December 31, 2012 10:00:01 AM
"Can you take care of the chickens?" Carolyn asked. "It's just overnight."
"You've gotta be kidding. I don't know anything about chickens."
"All you have to do is put them in the chicken house. Open the door and they'll go in."
"But what if they don't?" I asked.
"They will," she explained. "Haven't you ever heard 'going to bed with the chickens?'"
I've never known anyone with a harder life, nor anyone who counted her blessings more than Carolyn. Carolyn had a fairytale marriage that went south long after it should have. Together they begat five children who often became estranged or formed varying alliances with one another.
Once I agreed with Carolyn to pray for a restored relationship with the children. Not long after, half the children moved in with her. Carolyn laughed and said, "Perhaps we should be careful what we pray for."
In time, Carolyn's house fell into disrepair to the point owls and pigeons inhabited the upstairs. She applied for a small grant to help fix the house. It was a long time coming. The men at Shaeffer's Chapel wanted to help but doubted if they had the manpower for such a big job. One day, Curtis, the pastor, Dickie and Jacky, members, got in a pickup and drove down the road to the Mennonite Disaster office.
"Maybe they can help," said Curtis.
"I think they just do disasters," Dickie said.
After explaining Carolyn's situation, the men left. The next day the Mennonite office called and said a team of workers would be available to fix Carolyn's house at no charge. Carolyn's house was fixed and later painted a bright yellow. It looked like a big ball of sunshine sitting on a hill. Carolyn said the house was another miracle.
While rolling some fencing around the barn Carolyn almost cut her foot off. Ever after, she dragged the foot slightly but never complained. Nor did she complain when she lost sight in one eye. "Doctor said I might get it back and I might not, but that's OK. I get the TV remote and the telephone mixed up," she said.
A decade ago Carolyn helped take care of my momma. A couple of days a week she would take momma to run errands, to the grocery, or just ride around and get ice cream. "Rambling," she called it. Carolyn was family.
One day I slipped into the hospital room where Carolyn was sleeping. 'Bout half an hour later she opened one eye, "How long have you been sitting there?"
We sat in the dark and shared memories; she said that she missed momma. She talked about being tired and how she wasn't going to get any better. I couldn't argue, so I said, "Just do your best."
After 73 years, Carolyn's heart plum gave out. Five days before Christmas we had her memorial service. Carolyn had done her best, not just that day but every day.
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.
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