I wrote this the night before my late wife’s Thanksgiving service in Port Macquarie on Monday 11th November. Because there were massive fires throughout the state of NSW, it meant that a lot of folk who wanted to come to the service, could not do so. This article is to share with them some memories of Carole I would have wanted people to know. I wrote a Tribute to Carole not long after she passed on to be with the Lord. This is to be found on my blogsite www.jimholbeck.blog article number 329. This later article may fill in some of the gaps.
Seemingly insignificant incidents sometimes have great meaning and outcomes
When Carole first began to come to CMS [Church Missionary Society) League of Youth (nothing to do with Communism) meetings and camps I was delighted to see her there, as I had a lot of a lot of admiration for her known achievements for winning prizes in the big Ipswich eisteddfods of that era. There was also her formidable guiding and sporting achievements. At one camp held at the Gold Coast there was a BBQ on the beach. One had to join a queue to receive one’s bread and sausage. Strictly only one serving per person initially! There was a disadvantaged young fellow there, so I decided to collect mine and give it to him and then rejoin the queue. I did and as I arrived back with the meal to give to the young fella I found that Carole had had the very same thought and had beaten me to it! I remember thinking, “Wow! What a thoughtful classy young woman. She seems to put the needs of others above her own.” I discovered that this was not one isolated event. She did self-effacing considerate things ALL the time. A little incident, but it had a major impact on me! I noticed what she had done! I also noticed just who had done it! ( I obviously REALLY noted who had done this act of kindness.) Small incident! Massive eternal outcomes!
Carole gave her life completely to the Lord at a youth camp in Toowoomba. I had been absent for the meeting because of another appointment. When I returned she was there to tell me the good news. She told me much later that she felt she should tell me first because I was the Leader of the group and because I had been kind to her. That touched me more deeply than I realised it could possibly do. Could this intelligent, multi-talented, popular, beautiful young woman ever get to like someone ordinary like me?
At one of our Ipswich youth meetings I asked her to do the reading for the night, knowing it would be read beautifully with feeling. She agreed to do so, even at very short notice. But her face paled a bit when she opened the Bible and found it was the story of the woman of Samaria, a reading of some 42 verses! I discovered that she would do anything for the Lord, even at very short notice! But later on, from time to time she would remind me of the incident with a smile which read, “Don’t you ever do that again!”
An incident in my own life impacted very much later on Carole’s as well. I had been invited to a Leaders in Renewal Conference in Canterbury UK. It was a significant conference. Some who had come to the previous conference had later been martyred for their faith. Some present at this conference had risked their lives in coming. Carole and I at the time were facing our own smaller challenge. We were moving from Armidale to Sydney diocese which had a reputation, in some quarters, for being unfriendly to outsiders coming into the diocese.
When we were asked at the end of the conference to consider what we felt the Lord had said to us during the conference, I thought something like this. GOD has commanded us to love each other with Christ’s love. That is my responsibility. The other person is meant to do the same. If I am faithful in seeking to love the other person with Christ’s love and they reject me, that is their problem, not mine. I am still to keep on reaching out in love to them. The accompanying thought was this, it is only “hurting people” who hurt others. If they were healed or whole, filled with the love of God, they would not hurt others. In other words, when people hurt others, they do so from weakness rather than from strength! They are not to be feared but to be loved. They need help and healing! Carole said she found this liberating in her contact with the many people with whom she had to associate. It meant we had a common attitude and approach to those who were nasty, antagonistic or simply indifferent to us. We were to discover that it did work in practice!
Carole always had a great ability to work with volunteers and with old established groups like the Ladies Guild, even when she was a young clergy wife in her 20’s. At one Guild meeting a very prickly older member showed off some unbreakable cups she thought they should buy for the Guild. With a confident cry, “Look at this!” the woman cast one of the cups to the floor. The unbreakable cup showed its true colours! It shattered all over the floor! Carole contained herself until a couple of other members burst out laughing. She could not control herself any longer as the whole group roared with laughter. Fortunately after a few seconds, the woman herself joined in. The prickly woman had noticed that Carole had not initially burst into laughter, but had exercised some restraint. She was later to become a great admirer of Carole and a close friend.
Carole was always looking around to find someone in need to help. When she was in Royal Prince Alfred hospital in Sydney for a thyroid operation she was well enough to observe the care being given [or not given] to the other 5 patients in the ward. One of the patients was a Muslim woman who spoke no English. Because she couldn’t communicate with the nursing staff Carole would bring them up to date on the woman’s situation. It meant the woman recognised that Carole was responsible for getting the care she had previously missed out on. As the Muslim woman left the ward to go home, she came across to Carole, took both her hands and intimated that she would pray for her. Astonishingly when Carole was leaving the ward to go home some days later, the nursing staff came to say their goodbyes and to thank her for all the help she had been to them during her stay. Unusual I thought! But very understandable! [No nurse ever wants to be accused of neglect of patients even in frantically busy wards.]
In her final days on earth Carole continued to live by her motto, not to use people for her own personal advantage. That applied to her time in hospital. Instead of contacting the nursing staff to help get her to the bathroom, she tried not to disturb them. That led to a number of falls. One wise nurse eventually managed to change Carole’s mind by saying it was their job to get her there and back, not hers, and she was actually making their job harder. Carole always knew the protocols and knew they were right. In humility, she capitulated. She had after all taught OH&S for several years before her retirement.
In the last few days of her life Carole was barely able to communicate. After trying to talk to her without getting any sort of response, I would sit in silence beside her, waiting to see any movement or hear any word. Nothing happened! Suddenly a day or two before her death, she spoke clearly! One word, “Shuttlecock” [a form of badminton.] We had only played a few games together in our marriage, but it was a game she and her parents would play at her home in the late afternoons. It seemed to me that she had been recalling moments of her childhood. Of her beloved parents. Whom she knew she was soon to join!
I have always been filled with utter admiration for the woman she was, and later became. What an amazing woman! What an amazing faithful friend! What an amazing contribution she has made to the lives of all of us who knew her. What amazing contributions she made to the lives she touched, whom we may never meet! But they will be there, like us, to thank her when she greets us with Him in His presence!
The writer of Proverbs 31 asked the question, “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” I can answer the writer’s question with, “Halleluia, I found one! Praise the Lord that He brought us together for almost 54 years of marriage, and ultimately, for ever!” God is good! All the time!
Blog No.330. Posted on http://www.jimholbeck.blog on Monday 11th November 2019.