April 30, 2013
It was January 3, 2012 on a cold, rainy, very foggy night when I made the trip to Cheaha Mountain to visit with my very dear friend, Carolyn Alderson Jackson. Carolyn had been battling breast cancer for three very tough years, and was slowly losing the war. She and her family had rented a chalet there, because it was one of the things on her Bucket List. The fog was so thick on this night that I started to turn around several times before I got there, but I’m glad I didn’t.
She was surprised and very delighted to see me, and we had the best visit. Carolyn lived in Douglasville and I hadn’t seen her in several months, due to problems with her health and mine at the time. We laughed and talked and then laughed some more.
At one point during the visit when we had went outside to sit on the steps alone, she looked at me and said quietly “So, I got something to ask you”. Knowing her tone had changed, I knew the conversation was about to get serious. “Ok…Is this going to make me cry?” I replied. She then dropped her head and spoke to me in a broken whisper “Will you speak at my funeral?”.
I sat there in shock, not knowing what to say, and finally said “Carolyn, it’s an honor that you would think of me for this, but I don’t think I can, I mean, I won’t be able to”. She said “Yes, you can…I know you can. I have faith in you and I will be there with you”. Needless to say, by this point we were both crying. I told her she shouldn’t be talking like this, because she still had a long life to live. She smiled and said “Let’s face it Tammy, I’m not getting any better.” I still tried to argue with her, but she seemed adamant with her request , so I finally agreed, thinking this would not be a dilemma I would be faced with for at least a year and it seemed to make her feel better. It was the last time I would see my dear friend…
Carolyn passed away on January 30, 2013. She was only 49 years old.
The day I received the dreaded call my friend had been taken from me, my first reaction was shock, followed by anger….Sheer anger from the cruelty of losing such a wonderful person who had fought so hard against a cowardly disease such as cancer. If cancer had a face, I would have cursed and beat it many times. But there is no one to release the pain of your emotions to, no one you can convict for the senseless murders of this deadly disease, just no outlet at all other than leaning on your family and friends for comfort. Cancer may as well be a deadly tornado, wreaking havoc on the world, and leaving behind a path of devastation that can never be repaired.
The day of Carolyn’s funeral, I did very well until we all gathered in the room with our beautiful friend for the last time for the final viewing. I began to lose my composure and told my friends there was no way I would be able to speak. They comforted me and told me I could, but I couldn’t seem to gather my wits. Shortly before I was called to speak, I felt a calm sense of peace come over me and I knew instantly Carolyn was with me. I delivered her eulogy with a serenity that I know she was proud of, because her spirit was there with me the entire time.
Whenever I think of Carolyn now, I think of her with a radiant smile on her face, because you never saw her without one. She was the picture of life, with a big heart and loving soul that never met a stranger. She would envelope you in her arms from the moment of meeting and take you in much like a stray animal, as any true friend would do. I try my best not to think of her with sadness, because I know her cancer-ridden body is made whole again now…but at times I feel as a hole is in my soul because I miss her so much. It’s a selfish act on my part, but we are all human. When I have a funny story, I still want to call her and share it with her. I can still hear her delightful laugh in my mind. It’s the thing I try to hold onto the most. For I know she would not want me to be sad….
Carolyn became a very serious advocate of breast cancer and never passed up an opportunity to rally for the cure. Pink became her signature color. In fact, it was the color we all wore to her funeral.
Relay for Life was very important to her. So, this Friday night, I will attend Relay for Life , May 3 at Upchurch Field in celebration and remembrance of my very dear friend’s life in hopes that a cure will soon be found for this awful disease that has shattered the lives of not only its victims, but their family and friends too. I will also celebrate with the survivors, who have managed to beat this disease, which does not discriminate against any one particular person. We will all be there, the survivors, the families and friends of the victims, and all others whose lives have been affected by cancer in some way…joining forces in this fight in hopes we can change the statistics of the future for the better. Won’t you join me??