how long or short our lives are death can seem awfully final. None of us really want to die. But Ellen White was different. For her death had lost its sting. She wasn’t afraid to die.

When we face death we will think about how we lived. At that moment only two things will matter; how our lives impacted others and what lies beyond the grave. Everything else won’t seem important. I hope we each have an answer to those questions today.

Further Reading

  • White, A.L. (1982) – Ellen White: The Later Elmshaven Years