Spoken (and published with permission) by Edwin Wortham V
Memorial Service: September 11, 2015
There are few events in this world that in the blink of an eye can bring monumental change in a person’s life forever…one’s heart, one’s soul, and their whole being, where life will never ever be the same. We read about such events in the news, we hear about them, we talk about them, but we rarely get up close and personal with them. And likewise, there are few individuals in this world who can impact so many others for good in such a short period of time. Carrie’s family, her friends, her co-workers, her running partners, those on her dance floor…your lives too have been changed forever. Many of us here, and those touched daily and close to Carrie, might now be measuring time from Saturday Sept 5, here on out. There will be time as it is measured before Sept 5, and there will be time measured after Sept 5! It has been that profound.
I personally am overwhelmed by the words and thoughts and prayers of so many of you, all of whom are here for various reasons…and all of us beginning the process of healing from an unbearable loss. I speak for my wife Cynthia, I speak for Carrie’s mother and her other father, I speak for her brother, and the many other siblings and extended family, to say that we are so deeply grateful for your support, your prayers, and your presence tonight…we feel your love and it has made all the difference. All of you, having so many other choices for this evening, but you chose the here and now. How uncanny it is, that Carrie, being so passionate about bringing people together, inspired all this by her death. This is Providence in action! This is Grace! This is Mercy. Now, we need to find threads of Joy and keep on spreading them and weaving them, beyond this place….I know she would want that!
Carrie has a story for me and perhaps for you. It began at 11:04 on Saturday morning September 5, not even a week ago. As the father of such an extraordinary young woman, I am humbled by her life to live fully, deeply, with discipline and courage, and a heart to live out what matters in life. I am also unspeakably sad and carry the visceral pain that any parent with a child whom they’ve just lost would feel. There is no escaping this…it is ever present and I can’t flee it. It brings with it an intrinsic fear that it will be unending. But this too is part of her story for me, and for some of you. It is a pain we parents always shudder at, and fear. But at the same time, I am inspired and feel joy and peace, having recently learned so many wonderful things from many of you of the young woman I sometimes barely knew. We as parents think we know so much, and think we can control so much…indeed, our children let us in on what they want us to know. She was creating and living her own life as a young adult. She was constantly searching and seeking for ways to serve God and others and it permeated her thoughts (as we’ve recently learned from her diaries). So even this pain is part of her story to me, for without such pain, little growth will happen. Indeed, it will surely lessen with time, it will change, and it will even blossom into a fresh and joyful perspective on this otherwise unbearable tragedy.
This story, Carrie’s story for me and for some of us, as it is even unfolding this week, includes service, determination and persistence, and humility with a spirit to seek after God. Three simple chapters. All teaching chapters, each with a fresh page being turned before my eyes each day…as designed by God, for me and for you.
Some years ago, while seeking to find an opportunity to serve during her spring break, she showed me a rather blurred photo of a group of boys in Haiti.
“Dad” she says, “this orphanage might need me!”.
“Carrie” I said, “I can’t believe it, but I think the tall guy in the photo is a patient of mine, Harry, and he’s been trying to get me to go to Haiti to do eye projects but I’ve never been interested.”
A bit later, “Dad, that is Harry in the photo, YOU HAVE TO GO!” And said with the clarity that only a determined redhead could have said it!
And, so it was, an undeniable providential moment, and off we went a couple of months later on an an eye project to Haiti and before my eyes I watched a young woman inspire me to serve. And this was just the beginning of her ongoing lesson to me in chapter one…service. Trips back to Haiti, to Bolivia, Honduras, and more.
VMI is no easy trek, and most especially for a woman. Nor is track or pole vaulting or being an S2 captain. Running a half marathon, or training for the marathon, or pursuing the Marine Corps…doubtful very easy. So never underestimate the persistence and determination of your daughter or son. This is chapter two from Carrie…persistence and determination. When we would run our 10ks together, she’d double back after her blistering run and jog the last mile or so with me…coaching, gently encouraging…”Dad, you can do it, pick up the pace a bit, how do you feel, steady now”…and she’d let me finish first so I’d feel a bit better about it all. I suspect I will be reading this chapter over and over again the rest of my life…persistence, determination. And I hope you’ll read this chapter along with me and thank Carrie for it!
Some of you have seen her journal entries. Some of you were fortunate to share the barracks at VMI. Some of you were up close and personal with her in Haiti, or at Impact Makers, her current workplace, or shared the dance floor or the running track. The prevailing theme….humility, an ever radiant smile, and a desire to serve God where she could serve her best. This chapter three, humility and spiritual pursuit, is a chapter also meant for me. This sometimes arrogant and stubborn physician, prone to selfishness and anger, is going to read this chapter over and over again…humility and spiritual pursuit.
In our loss, Carrie has given me three simple chapters to read over and over again…. Service, Determination and Persistence, Humility and A Heart to seek after God. Her legacy, as big as it is, will carry on. I could never have dreamed of a better gift.