I don't even remember the first time I met Carol. You know how it is with teenagers right after high school graduation, who are embarking on their own life adventures. There wasn't much on my mind except the fellow I had a huge crush on, and shoving off to Montana to be on my own!
In April of 1976, I was living once again in Arizona and made the five-hour trek from Sierra Vista to Phoenix for my brother Tom's wedding. In a small ceremony at Carol's mother's house, I gained a new sister.
That summer, I visited them before I'd be moving away again, back to Montana. One evening during that visit, though, Carol drove me to the top of South Mountain and, as we looked over Phoenix with its millions of lights, she changed the course of the rest of my life! "I don't want you to go back to Montana," she told me. "I want you to move up here. You can stay with us till you get a job and find a place of your own."
In those couple of months that I stayed with Tom and Carol, she taught me so much! I was so naïve and immature, but everything I watched and learned from her I kept hidden in the back of my heart till I'd need it.
A year later I became engaged to Mike and we married in November of 1977. It took many years to bring forth all Carol had taught me about caring for a husband but, eventually, it all came out and brought me through some pretty tough years. Now, thirty years later, I have the happiest marriage of anyone I've ever met. When I told her that, she said, "It's the Italian way." There are too many examples to cite individually, but it all centered around serving. That's right ... being a good servant. But before liberated women around the world start throwing their mops and dishcloths at me, let me explain. The more I treat my husband like a king, doing everything I can to make him happy in his home, ensuring his comfort and that all his needs are met, and keeping my eyes constantly open for anything I can do for him ... my reward from him is far greater than anything I've ever done for him. It might sound awfully one-sided but, believe me, it's not.
Even pushing fifty years old I tended to be a little naïve. Carol would be around forever, I thought. Even when she had cancer, there was no doubt in my mind she'd beat it. But it soon became apparent that wasn't going to happen. Early in 2006, her doctor gave her 2-10 months to live.
Thanks to Mike's airline job, I could zip up to Las Vegas often, and I'll always be thankful for that! I could spend time with Carol for a few days every month or two, and we enjoyed many outings together, and a lot of quality talk time. The 2-10 months disappeared far behind us and she was still going strong. I'll swear till my dying day it was because she refused the chemo.
Late in 2007, though, Carol began to slow down. She was in pain as the cancer was taking its toll. Any exertion would wear her out and put her in bed for hours. But still, she wanted to keep going. Every time I'd come up, we'd find our way to Paris-Las Vegas to get crêpes. That was our thing, and she insisted we keep it up as long as physically possible.
"When it comes time," she asked of me, "will you come?" I promised I would. And she promised she'd wait for me.
Then it came, the phone call last Monday morning. Mike and I threw things into the van and drove to Las Vegas, which was faster than flying in the long run. I prayed all the way up there that we'd make it in time to say goodbye, and she'd know I was there.
God answered my prayers. I made it in time, and she knew I was there. I held her hand to my cheek, and told her how much I loved her, and thanked her for being such a treasure in my life. I promised to take care of my brother. I told her she'd be home in just a few minutes. It would be oh so sad for us, but she'd feel so good, and she couldn't imagine how beautiful things would be! Just a few more kisses later, and Carol flew away, leaving all her pain and cancer behind.
Much sooner than we think, we'll all be together again. Life here on this earth is like a vapor. It's here. It's gone. Waiting for heaven may seem like forever, but it's only one heartbeat away. One heartbeat.
"Thank You, Lord, for placing this precious woman in my life. Thank You for using her to shape so much of what my life is now. Welcome her now to Your home, and comfort those of us who must go on without her. Help us remember that she's only one heartbeat away. Amen."