How do you say goodbye to one of your best friends? I was caught off guard when Carol called me to say she was going to hospice. Three weeks earlier, she was given a clean bill of health. I had booked a visit to see her this month to celebrate her finishing chemo. She explained on the phone that her stomach filled with liquid and was quite uncomfortable. The doctor drained her belly and upon further testing stated that she had stage 4 cancer stemming from her challenge with colon cancer. Carol was given a short time to live.
Carol said come now or you can say goodbye from afar. “I don’t think I can make it until the end of January, not to mention February,” she shared. I rushed to Ashville to be by her side. We shared memories that only close friends with a long 25 year history know about each other – frustrations with our moms, flirtations with men, sharing our dreams and aspirations, silly things that made us laugh.
One of our favorite memories was when we were both invited to a get together at a lovely home with a swimming pool. Carol and I sat poolside drinking a glass of wine. The hostess had a yappy dog that wouldn’t stop barking. The atmosphere went from serene to distressing because of this annoying dog’s bark. The dog seemed to sense our displeasure and came over to the pool’s edge near us to continue his rant. When no one was looking except Carol, I flicked my bare foot and stealthily pushed the dog into the pool. Everyone near the pool applauded, except the hostess… Carol and I laughed hard about that.
Carol brought out my creative side. We would dress in costume to go to the Renaissance Festival at least once a year – here in Tampa and also in NC. She was my Halloween pal as well. It was like two little girls who grew up and still played dress up. I called her Lady Caroline and she called me by my Polish name, Lady Marysia.
Carol came down to be with me after my heart surgery in 2014. She rubbed my feet and neck and assured me that I would recover and thrive. It was Lady Caroline who for many years urged me to consider starting the Key Women’s Leadership Forum. She felt like the work I did with CEOs could be expanded to executive women with a focus not only on business and career, but alignment with what is purposeful in life – mind, body and spirit. She was and continues to be an inspiration to me.
Lady Caroline passed at 3:45am on Monday, January 29.