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FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Farewell to a true Southern lady

Carole Townsend

Carole Townsend

EDITOR'S NOTE: Carole Townsend, a correspondent for the Daily Post, is beginning a new blog called Food For Thought. It is available online at www.gwinnettdailypost.com/townsend.

Please bear with me today while I take a moment to say a public goodbye to a woman who, as it turns out, was a very dear friend to me. We had known each other for years but didn't really get close until she got sick about 18 months ago. I'm sorry to say, I didn't really grasp what an incredible woman she was until then. I believe I wrote about her a few weeks ago, so you may remember something about her. She passed away last week at the tragically young age of 42.

My friend learned a year and a half ago that she had a very aggressive cancer racing through her body. If I had heard that, or even suspected that, about myself I would have instantly become a quivering, crying mess. I would have checked out of life, leaving my family and friends to try to figure things out for themselves. I am not proud of that. I think losing my mother when I was a teen did a number on me with respect to the "Big C."

My friend, however, with unshakeable faith, courage and optimism, opened her eyes wide and immersed herself in her life and loved ones. She welcomed new friends, cherished old ones and emotionally propped up friends she met during her medical treatments. She never, and I mean never, missed an opportunity to say, "I love you" to someone she loved. She prayed, she laughed and she greeted every day with a thankfulness that I am only beginning to understand. And in doing all this, she taught me a few things about being a woman, and about being alive.

First, a woman can be as tough as nails and as fragile as a rose petal all at the same time. She can be a great mom and wife no matter her circumstances. She always has room for one more friend, and she always has just a little bit more to give. She speaks volumes even if only able to utter a whisper. She changes lives simply by the way she lives her own.

My friend was a Southern lady, inside and out. No, I do not mean she had a drippy Southern accent and only wore white after the Kentucky Derby and before Labor Day. I mean she was kind, generous, unassuming and powerful all at the same time. I never saw her leave her house without looking absolutely wonderful, even when she was sick. I don't think I ever heard her speak an unkind word about anyone, ever. Kind of makes me wonder why she was friends with me, although now I get it. She didn't need my influence; I needed hers.

At the risk of sounding like I'm making a few empty vows, these things I can say in all honesty:

1) I'll probably never lose my weird, humorous take on things, but I can promise you that I'll never recklessly turn it on someone else again. I wouldn't want to disrespect her in that way. I will, however, remain honest in my humor, so this might be a tough one.

2) I will check myself before saying a harsh word to anyone. For some reason, we always find it easier to unload on those who love us most. There's something inherently wrong with that thinking.

3) I will not start another day dreading something that has to be done that day. Instead, I will be thankful that I have that day before me.

4) I will not measure my life and my worth by money and stuff and position. I will instead measure my worth in friends. I get it now.

To my friend, you probably have no idea how many lives you blessed with your sweet countenance, soft voice and kind heart. I'm glad you counted me among them. You were truly a great lady, and I thank you for your sweet lessons.

Carole Townsend is a freelance writer and a 25-year resident of Gwinnett County. As a mom, a wife, a former corporate executive, stay-at-home mom and correspondent for the Daily Post, she brings a unique perspective to life and living it in Gwinnett. "Food for Thought" gives Gwinnettians a forum where they can share perspectives, opinions, advice and solutions, as well as enjoy a few chuckles.