It was only a week ago and 20 months after my wife Carole passed away that we came across a message she had left for her friends. It was on the last page of an exercise book she had been using in the weeks before she passed away. I was quite moved by it because I knew how much she loved all her friends and how grateful she was for all the positive contributions they had imparted into her life throughout her lifetime.
I didn’t know she had written the message, nor did she tell me about it. But I can imagine her sitting at her desk probably after ringing one of her friends knowing that her time to depart this life was rapidly approaching. Chemotherapy had come to an end for it was having no effect on the cancer that was spreading throughout her body. A recent series of mini-strokes meant that it was becoming harder for her to communicate. It seems she had reflected on her life and been so grateful to God for all her friends in life that she had to leave a Thank You note for her friends before it was too late to do so. It is a simple message but I know the emotion and the depth of feeling that would have been behind it, as she wrote the words.
This was the simple message.
Email to Friends
“If you are getting this, then I must be with the Lord.
What a privilege it has been to know you and to experience your loving acceptance over the years. Thank you!”
Carole had collected lots of friends from the time she arrived in Australia as a four year old. She lived initially in Booval and then in East Ipswich and had many friends in the neighbourhood during her primary school days. Being a leader in Girl Guides and later in GFS [Girls Friendly Society] added to their number. She valued a friend she had made at a Girl Guide [Brownies] camp near Brisbane perhaps in her early teens when they shared a tent together. They were still good friends at the time of her death. She was blessed to have classmates at her senior Primary School classes many of whom remained friends until she died. She loved attending their reunions whenever she could.
She loved her Ipswich Girls Grammar School and added friends there, many of whom were boarders from throughout the state. Being made Sports Captain of the school was a recognition of her sporting prowess and of her friendly leadership qualities. She loved school reunions and enjoyed meeting up with her former school friends there, even several decades later.
Probably because of the number of her Ipswich friends at Teachers College, Carole was selected as the female Student Representative on The Teachers College Council. Later she attended Queensland University to become a Physical Education teacher and represented the Uni at hockey. Upon graduation she was appointed to be a Physical Education teacher in the Brisbane-Ipswich region and made friends among the teachers in many of the schools she visited in her role. When we were married in 1966 there were many of her pupils from Brassall High school present at the wedding.
Church life brought Carole into a whole new group of very friendly young people and especially through her leadership role at GFS and as part of the League of Youth young people from Brisbane, Ipswich and Toowoomba. Many of these folk were still friends when she passed away.
It was a wrench for her when we married and moved immediately to Melbourne for me to finish theological college. She knew no one in Melbourne but she soon attracted a lot of friends from among the teachers and even some students at her high school. She formed close friendships with the wives of other theological students which lasted for decades.
In 1968 we returned to Qld where I was appointed to Coorparoo parish. Friendships she made there still exist today and many of those folk were so kind to her when both Sarah and James were born. In 1972 I was appointed by the Archbishop to the apparently unattractive Mt Gravatt parish. It had a tiny 2 bedroom Rectory which a reporter on church affairs called the worst Rectory on the east coast of Australia. It had no church building. However Carole’s friendly nature attracted a whole bevy of young women into the parish and she had friends galore to share with. There was a real move of the Holy Spirit and over the next 4 years we saw a new church built and also a new Rectory. It became a large and extremely friendly church and again many of those friendships still exist today.
To our surprise we were invited in 1978 to go to Armidale in NSW for me to become the Dean of the Cathedral. That meant leaving virtually all our friends behind in moving to a new state. However we found the folk there were very friendly and welcoming and we soon formed many friendships. In fact 2 of Carole’s long term friends from there passed away just a few weeks before she did after very close friendships for over 41 years. It was a great time together in Armidale and a lot of deep friendships were formed.
There was yet another change for us in 1988 when I was invited to become the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew’s Cathedral, in Sydney. We moved there to find that the folk attached to the Ministry were very friendly and Carole was very welcoming to those who came to the Centre where we lived and ministered. Carole’s friendliness and deep concern for people encouraged many folk to become more involved at the Healing Ministry Centre and at the Healing Services in the Cathedral.
When our daughter was married in the Cathedral in Sydney in 2006 Carole invited all those in contact with the Healing Ministry who would like to attend the service to do so and made provision for all present to have afternoon tea together following the service. We were both surprised at the number of folk who accepted the invitation and attended. That was yet another sign of the friendship that Carole had imparted to all the Healing Ministry people, a friendship they returned so richly.
2006 was also the year that Carole decided to retire as Senior Head Teacher of TAFE at Loftus. Her send-off was quite an amazing event not only for the numbers who attended but also for the warmth of the tributes that were paid to her. Another amazing event was a farewell from her friends at the park where she regularly walked our dog Geordie. Some 80 plus people turned up [with 80 plus dogs] to wish her well on our retirement move to Port Macquarie. I decided to retire a few months later and we moved to Port Macquarie where we knew very few people. But Carole became involved in many church groups where people of all age groups reached out in friendship to her. Our retirement in Port Macquarie has been a great blessing to both of us and I know so many of her friends were so very sad to see her become weaker in the final weeks and to pass away. We did do a locum at Yamba in Maclean parish for almost 12 months from late 2011 but left there to do our final teaching trip to Florida. Even in that short time, many friendships were formed and parishioners appreciated her warm personality.
I should mention our friends in Winter Park in Florida and at Birmingham, Alabama. We had been invited there to teach on Healing for their Healing Ministry and we kept being invited back to Winter Park every year for 9 years. We would minister there on most days for a month every year and Carole enjoyed being able to minister deeply to people’s needs in such a relaxed situation. She maintained the friendships we established there by phone, email and Facebook until her death.
I suppose that I as Carole’s husband have to mention that she was a “Friend Par Excellence” to innumerable people, but the purpose of this writing is to say how much Carole appreciated all her friends and how she obviously wanted me to say “thank You” to them on her behalf. In her own words “What a privilege it has been to know you and to experience your loving acceptance over the years. Thank you!”
Carole wanted you to see that she saw every friendship as a great privilege the Lord had bestowed on her and to express her deep gratitude for your loving acceptance. “THANK YOU!” [From Carole, and me.]
Blog No.381. Posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Sunday 04 July 2021.