i answered the phone only to hear my father's upset voice..."listen! carol just died!" all the air in my lungs escaped and before i could inhale i gasped "shut up!" and for those of you who don't know my father - he's not a man who easily does that- but he did. and so over phone lines i knew his message was true. over phone lines we shared silence, the stillness of allowing our hearts to take on a different shape. expanding with love and shuddering with the notion of life without carol. remind me to ask my dad to work on his delivery skills. then i knew i had to write- write this piece to honour her. but carol can't lose her life because carol is life! just say her name...carol...it exudes an energy that won't ever leave this realm. carol is many things but mainly carol is.
i was lucky to spend a couple of years with her - roommates. i was 19 she was 45. what a blessing that was to be mothered so subtly to grow a friendship that led to her becoming my tell everything aunt, my inspiration, my trust in the creator, my maid of honour, my rock.
i always looked forward to hearing her at the end of the line with her vibrant greeting "how ya doin' kiddo?!" and even though i never hesitated to connect with her the thing about having a rock like carol is when you call her to declare the injustice of some particular experience you can count on her to be loyal to fairness - it never failed- the sentence that inevitably began with "in all fairness..." which in most cases has you analyzing the situation in an entirely different perspective that usually points out your over-reaction. not exactly the outcome you were looking for but usually the advice you needed.
carol is the definition of grit. that certain quality that motivated her to go above and beyond. it showed up in her passion for work and her love of her family, friends, colleagues and animals. she pushed through adversity no matter what. like 16 days without power in the ice storm of 1998. 9 of those days without telephone service and a scared silly niece trying to act brave in what seemed to me like a life or death situation but to carol it was more like winter camping. she relocated the entire contents of her fridge and freezer into dugout compartments in the snowbanks of the path to her home-did i mention her aptitude for being thrifty? she started dinner at 6 am in her dutch oven on top of her wood stove, hauled bucket by bucket of water for the "nags" from the creek by snowshoe! encouraging her very reluctant and fashion conscious niece to try a pair on, then boosting my esteem with her signature cheer " atta girl!" she cooked eggs outside on her coleman stove, beaming and reminding me to thank my grandmother and all the hardworking women of our past.
oh! and the sight of carol swiftly travelling by moonlight from the barn to the house only wearing a small towel and snowshoes, entering the house soaking wet, shampoo in her hair, laughing hysterically trying to ask me where the jerry can was because the generator had run out of gas while she tried to shower....and me horrified that she'd die of hypothermia and leave me alone in the sheer disaster that was this ice storm!
but no. she had only lessons of survival and stories of grandma in the height of the feminist movement telling her she was crazy because just when women had all they need, laundry service, dishwashers, microwaves, food processors and tupperware she wanted to work outside the home! and on days when we'd be up at 5:30 just to get to work on time after chores we'd laugh and agree - maybe grandma was right?!
we all have our memories, glimpses of special moments- many that occurred at precisely 9 o'clock each evening when carol would connect with her sister robin. too many phone calls to remember - but what always inspired me was the commitment to their sisterhood. they were each others constants, sure as the stars in the night sky...sometimes full of surprises - like carol hollering for me at 2 am in the dead of winter to "get down here!" confused, half asleep, protesting she's pushing me out the door in duck boots and a down coat insisting "just trust me!" the two of us shivering in our night gowns, sitting on top of fences that some of you helped us build. staring up at the night sky - dancing green, blue and pink - the northern lights.
i was a confused young woman who wound up on burnt lands road. an experienced farm hand, but also a real pain in the butt! carol always believed in the genuine good in people and trusted with her whole heart that goodness would prevail. my time on her farm shaped who i am today. one particular night over young love heartache, tears and home brew she was trying to convince me "he wasn't worth it." she said " just wait until you're in your thirties! your thirties are the best time in your life! you're still as hot as you were in your twenties, but you'll have all the confidence you're lacking now." i like to think she was right again...really though, that was seriously good advice. i expected confidence.
when i first started sharing stories of romance on the campus of ottawa u she'd soak them up and say she was living vicariously through me. but shortly after i arrived on the farm tom showed up. slowly over dinners the conversation shifted. she'd share a few stories and tom...she was smitten.
it was the happiest i remember her. she said it over and over again "that man brings out the best in me." thank you tom for being just what she needed - because for a little while all that vicariously living talk made me a tad bit nervous...
last weekend i spoke with carol. she said she was proud of me, proud of who i've become. at the time i laughed it off, no response. partly because it meant so much to me to hear her say that, and partly because i thought it was funny! i still had so much to learn before i felt i would be anything like her. the woman i always hoped to turn out like. now that's something to be proud of.
carol took care of me. you are all here for the same reason. carol is the most reliable person in the universe. if you need her, she'll be there. i'm sure she'd want me to say...nothing has changed.
carol will still be our rock. love does not come to an end.