Remembering Carolyn

May 21, 2020

B. Aug. 10, 1949

D. May 23, 2017

Most anniversaries celebrate longevity and joy. Then there are the anniversaries that widows know. Where do you find something to celebrate or be joyful about there?

Saturday will mark the third anniversary of Carolyn’s death, and life has gone on. The five stages of grief go on as well, though, with ever changing differences in intensity and frequency. No one can have the effect on another person the way Carolyn had on me and just disappear from present memory. The two emotions that fuel a widow’s memory are the sadness of loss and the joy of being blessed by that spouse’s life.

Carolyn was a single woman for most of her adult life, and was not looking for the likes of me to bring her fulfillment or completion. For reasons I’ll never comprehend, I did bring her fulfillment and completion. And it made me happier than I’d ever been in my life to that point to see that happiness expressed in her smile and laughter. That’s what I missed most when she died, but there was also a joy that I’d been able to experience her happiness for the almost six years that I did. Sadness and joy continue, even as the years may smooth the hard edges of both.

“My life is richer having known Carolyn, and I’ve applied my commitment to making her happy to Carol now, who is just as appreciative, wishing only that Carolyn had maybe done a better job of teaching me how to fold clothes in a suitcase.”

Carolyn’s joy in travel lives on in her Go See Stuff Travel Award, now in its third year at the University of Puget Sound, located in Carolyn’s adopted home state of Washington. This year a total of $3400 will be distributed among three UPS students.

Matt Roge (’22) plans to use part of his award to do what he calls “WWOOFing,” which apparently involves working on German farms. (German farms were something that was always near and dear to Carolyn.) He wrote: “It really means the world to me to be given more of an opportunity to travel whilst abroad in Germany!”

Eli Nordstrom (’22) is a double major in German and Environmental Policy and Decision Making, and will be spending the 2020-2021 academic year in Munich, Carolyn’s favorite city, and where she and I had first met in 1971. “I plan to work with environmental groups and agencies while I am there, and bring back a more European perspective to the US to make active change,” Eli wrote.

Travel abroad for these students may look different going forward, but it will continue. I’m particularly pleased to see one recipient who plans a future working on changing our environment. Carolyn would be happy and proud as well. We never completely go away when we die, do we?

My life is richer having known Carolyn, and I’ve applied my commitment to making her happy to Carol now, who is just as appreciative, wishing only that Carolyn had maybe done a better job of teaching me how to fold clothes in a suitcase.

I can’t explain how I’ve managed to be so blessed by two women, both of whom brim with positivity. It’s such a contrast to someone like me who tends to view It’s A Wonderful Life as dystopian. I guess you could say that as couples go, we make a good car battery.

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