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Where will you go?

I closed my eyes……

I took a long walk up a path. To my right was a forest with depth and darkness of trees, hiding secrets, lining my way.  To my left was the greenest of valleys.  The hills rolled across the planes with velvety greenery, providing a space of vastness expanding as far as the eye could see, meeting up with the darkness of the sky, fading into one.

As I walked, the path lost it’s roots and larger stones and became sandy and full of gravel.  The path became arid and dry.  At the end of the path towards the top of the mountain was a cave.  There at the cave entrance was a fire dancing, inviting me to join.  I sat in close proximity to the flames towards the opening of the cave.  The fire never burned nor did the smoke blind my vision.  Past the dance of the flames, he was there.  His face weathered from the sun, changing from masculine to feminine.  It was his face I saw first and then she was there, and then changing back.

I asked, “What is it I need to do?”

He looked at me with eyes as deep as the ocean and knowledge as vast as time.  I heard him but without language.  There before me the sky appeared bright, as if a million stars of a million ancestors were answering for him.  It was then I learned that it was them, the ancestors that were the answer.  Never to lose sight of them.  Thoughts came to be of Sophie and then thoughts of Cary’s family.  Those long gone and those gone for no so long.  It was for the connection not to be lost.  To continue to honor those passed on and hold their souls close to my heart.  Teach my child of those connections and provide her with a base of wisdom.

He then gave me a gift.  It was a peace pipe.  I became the peace pipe and could then see all the beauty that I hide.  I thought of the animals of where the leather came from, whose hands crafted such a significant and beautiful piece.  I quickly gave a moment of thanks.  I returned to hold the peace pipe.  I could feel the strength, the steadiness for which I longed.  The pipe was the masculine I had been searching for.  It’s strength and beauty mesmerized me.

I was sad to go.  I wanted to stay………  but it was time to come back.

Those journeys aren’t so far off, whether here or there or just up the hill.

Where will you go?


Little Girl Lost, Part 3

I followed that gurney down all of those long hallways.  I saw tubes. I knew what they were doing….breathing for him.  And, I was just trying to hold on……

The nurse led us to the cath lab waiting area, where I had spent the better part of my Thursday morning while he had the stent placed.  And, we sat….and waited.

Finally, the nurse came to get me and had us meet them on the 4th floor, building E.  I couldn’t even walk in there….. The CCU doctor looked at me with sad eyes and told me to go home, take my medicine and get some rest.   I remember in that moment telling him I didn’t take medicine.  That seemed like an odd thing….but a reminder of something I always said to Dad that I wouldn’t take all that shit he does.  This was especially the case if he was arguing about food and whether organic was any good or not.  I told him to leave me alone and he could eat his hot dogs, because I knew I couldn’t stop that.

I stood in the hall for a moment and then walked in his room.  I remember feeling so defeated.  What had I done to him?  What was going to happen now? I was scared.  I looked him in the eyes and told him I was so sorry.  I kept saying it.  I told him I loved him.  I asked him over and over if he knew I loved him and he would nod yes every time.  I felt so helpless.  I was suppose to take care of him, not let this happen.  But, I couldn’t say stop when I should have……

The next two days were draining but I was there.  I made sure Alice saw him because she was the only thing that could light his face.  I would sit and hold his hand.  I asked him by Sunday night if it was ok if I went to work on Monday and he nodded yes.  He had the most impeccable work ethic of anyone I knew and I knew he would not want me to miss work because of him.  I told him I would be back in the morning before work.  He nodded yes.  He couldn’t even hug me because his hands were tied down.

Monday I saw him in the morning and then came back after work.  I was so excited because I got a call that he was extubated today.  He was able to breathe with the mask.  I was so happy to see him on Monday evening.  I sat with him for a while.  I went home thinking that he would be ok and that all was going to get better, even if it took a long time.

10:30pm… cell phone rang.  I thought, “who the hell is calling this late from an unknown number.”  Then the house phone rang……I saw the caller ID.  My heart dropped. The CCU doctor was calling me to tell that his breathing was labored and I should come.  He was adamant that I do not drive.  I ran…… I ran to the neighbors to ask them to take Alice.  I could barely breath myself.  I was terrified.  We got to the building and Cary let me out.  I ran…. “oh God, oh God” was all I said as I sped through the waiting area outside of CCU, which would become my bedroom for the night.  I got to his room.

