“Just another guy with a blog.  No big whoop.”

October 8, 2009

I Miss Caroline

Caroline Schermerhorn, a longtime writer for Envoy Magazine, died of cancer on September 11, 2009. A young wife and mother of six, she was always happy and laughing and cheerfully at the center of so many circles of family, friends, and parish life.

That she is gone now is an ache I feel every day; many times throughout the day. I cannot begin to imagine the anguish her husband, children, and family have been experiencing at her loss. I only worked with her. They lived with her. If I feel an ache, the pain they are feeling now must be beyond words to describe. I ache for them.

When Envoy came back into print after a three-year hiatus from printing, due to a lack funds, Caroline was the first person I called to see about resuming writing for the magazine. She was happily surprised (all of us were) and delighted to get back to writing our "Friends in the Field" and "Diplomatic Corps" profile departments. She was so great at it, and I was delighted that she said "yes." I had no way of knowing that we would only have her writing with us again for just one more year.

One evening last fall, in November I believe it was, Caroline called to let me know that she had cancer and that it had debilitated her to the point where she could no longer continue writing. She was just too weak and sick.

I could hear it in her voice. Her happy laughter, which accounted for about half of every conversation I ever had with her, it seems, wasn't there at all. She sounded so tired, and she didn't laugh — something quite out of character for her. Of course, what was there to laugh about? In that conversation, the last one I had with her, I am sorry to say, she didn't laugh even once. And I knew it was bad.

That's when it hit me that Caroline would be leaving us soon. I tried to push that impossible thought from my mind, hoping and praying, along with countless others who knew and loved her, that she would just . . . get better.

I miss her. I miss her laughter and happiness and her excellent writing. And I want to share some of it with you here. She wrote the following article on her blog back in May of 2004. It is vintage Caroline. Her joy, gratitude, and love shine through each line. Re-reading her words now makes that ache I feel ache a little harder, but almost in a good way. I am sad for us, yes, but I am happy, so very happy, for her.

She was wrong about one thing, though. It does get even "better than this." Read her article and you'll understand.

P.S. Caroline, you now know that the happy tranquility you experienced on the weekend trip you wrote about was just a tiny pledge and foretaste of the joy and peace that I pray you are experiencing now, in heaven, with God and His angels and saints.

Pray for us. We miss you.

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This!

By Caroline Schermerhorn

As I write this column, I am tucked away in an elegant two-room suite at a northern Michigan golf resort. It is a cloudy, but temperate, 50 degrees outside. Between the lovely gas fireplace in our suite, and an inviting hot tub in the bathroom, some romance and relaxation are a sure bet this weekend.

Having never swung a golf club, I don’t have the usual kind of appreciation for the legendary Weiskopf “Legend” course outside the sliding glass doors. However, there is something exceptionally beautiful about having breakfast while overlooking the eighteenth hole.

We got here last night after a pleasant eight-hour drive, just my husband and I. No Barney tapes, no extra potty stops. I didn't even have to share my drink. We grooved to classic rock, drove for hours without stopping, and guzzled one $2.00 iced cappuccino after another. The car was uncommonly clean, the back seat empty except for our suitcases and a hanging bag with an elegant party dress, suit, and tie. We drank in our old camaraderie, telling jokes, sharing stories, or just holding hands and thinking to the familiar beat of the windshield wipers.

I was in seventh heaven.

“This is the life,” I thought.

When we arrived at the resort, we were seated to a candlelit dinner, tucked away in the dim corner of an elegant restaurant. A talented pianist tinkled the ivories of a shiny black grand piano.

“… and what will you have, young lady?” I looked into the decidedly young eyes of a well-dressed waiter. Young lady? I felt like royalty.

No dishes, no crises. I didn't even have to get up from dinner to find the second ketchup bottle deep in the recesses of the refrigerator. Could anything be so luxurious? “This is the life,” I breathed, sipping a before-dinner drink from a fine crystal glass.

This morning, my husband has a couple of meetings to attend, so I’m alone until lunch time. Completely, gloriously, and unapologetically alone. I sink into the sofa, pour myself a soda, choose an old black and white movie, and settle in for an after breakfast cat nap. With no other person “home” at the moment, I have no needs to look after – except my own. A bubble bath? A quiet bike ride?

This is the life!

We stay up late and sleep in later all weekend long.

By Sunday, I feel just about as relaxed as I've ever been. The smell of morning inspires me to sketch and write as I relax.

Our ride home is equally delightful. We thoroughly enjoy that easy-going, conversational, uninterrupted mode of sharing that we had when we first met.

Once home, it’s time to pick up the children from the various friends who took them in for the weekend. One stop at a time, the six children and their luggage crowd the van, which has been so empty since Friday.

Happy to see each other, hugs and kisses go all around. Almost instantly, the calendar is out, and we are trying to figure out the following day’s schedule. Little League practice was moved up a day, and play rehearsal occurs in the same inning. Dinner needs to be made, bath times scheduled, and laundry cleaned.

Our solitude is a memory of yesterday. The time alone, focused on the eyes of my beloved, is just another twinkle to reminisce over.

Later, in the twilight of the evening, I smell the clean blond curls of my youngest. I savor the sounds of laughing and screaming from the trampoline. I immerse myself in the thoughts voiced by my lovely teenage daughters.

Bedtime hastens. One at a time, I feel the sweet closeness of six goodnight hugs. The eldest disappears up the stairs. The day is over, and I’m ready for bed, too.

But wait, there is one more to attend to… the six-year-old has slipped back downstairs for “one more hug.” His breath is warm on my ear as he whispers, “Mommy, I missed you.”

This is the life.