Eulogy (by her husband Harry)
Let me preface my remarks by quoting Tennyson on the inadequacy of words in the face of death.
I sometimes hold it half a sin
to put in words the grief I feel.
For words, like nature, half reveal
and half conceal the soul within.
But for the unquiet heart and brain,
a use in measured language lies,
the sad, mechanic, exercise,
like dull narcotics, numbing pain.
In words, as weeds, I'll wrap me o'er,
like coarsest cloth against the cold.
But that large grief which these enfold
is given in outline, and no more.
Carol and I met in the fall of 1976, when we were both 18, two-thirds of our lives ago. I was immediately attracted by her vivaciousness and self-confidence, by her smile and her bright eyes. We quickly started dating, and were married not quite three years later, despite (or perhaps because of) our personalities' being in many ways opposite.
I was a college dropout, and Carol had dropped out and then finished an associate degree, and we were both working. Carol often walked to work with her friends, and attracted attention even while simply walking. For example, someone once started attacking her (apparently randomly) with an umbrella, and another person attacked her with a paddle ball! Her friends eventually made her walk between them so that they could protect her. She was always good at finding supportive friends.
Carol was the person who wisely suggested I return to school when she saw how unsatisfied I was with my job, when I hadn't even considered it—certainly not the only, but equally certainly not the least, of the debts I owe her. This changed both our lives in ways neither of us imagined, starting with moving to Ithaca, New York, a few years later, and then spending a year in England. I remember her joy that year; she always loved new experiences, and had many of them there—she went regularly to lunchtime concerts in the City churches, we visited cathedrals, museums, performances [including her first viewings of her beloved Les Miserables], and parks. I remember walking on a narrow and not very sturdy catwalk between the vault and the roof in Durham Cathedral, which frightened both of us (but we agreed the view from the roof was worth it), I remember how happy she was at seeing so many of Monet's paintings in Paris—and I remember while we were in Paris she commented on how bad my French accent was (and she was right, too, even though she knew no French!).
While we were in England, I applied for jobs. When we were talking about where I was applying, she asked, ‘Why would you apply to Nebraska? We’d never go there!’. After that, of course, it was inevitable that we'd end up here. But we developed friendships, we purchased a house in the area of Lincoln Carol had loved since we first moved here, and in the end Lincoln felt like home to both of us, even though she was always sad to be so far away from our families, whom she visited as often as possible—one time she was particularly thrilled about was for a surprise party she arranged for her parents' twenty-fifth wedding anniversary in 1989.
Her work record is remarkable for the ways in which the people for whom she worked rewarded her hard work, intelligence, and competence. When the attorney for whom she worked as a legal secretary in Philadelphia changed firms, one of his conditions was that he be allowed to bring her as his secretary (with a significant salary increase). In Ithaca, her supervisor promoted her from administrative aide to personnel associate. And here in Lincoln, she volunteered for many years at the Lied Center, winning Volunteer of the Year in 1991, which thrilled her immensely. (I was present with Andrew, who was only one month old, and vividly remember how happy she was when she realized Pam was describing her.)
Then she moved from volunteering to salaried volunteer coordinator [and house manager], which involved [recruiting,] training, scheduling, supervising, and generally doing whatever was necessary to keep happy 330 volunteer ushers, with as many as 75 present at a single performance[, and running the front of house during performances]. She loved that job; it was perfect for her, and she was perfect for it because of her gregarious personality, her attention to and memory for detail, and her genuine caring for other people. In her “farewell” letter to the volunteers, she said, in part:
Saying goodbye to all of you is so hard. The Lied Center has been my “home away from home” for eleven years, and you have all seemed like my second family! I will certainly miss you very much. You are the best Volunteers (and friends) anywhere! I have had so many good times at the Lied Center and will take a lot of wonderful memories with me.
Still, even though that was the perfect job for her, after leaving it in 2001, she displayed her resilience by finding yet another job that she enjoyed greatly, first [a seasonal job] at the zoo [now called the Lincoln Children's Zoo], and then as a library assistant at Gere Library, a job she enjoyed greatly, working with people she liked a lot. [I remember her particularly being pleased that books she placed on the "staff recommendation" table tended to be borrowed quickly!] She was very sad when ill-health forced her to resign it and to stop working completely, in 2007.