All he said to me was, “My time is short.”  I was so lost……. I talked to the doctor and the nurse.  I came back and he asked, “Do they think I’m going to die?”  I quickly replied, “You’re the one that said your time was short.”  I sat there….holding his hand.  I was not ready to let go.  I waited in the hall for a moment and asked Cary, “Is this it?” and he said, “yes.”   I didn’t know what to feel anymore.

As I sat there, I asked Dad if he was scared and he said, “no.”  I asked him if mom was there or his parents were there and he shook his head no.  At some point in the middle of the night, he asked for paper and pen.  It took me 3 days to realize what he had drawn.  All the information I had was when he drew it, I asked if the “A” was for Alice and if it was my Alice or his Alice and he looked at me and said “your Alice.”  He wanted to make sure that she had the cash that was left in the drawer of his dresser.

At one point in the middle of the night, he made a circular motion with his right index finger and said “light.”  I again asked if my mom was there or his mom and he shook his head no.  I asked if Jesus was there and he shook his head “yes.”  Somehow I found some comfort in that.  I mean I hope when I die Jesus is standing there waiting for me too….of course I want my family there as well.

I sat all night sometimes in the waiting room and sometimes just holding his hand.  I sat there a lot when morning came.  Then the nurse shift happened….and there was Amber.

She was like an angel.  All of my questions that I tried to get an answer to in the middle of the night that I felt were being evaded were going to be answered.  I had tried to talk to the night nurse about the light and what would happen when he does pass. I gave her the card to the medical center where he was being donated.  She couldn’t read the card but didn’t offer any words of encouragement that she would take care of it.  I think she may have been overwhelmed with my ramblings.

So, Amber, who always had a smile, was there.  That morning was so busy.  Doctors coming in and going.  Our wonderful neighbor who kept Alice came by and even sent the doctor that she works for to check on him.  The nephrologist came by.  Not my favorite one, Dr. Thompson but his associate, who we have met before.  He seemed quite confused as to the situation and didn’t understand why were were stopping medications and the oxygen.  Then in the midst of everything my phone rings…. It was Carroll’s mom, Bitsy.  Like an angel that dropped out of the sky…..there she was.

She showed up.  Jen had been wonderful to pick Alice up at 6:30 in the morning from the neighbor and then bring to the hospital.  I think somewhere in there I had tried to explain to Alice that Grandpa wasn’t doing well and wouldn’t be coming home….or at least I thought I was saying those things.

Little Girl Lost, Part 2

It’s unbelievable that time has gone by in what seems so fast.   March 23rd, 2004 was the most heart wrenching moment I would have to ever face, so I thought.  That was the day my mom died.  There are moments in life when it seems like it was just a few days ago and at times it seems like a lifetime ago.  I miss her incredibly and at times I’m not even sure what that means.   But, today… really sucked.  For the past seven years on this day, I would go sit next to my dad and he would give me a hug.  He didn’t care if I cried.  So, today it’s really him that I am missing.

I get a little confused in my head sometimes when I remember the moment of my grandmother’s death and how my mom told me, as I watched her cry, that one day I would understand when she was gone how much harder it was to lose your mom.  I think maybe she wasn’t as lucky to have such an awesome dad like I did. I don’t know since he died the week before I turned one.  Then of course there are the family stories and if any of that is true, I definitely got the better parent!

It’s also hard because I’ve fought back and forth between the sadness and the peace.  I miss my dad so incredibly much that my heart breaks just like it did when she died.  I sometimes would feel guilty after he died with all of the “what-ifs.”

December 9th, 2016……I stood in the hallway as they rolled my dad back for surgery.  I couldn’t even look at him.  After sitting in the same waiting room as I had the day before, I recall being quite irritated with the priest from his church but let him say the prayer for my dad anyway.  I didn’t understand why he couldn’t stay and was not in a place to argue that he should stay and my dad would be out of surgery soon.  Didn’t he get what I had just been through?  Thank goodness Jen was there to help deal with him or I might have punched that priest.

