I was talking with a friend yesterday and it came up that a mutual friend had died. This was not a huge surprise because she had been very ill for quite some time. The surprise for me was that I had not found out until almost a month after the fact.
I met Carol at the church where I served as the Children and Youth Minister. I had a lot of experience with youth and hardly any with children. Carol's son was in the 5 year old class. She was intriguing to me for several reasons but most of all I was impressed with her love for her child and her commitment to surround him with the love of a church family. It was several months before I realized that Carol was married. Her husband did not usually attend church with them. This was surprising to me because she was so involved....I don't remember a time that I worshiped when she was not singing in the choir.
Carol and I became very close after she shared with me the struggles she had with her "family of origin" much like the ones I was experiencing. She was the person who helped me see that I could be whole again and that I could be a good mother if I decided to have children. We met several times and discussed these issues at length. I remember confiding in her the trouble I was having getting pregnant and wondering if this was God telling me I would not be a good mother. She basically laughed...........somehow this assured me that things would be okay. I remember meeting up with her for lunch, sitting in the window at Cheevers, telling her I was expecting. I think I was more excited to tell her than my own family because I knew how excited she would be. I remember sitting in the same restaurant several months later with my oldest, just a few weeks old, tucked away at our feet while we ate and admired him. She gave me the confidence I needed to know that I would be a good mother.
I loved to hear stories about her son. He was in elementary school by now and it made me realize how fast time flies. She told me stories of her husband and the highs and lows of starting his own business. It was so obvious how much she loved her family. It was also obvious to me what a strong figure she was in that family. Strong but not over-bearing. This struck me I am sure because I tend to have a strong presence in most situations and not always for the better. Carole also helped me figure out the role I wanted my career to play in my life. She was a brillient attorney that had experience all over the country, but she did not want to be identified as such. She wanted to be a mom. Law was what she did but not who she was. At the end of the day she was a mom and a wife.
Our relationship grew and eventually became very comfortable although I never took it for granted. I knew that much of the happiness and wholeness I felt with my own family came from these meetings with her. Three years ago this New Year's Eve I saw Carol and her husband. It was a beautiful evening...not too cold. We had taken our oldest to the OKC downtown celebration. I saw her from a distance and ran up to say "Happy New Year!" When she turned around, I knew something was wrong. She told me that she had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. There were not words to express my sorrow and saddness. We hugged, went on, and she spent the next three years fighting for every minute she had with her family.
I will never forget Carol, her smile, her laugh, her voice in the choir. I truly believe God puts certain people in our lives to show us how to love and to be more like the person God created us to be. Carol is one of these people for me.