My friend Carol died on Saturday. She discovered she had lung cancer in the fall of 07, right after school started. I remember very well talking to her in the hallway after school while she was in the midst of diagnosis, and her saying, "Tammy, I'm so scared." She'd never smoked or even lived with a smoker. When the news came, it wasn't good--at her present rate of disease, the doctors gave her a month. With chemo and radiation, it might be longer. She got two and a half years.
So we went to the funeral today...saw lots and lots of old friends I used to work with, people I should see more often and under better circumstances. Why do we wait for funerals to get together? Jeff and the girls came along, as they'd known Carol well, too--she taught both girls and we socialized.
I hate funerals. I really do. Like Jeff said, just cremate me and then throw a big party. As funerals go, though, this one was what I think of as exceptionally off the mark. If it gave comfort to Carol's husband and sons, I'm glad. I got no comfort, however, and felt it was just too generic. So now, in my love and friendship, I will offer Carol stories that better exemplify her as a person.
Carol was beautiful, both inside and out. She modeled some in her early years, and while her outward beauty was always apparent, her inner beauty was even stronger. Still, Carol was, admittedly, a clotheshorse and very, very particular about her looks. I had never met someone who actually sewed different buttons on her jackets to match her other accessories. Never one for sports, she once chose a sports jersey to wear for jersey day at school based solely on the colors on it (turns out it was for the Vikings--we had to tell her where they were from). She had a different lanyard for every outfit because color coordination was the main thing about her. In fact, our friend Patty got a phone call from Carol's husband right before the visitation began, all in a tizzy because the funeral home had put lipstick and nail polish on Carol and it clashed. He *knew* Carol wouldn't have had that--so they pooled resources and fixed it.
One of Hannah's favorite stories about Carol was a lesson Carol expanded upon in math class. Carol related everything to shopping, and obviously it made an impression. Hannah recounted to me last night how Carol had told the girls in class how to sneak new clothes into your house, stuff them in your closet, and later, when they are remarked upon, you say, "This thing? It's been in my closet a long time!"
Carol was a notorious driver. I used to tell her she drove like Jeff, or just a man in general--she'd take the wheel and take control. I swear she'd come barrelling into the parking lot on two wheels, in her enormous white Cadillac, or she'd be changing her nail polish while driving, or just honking at people who she felt should move out of the way. She made fun of my little car, but her big car suited her big personality.
More than anything, however, Carol was so caring and giving. She ran a sewing group at school that made items for homeless and hospitals. She continued to run the group even after her diagnosis and as recently as a few months ago. She never once hesitated to give of herself or her resources. Once I called her in a panic to pick up Hannah from school for me when I could reach no one else, and she didn't even blink--she went out of her way, and I believe even fed her before dropping her off at the babysitter's for me. She made bags for the girls with their names on them simply because she wanted to. She would give you everything she had and then some, and then pooh pooh anyone who tried to give back. She fiercely loved her husband and sons. When her eldest stepson began his family, she was adamant that her husband was the grandparent, not she. That attitude lasted about a minute after the baby's birth--she was "Grandmother" from then on out.
I am so proud of the time I had Carol in my life, and I will miss her dearly. I am glad I am a woman of faith because I believe I will see her again; I just hope she picks out a gorgeous robe for me that will flatter my figure and make me appear taller. If I know Carol, she's on it already.