After the surgery, we followed him back down the long hallway to the next building.  It was there that I couldn’t go to him, as they wheeled him into that room.  Finally, I stood there long enough for the doctor to say something.  I then went in and all I could say was “I’m sorry.”  I cried.  I cried because how could I do this to him? How could I cause him pain? This isn’t what we discussed.  This wasn’t what was written on the DNR paperwork.  This wasn’t how it was suppose to happen.  But then yet it was…….

There was no way I could go with losing another parent and not having them tell me they love me.  I understand my mom was in so much pain.  I knew dad was in pain.  I was so sorry they pounded on his chest and shocked him back to life.  And now, now he had a tube down his throat to breathe for him.  I looked in his eyes and asked if he knew how much I loved him.  He nodded yes.  He held my hand and squeezed it.  I looked at him with such sadness looking back at me.  I was so sorry.  I didn’t know what to say or what to do.  I worked really hard to keep coming to see him over the next two days as much as I could.

Monday, I got word that he had been extubated.  I didn’t know he was going to be on the full face mask but he was.  He tried to talk to me a little.  I still hadn’t heard what I needed to hear.  He encouraged me to go to work and to go home the last two days so I could be with Alice.  I stayed with him a while and held his hand.  After I left, it was only a couple of hours later, I got a call…… Med City said the caller ID.  My heart sank.

The doctor told me not to drive myself.  I ran through the house getting dressed and out the door to the neighbors to have them watch Alice.  I couldn’t yell any more than I did at Cary to drive faster.  Once there, I jumped from the car and ran, ran like dad couldn’t run, yelling “Oh my God” the whole way to the 4th floor and through the waiting room, past a blur of other families standing there……  For the next 15 hours I sat next to his bed.

When I first ran into his room, he looked at me with such intensity in his eyes and told me, “My time is short.”  Over the next couple of hours I sat watching him.  I would try to lie down in the waiting room for a little bit off and on but just got back up and went next to his bed.  At one point, he was swirling his finger around and said, “light.”  I asked him over and over during this time if my mom was there.  He would shake his head no.  He did the same when I asked if grandma or grandpa was there.  It was when I asked him if Jesus was there that he shook his head yes.  I felt such relief and peace with knowing this.  It wasn’t until later that I realized in talking with someone I trust with all my heart that yes my mom was there….. she was part of the light.

It was early morning and another wonderful soul who is like a mother to me showed up to be with me.  She stayed right by my side until his last breath.  I don’t know how she knew I needed her but I did and she was there.

In all of what seemed to be the chaos of those last moments, I would say have no regrets.  But I did for a moment.  I left him lying in that room when it was over with his mouth open and for whatever reason that bothered me.  Maybe because it was a reminder that he had lost a tooth and we had not taken the time nor spent the money to have his other teeth pulled.  But, he had been so stubborn and I wasn’t really sure knowing with his medical history he would have made it through the surgery.  Hadn’t I been taking care of the other doctor appointments?  I had tried.  Maybe I felt guilty that we didn’t go the cardiologist sooner than we had.  Maybe the shame of feeling like I didn’t do enough to take care of him after I had promised my mom I would.  I don’t know.  It was all so overwhelming at times.  But, I know that I could only stand there and hold his hand….this man who held me as a baby, carried me when I was little, taught me about life, took care of me, and loved me unconditionally……. was gone.  Just like that… more heartbeat no more breathing no more moments no more……..

It took many hours that morning, days later and even weeks later to realize that I did everything I was suppose to do.  I let him have his dignity.  I let him make the choice to stop the medicine pumping his heart and let him choose to stop the oxygen mask.  And that, as his daughter, was all I could do.  I’m still sorry for any pain I caused…..that will take some time to heal.

But, after his mask came off, I heard it.  I heard him say, “I love you too.”  And that was what I needed.  As selfish as it may have been, I needed that.

I miss him…… a lot.

Lost Little Girl, Part 1

It started the weekend of Thanksgiving.  We had a great meal at our favorite buffet at the Four Seasons.  Of course the day started out as many holidays had with Dad saying he didn’t feel good.  I told him he would be ok and we would go and have a nice time.  And truly we did.

