PHOENIX RISING

 Information and support for widows, widowers and others who grieve over the death of a loved one.

Carol's Story    

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On the 25th of September, at 7:55 a.m., Carol died from massive liver and lung metastases resulting from a rare form of cancer called cholangioma (a carcinoma of the biliary ducts). This cancer is particularly insidious because, by the time symptoms present themselves, it is invariably too late.

The speed at which the disease progressed was unbelievable. Carolís family had no time to process the information, much less make well-informed decisions. On the seventh of September, Carol felt a little ill and thought she had a case of the flu; this was also the preliminary diagnosis by her physician. By the 14th of September, her family had a CAT scan showing an 11cm x 7cm liver tumor, plus extensive bilateral lung metastasis. The final diagnosis of cholangioma did not come until the afternoon of Friday, the 21st September. Four days later, she was gone.

She was married to her husband, Reg, for 36 years, three months, and twenty-one days.

The following is taken from a eulogy for Carol's memorial service, written by Reg.

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My precious Carol was such a multidimensional lady. How can I begin to convey to you on just a few sheets of two-dimensional paper who she really was? Carol was my lover, my wife, a mother of constant devotion to our son, K., my chief counsel on every matter of life, and the spiritual cornerstone in our family. All of this she did quietly without much fanfare. She was my best friend.

After we married, I quickly discovered that her business sense was much better than mine; therefore, she also became the chief business head and financial director of the household. Much of this was not apparent to those who knew us casually because Carol was always "content to stand in my shadow and not have sunlight on her face". However, those who knew us better knew the truth. That is just the way Carol was; she always put others first, especially K. and me. Even though most of our major life decisions were really hers, she was very careful to make me think they were mine. I was not totally dumb, as some may think; I could see through that. It was just one of those little unspoken things between two who had become one. We knew each other's thoughts and we completed each other's sentences. I feel like a jagged blade has cut half of my body away.

In her childhood years, her family was no stranger to sudden tragedy. Two young brothers drowned in a small lake behind the farmhouse, one brother apparently trying to save the other. If that were not enough, when she and the third young brother went to the hospital for tonsillectomies, the younger brother went first and died on the operating table. In the midst of all this tragedy, Carol and her family kept their faith in God. They truly became tempered by fire. Her father died while we were visiting two years ago. Carol's faith never faltered.

I remember when Carol and I first met as if it were yesterday. In the spring of 1963, I was seated at the back of a huge lecture hall where a freshman chemistry class was about to begin. There were at least 500 students in this class. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the foxiest blond I had ever seen. She was wearing a fully-pleated, Kelly-green miniskirt and her hair was in the bouffant style of the day. When I close my eyes, I can again see her entering those large double doors at the right-front of the lecture hall and taking a seat toward the front-center of the room.

I noticed there was an empty seat next to her. Although bashful around girls, I had to meet this one! I think I ran over ten other students getting to that empty seat. I have no idea what the instructor said during the class, but by the end of the class, I had finally worked up the courage to ask her out on a date. With her obvious sensitivity and sense of humor, I am sure she said to herself, "This joker at least should be a funny evening!" She smiled her entrancing smile and said in that husky voice of hers, "Yes, I would be happy to go out with you." I almost melted in my seat. I don't even remember getting out of my seat and leaving the lecture hall.

After that first date, I wrote my parents that I had found a girl that was unlike any girl I had ever known and that she was the one that I was going to grow old with. As you might guess, my mother was not too happy, but she eventually saw that I was determined. This all happened during the spring semester of Carol's freshman year and my sophomore year. It was the beginning of my life in Camelot!

Of all Carol's qualities, her unwavering faith without "much ado" gave our marriage a true course. During those terrible few days she never once said, "Why me?" I said it plenty of times as I went from anger to despair. But Carol would always say, "Now Reggie, these things just happen. God will see us through this just as He always has."

Last Saturday, K. was just beginning to overcome the denial phase and understand the gravity of our situation. When he entered her bedroom to say goodnight, she held him and then told him, "K. darling, times like these are the reasons our faith in Christ and our family relationships are so important. Whatever happens, do not lose your faith and stay close to your family."

When Carol returned to the hospital last Sunday, her Lauren Bacal voice was reduced to just a whisper. Only hours before she died, D. came by and asked a very important question. He said, "Carol,... is there anything you fear that you would like to discuss?" Although her eyes were already becoming cloudy and glazed from the cancer gripping her body, she perked up, shook her head back and forth to indicate NO, looked D. straight in the eyes, and said, "Not at all, I know God is with me now!"

You see, we can all be brave when we are not actually facing death. Words of eternity come easily then. The true test of our faith is how we respond in the hour of death. Carol passed that test beyond all measure! Her sisters and I can personally attest to that! C. and I were holding my precious Carol in our arms when she breathed her last breath.

Carol and I were very aware that thousands were praying for a miracle of healing. I am certain that Carol only agreed to the chemotherapy because she knew so many were praying for that to work and she did not want to disappoint them, especially me and K. I had said in one of my e-mails that we would understand if the miracle did not come; we would still know that God is in control and knows best. In saying those words that Christians frequently toss around so casually, I really sold Carol's faith short.

It finally became clear to me. Carol knew something that the rest of us did not understand, or we temporarily forgot. She knew that a miracle had already come. It came almost 2000 years ago. Because of that miracle of Jesus' resurrection, Carol knew that she too had the promise of the resurrection. She could also see how her faith and courage were becoming an encouragement to so many others. Numerous e-mails and cards attested to that. Even Dr. G. and all the nurses on the 10th floor were strongly impacted by Carol. She always had a smile and a "thank you" when they came by with even the smallest comfort.

So, please do not despair that Carol was not healed. Please don't let it affect your faith. It certainly did not affect Carol's. Carol and I had many hours over the past twenty days when we just held each other and lay next to each other, reaffirming our love for one another and our faith in God. This is the reason we did not allow many visitors. Perhaps we were selfish, but we did not want to dilute a single moment of the precious remaining time we had together. Many people never get that chance. Certainly many in New York did not get that chance.

Again, do not despair and do not lose hope. Carol's last words were expressions of her hope and faith, and her love for her family. I know Carol would want something from you and I would like it also. If a loved one is sitting next to you, just reach out and touch them for the remainder of the service so they will know how much you love them. Don't let any precious moments go by. Carol felt perfectly healthy on the first of September. Now she is gone!

Carol loved each of you and I love you. In this world, she will go on in our hearts. In God's arms, she is now going on for an eternity, without pain or tears. Carol is home now; we can all claim that same promise! We can see her again!

Oh God, I already miss her! Please give me some of her strength.

 
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