Our son, Andrew, was of course the joy of her life. She was disappointed when the obstetrician told her she would have to have a cesarian section, but bounced back with her characteristic resilience, insisting on driving herself to the hospital. When she had problems nursing him, she went as far feeding him through a tube in his mouth while he was nursing, eventually being able to remove the tube. She loved him, and was proud of him, even when he frightened her by climbing 10 or 15 meters off the ground on the outside of a playground structure, or by loving riding roller coasters she could barely endure watching. (The first coaster he ever rode was a kiddie coaster she had ridden as a child, in an amusement park in Pennsylvania [sc. Knoebels, in Elysburg]; when Andrew and I came off the ride, she anxiously asked ‘Are you okay? Were you scared?’, as Andrew was saying ‘Can we ride it again?’! We did. And she kept taking us to roller coasters anyway.) She even came to enjoy our pet rats, for Andrew's sake. She loved baking for him—including as many kinds of cookies as she could at Christmas, and cakes—one birthday cake was an especially elaborate “spaceship” cake for his 4th birthday, which drew cries of admiration from the children when they saw it. She enjoyed helping in the classroom, and doing class parties, going places with him. In general, she loved spending time with him, more recently being thrilled on the frequent occasions when Andrew came home on the weekend during the weekend and watched football with her, cheering when UNL or the Philadelphia Eagles played well, and commiserating with him when they did not. She loved introducing Andrew to new experiences, seeing him grow and expand, pushing him to do more than he thought he could and to be the best person he could be, and working not to let him become complacent or stagnate.
In 1996, when she was diagnosed with POEMS (one of the six diseases she had that are on the National Organization for Rare Disorders' list of rare diseases), we didn't know how long she would live with it. She told me then that she wanted to see Andrew graduate from high school. She was able to see not only that, but also his becoming a young adult. Not quite a week before her death, we celebrated his 21st birthday, though not as we had hoped to but in her hospital room. We talked about some of his future plans and desires; Carol was pleased that he had talked to a professor about his honors thesis, that she had agreed to supervise it, and that he had a direction to go in writing it. She was alert, happy, and cheerful—and very proud of him.
Her resilience and optimism served her well through the long years of her illnesses. Through two-and-a-half decades of increasingly severe medical problems, something like 44 diagnoses, 21 hospitalizations due to illness, uncounted emergency room visits, procedures, tests, appointments, [treatments,] and through pain I would not want to imagine much less experience, she kept smiling, in private as well as in public. Not at every moment, of course; she wasn't superhuman—but far more often than not, and far more than anyone could reasonably have been expected to. She even smiled when I (often) feebly joked that just as birders keep life lists of birds, she was keeping a life list of medical conditions and procedures, trying to check off as many as she could. The physicians, nurses, and others who cared for her recognized this. For example, after her stroke, she was being treated by her favorite hospitalist. (And yes, she was hospitalized often enough to have a favorite hospitalist.) At that point, she was drinking only pudding-thick liquids—or more precisely, the only liquids she was allowed were liquids she had to eat. At one point, Carol jokingly told the hospitalist that she liked her, but she'd like her even better if she let her drink. The hospitalist laughed and said that she enjoyed treating Carol so much because Carol always made her laugh. Even during her last hospitalization, as problems kept developing, and as we couldn't get control of them, many of the staff commented on how patient, uncomplaining, and even cheerful she was; one of her nurses, for example, said that she'd be happy to take twenty patients like Carol.
In the end, her disease-ravaged body simply couldn't function any longer: too many problems for too many years had taken too great a toll. On Monday, she said she wanted Andrew to come, which he did immediately, and we had one last all-too-brief conversation and night together, before she died a peaceful and quiet death Tuesday afternoon.
Despite all my and Carol's imperfections, despite my incompetence at communication, despite our having a mixed marriage, with my being a vegetarian and Carol not—despite everything, our love did ‘bear it out, e'en to the edge of doom’. I wish the doom could have been postponed. But I know that when she learned she was dying, Carol told me that she was at peace with her death, and hoped only that Andrew and I would also be at peace. I have no doubt that she had the same hope for everyone who knew her. So, I will close with this one last gift to all of us from Carol: her request that we be at peace.