Over the next couple of days we started to get ready for a frost that was coming and I wanted to get the hoses put away and the pipes outside covered.  I was putting the plastic over the hose and asked Dad, who was watching over me I’m sure to make sure I did it right, if I just needed to put bricks along the bucket so the wind wouldn’t blow it.  He starts taking off to get the bricks and I tell him to wait I will do it.  But there he goes…..Mr. Stubborn.  The next thing I know my husband said there were bricks flying over the fence.  I walked back to the side of the house to look in the window and see Dad running towards his room.  I instantly dropped everything.  I knew something was wrong and I believe those were the only words to come out of my as I stood in the driveway, dropping everything to run inside as fast as  I could. I found Dad sitting in the chair unable to catch his breath.  I asked if I needed to call 911 and of course he said no.  I sat in distress, frozen….I’m just a kid what the hell am I suppose to do.  Mom had left me with the task of taking care of him…and I’m trying.  I’M 45 YEARS OLD AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL TO DO!  Then he says it….words I never hoped to hear from him…. “I’m in so much pain I just want to die.”  There it was……out there.   My heart shattered.  I couldn’t believe it.  Not again……..  I had already heard this three other times in life where it hurt so bad I couldn’t catch my breath…… first was my Mom, then my great aunt (a week before my daughter was born), and then my aunt.

I made sure to talk to my uncle that next day when he called and told him everything.  I called him again the next morning and promptly hung up to call the cardiologist.  He went in on Wednesday for a stress test.  Thursday, he had a stent placed.  Everyone said it was no big deal.  I guess I really thought that too and that he would be as good as new, just like when he had the pacemaker put in, and he would be fine.  Friday came and I went to pick him up at the hospital. He was having difficulty breathing again and I asked the nurses. They were quite conservative with wanting to check him out completely before discharging him, asking me if I was in a hurry.  I was not and reminded Dad that we needed to be patient until we were told it was ok to leave.  The cardiologist even came to check on him and then let us go.

It was early December, the 9th to be exact the first time he died.  We were sitting in the living room.  He didn’t even want to sit with us at the dinner table to eat.  I checked on him and all seemed well.  Then Alice and I started to watch a movie, Elf.  I noticed that he was starting to have a little bit of difficulty with breathing.  I sent her to bed and went in to check on him.  I even moved his furniture like he asked.  He told me it was too hard to breathe when he laid down and he wanted to sit up.  I started to panic again.  But, I did whatever he wanted.  I was trying to do my best.  Then the difficulty breathing began.  I already told him we had to go to the ER.  He said in short breaths, “I’ll be ok”….yeah right! (in the words of my fat Aunt Mary).  I called the cardiologist on call.  He said get him to the emergency room now.  I jokingly said, “if I can.”  He was having difficulty getting up and then once in the bathroom became violently ill.  Cary helped dad get dressed, as I called 911.  Cary got the medications.  The ambulance showed up, of course to the wrong house because no numbers on this street are in order….so Cary ran in his pajamas to get the ambulance.  By the time, they got in the house, he was in the bathroom again and they gave him a moment.  Once he came out, he asked to sit and they were in a hurry.  Cary gave the medication and I did as I was told to grab the rolling walker chair.  I did not grab the DNR papers off the fridge….this was never intentional.  The chaos of the moment, the EMTs were in my face telling me to calm down and not to follow the ambulance over and over and telling Cary the same.  I got to the end of the street and they turned left….why in the hell would they do that.  The hospital was to the right and they were stopped.  I called Cary panicked.  I didn’t know what was happening.  Somewhere in the mess I called Jen.  She was coming.  She was going to help me……….somehow

I beat the ambulance to the hospital…how could this be? They had passed me on the street.  I ran in 30 degree weather through two parking lots and the ambulance bay.  No ambulance.  I ran inside and they couldn’t help because obviously Dad wasn’t there.  I called Cary panicked.  Did they take him somewhere else? What were they doing?  He told me no they wouldn’t take him somewhere else.  He told me to wait inside.  I told him no I needed to wait for my Dad.  I finally saw them pull up and raced back in.  They made me stand there for what seemed like an eternity.  Finally…..the little orange sticker that gave me a pass.

