Monday, March 12, 2012

Life, death, and all that matters

I got a ring last night from a student caller at my alma mater asking for money, as usual.  My first thought was that I had only recently made an alumni donation for the year, so it seemed too soon for another one.  The young woman asked if I remembered a particular professor from the Comm Studies department there.  Of course I do, as she was one of my favorite instructors.  Come to find out, they're creating a scholarship in her name because she died back in December. 

The news struck me.  Dr. Koehler and I had corresponded just back in November, less than four months ago.  I had no idea she had since had open-heart surgery and later died at home.  My email was sent because I wanted her to know what an important influence she had been for me in college and that I had mentioned her in my novella.  She was basically the person referenced with the main character's line, 
Noting some wise words from a former college professor, she tried to remember never to treat anyone there as if she was better than them.  She had sought out the mentor's advice about her apprehension of moving back to small-town life.
There are people in life who ground you.  I needed to hear those words from my own real-life mentor at a time when being humble was necessary.  It makes me wonder if the universe sends people your way specifically, but I'm not a big believer in fate.  Let's call it serendipity or a lucky coincidence.  

Regardless, she said to stay in touch and asked me to send her my address, but I hadn't done that.  My vacation and the holidays were coming up, and I didn't get around to it.  Now I regret it so much.  Never put off doing something that you may not be able to do tomorrow.  While I feel overwhelming grateful to have heard from her in a couple different emails, I am sorry for not staying touch.  It would have been right before her surgery, and now it's too late.   
Her obituary mentioned doing a selfless thing for another person in Carol's honor.  A "pay it forward" type of thing was what she would want people to do in her memory.  It was sad to learn so many wonderful things about her from the obit that I wished I had known while she was alive.  She was so insightful, no doubt from her experiences and travels.  There were over a hundred comments just on that condolence site.  I can't imagine knowing that many people, much less having them give online praise like she deservedly received.  

Hers was a life that touched so many people in such outstanding positive ways.  I can't remember reading the word "love" so many times in one place online.  A multitude of expressions of love given and received there.  There are so few truly inspirational people in this world, and we're definitely missing one of them now.  

‎"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." - Dr. Seuss 
(in honor of Dr. Carol M. Koehler, 1938-2011)

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