Those were Caroline’s words early that evening in June 1982, “How good it is to see you today.” We were alone together in a room on the third floor of Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Caroline was a close personal friend of mine, my sister-in-law, Melanie’s aunt, Peggy’s sister, Allen’s wife. Caroline was quite ill and had been for several years.
Fifteen years earlier as a young school teacher, she moved to Atlanta from the mountains of Western Virginia. She soon met Allen who worked for the newspaper. They liked each other and they married. Not much more than a year and a few months later, doctors discovered in Caroline a very rare disease. In layman’s terms, her body was rejecting her liver.
She tried to continue her school teaching assignment but she had to leave due to poor health. Doctors knew very little about the disease and how to treat it. She was in and out of the hospital many times for long periods. They treated her with steroids and what ever else seemed to help.
Over several years the disease and the drugs and the medicines took their toll. She had a leg amputated above the knee. They tied off her spleen. They removed her gall bladder. She developed cataracts, which were eventually removed. She was always ill on the inside. Her spirits stayed high.
One day in the hospital during one of the several stays in which no one knew whether she would ever go home, she decided to take matters into her own hands. She gradually stopped the drugs, the chemicals, the medicines. She went home and under her care, Allen’s care and the care of friends and family, she began a program of healthy eating, rest and as much exercise as she could get. She got out of the wheelchair and with the help of a prosthesis and a cane; she walked as much as she could.
She got better. She knew she would never get well, none the less, she got better. She extended her life by several years, mainly through a positive attitude toward herself and toward all of life and what that means. She became a true inspiration to all who knew her.
In early 1982, her condition worsened. She was in the hospital more than at home. Friends and family visited often and in June, someone was with her most of the time. I wish we had kept a register of those who helped in those months of 1982.
That day in June, I spent the afternoon with Caroline and away from work. It was early evening and it was time for me to go, for someone else to come be with Caroline for a while. We hadn’t said much. We didn’t need to. I had her hand in both of mine as I stood up saying something like; “I’ll be going now. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“It’s so good to see you today,” was Caroline’s reply. “Yes it was, and I’ll stop by for a while tomorrow. I’ll see you tomorrow.” “But you must understand,” said Caroline as she looked in my direction with eyes that I knew had some days earlier ceased to see, “how good it is to see you today.”
That’s when it hit me. She was right. “How good it is to see you TODAY.” This is today. This is now. This is not a practice session, a warm-up, a workout, this is it. This is truly all we have. My life changed that day.
Caroline left us a few hours later or maybe it was a day or two later. That doesn’t matter. The message does. She learned it for herself and she passed it on to me. When things look foreboding, when I start losing sight of what is really important, when I start focusing internally and away from what really matters, I think of that common sense message Caroline delivered to me that evening in June 1982, “How good it is to see you today.”
Thank you, Caroline, thank you.
It is time today for me to be out there looking for Trouble in Cedar Key.
Copyright © by Gene Benedict 4 October 2017