I ran…….I ran down that hallway.  I got there and I dropped to the floor.  There were nurses on him performing CPR.  All I could say was “no” over and over.  This wasn’t how it was suppose to be.  Security….not helpful.  They left me there…on the floor.  I looked at them pleading hoping they would pick me up.  No, it was an x-ray tech.  He picked me up, got me a chair, and called Cary.  I just needed to hold on to someone.  They were waiting too…..obviously the x-ray could wait.  Dad needed to come back.  I heard a nurse in the room say something about his daughter.  YES!  YES I AM RIGHT FUCKING HERE!!!! PLEASE HELP ME.  I DON’T WANT TO LOSE MY DAD.  A nurse came by (don’t know her name but I could pick her out of a group of people if I had to) and hugged me.  I didn’t want to let her go.

The doctor finally came out.  I was devastated as I told him that my dad would not want to live like this.  He told me that my dad had been down for 15 minutes with no pulse.  I think by now Jen was by my side but I can’t be sure.  She confirmed there were tubes everywhere.  I didn’t know what to do.  And, then the doctor asked, “Do you want me to stop everything.”  Again, just like the paperwork it was never intentional but my reply was “I don’t know.”  If he did then that was it over….the end…..I would be without any parents.

I think somewhere in there I called my boss.  I know I called my uncle.  I kept calling him even though it was late.  The doctor walked away for a moment to check on something.    He came back to me and another nurse walked by and whispered, “He has a pulse.”  The next thing I know another nurse walks in the room to say, “He’s sitting up.” That’s my Dad!! The fighter, the most stubborn individual I know……..

The cardiologist I spoke with earlier showed up.  Him and the CCU doctor were amazing. They held my hand.  They answered my questions.  They reassured me that it was ok that I had not “pulled the plug” on him.  They said they wanted to try and do everything for him. I agreed.

I stood there frozen as they pulled his bed out of the room to take him back to the cath lab to check on the stent placed the day before……. I couldn’t even look at him and for that I was ashamed that I had let him endure this.  This wasn’t the plan.  I had hounded him to have the paperwork signed so I could make decisions like this.  I really thought I could do it with a clear head.  HELL NO.  THERE’S NO FUCKING BOOK IN LIFE THAT SAYS YOU WILL BE ABLE TO STAY STRONG WHEN YOU ARE FACE TO FACE WITH THE DEATH OF YOUR PARENTS.

Damn it’s been awhile

Where does one even start after over a year?  Well, I can say that 2016 was a good year when it started.  In fact it wasn’t until Halloween that it really began to suck…..and I had no idea what was in store.

That night when ghosts and ghouls come out to play, I received a phone call on my way home from work.  My best friend from high school was on the phone in a panic. She had left her mother earlier that day sitting on the couch after taking her to a doctor’s appointment.  She was not able to get up.  She called Jen for help.  I told her to call the doctor that she had the cell phone number to and see what he said.  She called back saying she was calling 911 and going to the ER.  I told her after I fed the people showing to my house and spent a few minutes with Alice, I would be right there.  It was then that I would learn so much in the next few days.  I realized in that moment in the ER that Rosemary was not coming home.  It felt like a slap….that nurse so easily giving her the IV with the morphine had just given up.  Who the hell was she that she was giving up on Jen’s mom.  This lady was more than that…..she put up with me as a teenager on those long Saturday nights.  She gave me the name Spaz.  She would make us the best snickerdoodle cookies ever!  She treated me like another daughter.  So, who the hell was this nurse to give up on her?  My head was spinning.  I took care of Jen the rest of the evening and into the early morning.  I went back the next day and the next.  It was that Wednesday when we were telling Rosemary goodbye, I heard her tell Jen, “I love you.”  That made my heart feel better and I hoped Jen heard it.  In the midst of all of this my dad had just come home from being gone for a month or more to see his family. I told him I was sorry I wasn’t around but by Thursday we got the news that Jen’s mom wasn’t going to make it through the weekend, as her organs were shutting down.  It was Friday night.  I told Jen I had to go to dinner with my family.  I cried all the way home.  I knew it wouldn’t be long.  I knew the posture of that nurse as she stood over her.  I was watching Rosemary’s sats and knew what was coming……..  I tried not to cry at dinner.  We went to Red Lobster and I ordered the crab legs, a place I celebrated Easter with Jen and her mom in 1988 and where they taught me about crab legs and hot butter (still one of my favorites!).   Afterwards, I went back to the hospital to be with Jen.  I finally told her it was time to go and take care of mom’s dog, Petey.  She did and of course as soon as Jen left, Rosemary’s sats started to drop quickly.   I called Jen to hurry back.  I had helped make the decision to increase the oxygen to include a face mask.  I tried to warn Jen of how her mom looked and it was too much for her.  She asked me to make phone calls and I did.  I stood with her and her mom’s friend of 67 years, dear sweet Iris while she took her last breath. That nasty word, Cancer, took her.   I don’t know what I expected in that moment.  But, there was a strange sense of peace……there was no sound, no pain, no screaming,…..nothing.  I knew what God’s plan was exactly in that moment.  God was preparing me for losing my dad.  I knew that if I could handle this and she was like a mom, I could handle my dad’s passing someday.  I just would never have imagined that day……would be so soon.

Sounds, sounds, sounds……

It’s funny how a sound can induce all kinds of emotions. It seems these “sounds” have been a lot louder lately. I’ve been on a little journey lately that has taken me to some interesting spaces. I first encountered this a few weeks ago when dad’s friend past away. I swear for about a week afterwards I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that some of his presence was all around…not even him as a whole person. I don’t know if this had to do with the suicide or where he was on his spiritual journey when he died. I do know that I am beyond thankful for the prayer circle I had with Dr. Rachael to help send him on his way. And, yes he has not been back to bother me lately. But, I did open some door. Not sure to where. I know during our prayer, I left for a bit into a tunnel that felt like a tunnel of light running parallel to this world. This door opened a path for others. Here come the sounds. Something I am not used to at all. I can handle seeing. I don’t want to be touched. Sounds are new for me and I have to say I was startled. The only person that has spoken to me is my mom but not since the night she died. It was not threatening or seemed harmful with it’s deep “hello.” But, I pulled out the prayer and said it again (a few times just to make sure) and have been sound free ever since.

Then there’s a time you wish you could hear certain sounds……

Yesterday was 10 years that my mom has been gone. I miss hearing her voice and her laugh. I know every once in a while I hear it whispered in my ear, as if the wind is blowing her spirit by me quickly just to have that moment of peace. I know for certain that she was around yesterday. It seems the “spirit voices” have been making themselves known in new ways. However, yesterday there was something very familiar with the sound that gently sang out from the speakers in the large room. All of a sudden sitting at lunch, I hear the quiet deep voice of Judy Garland singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I knew it was my mom’s little way of saying, “Hey, I’m still here with you, especially today.” I knew instantly she was around. It was funny that I thought to myself how she didn’t have a TV to turn on for me like she’s done before. The room grew colder and there was a sense of peace. I know this is her way. She loves Judy Garland and I hope that she has had many opportunity to sing and dance with her. I am so blessed that she has graced me with her presence more than a few times these past 10 years. I hope that I will always continue to feel her when I need her.

……..”There I go turn the page”

The words of my cousin Adam.  He’s the one cousin out of about 75 that I talk to more than anyone.  He’s 26 and he’s autistic.  It was his soulful voice that made me smile.  It doesn’t matter how long time has gone between when I’ve seen him or talked to him, he remembers.  He remembers and immediately breaks into song.  A little Bob Seger for the soul. 

But after the smile fades, my sadness returns.  It seems there is way too much of that this year.  It’s more just than a loss of a family member.  Aunt Edith was my great aunt.  She outlived all of her nieces on my Grandma’s side, including my mom.  She was an amazing woman.  I did not get a chance to meet her until I was a legal adult.  It was like being greeted by a grandmother I no longer had and had longed for.   She brought me in and loved me as if she had known me my whole life.  I remember always thinking I hoped that I could be like her in so many ways:  her love of God,  her love of her husband my Uncle Don, being able to offer advice and wisdom to her grandchildren as I had the privilege of her sharing with me, her love for gardening, and being a good cook.  I will miss her maple candy.  I remember when mom asked me to write to her and ask for some.  I did…..I didn’t think I would get the box out of my mom’s hands when it came in the mail!  I can only hope that I live life with zest like she did and stay as spry as she was.   Aunt Edith was an amazing but more I am thankful that God gave me the time I had with her.   I’m sad Alice doesn’t remember her but am so thankful she got to meet her.   What a wonderful moment in time to meet your great, great aunt! RIP Aunt Edith.  I will miss you.


And by the way…… I’m get a little tired of turning pages in my life.  This is enough loss for one year.  Now time to go honor Carroll.