I have a big favor to ask. I’m going to ask it right up front and then explain why. I have a dear friend named Carolyn who is going through cancer for the fourth time. She has battled it since she was nine years old with several years of remission in between. She currently has several tumors in her lungs and is undergoing daily radiation. I’m sure we all know someone who has faced a similar battle and we know how hard it is to watch our loved ones struggle.
Carolyn is one of the most amazing women I know. (You’ll understand why by the time you’re done reading this post. And this is a long post – usually I keep them short, but this is SO worth it!) I wondered if I could solicit your support on her behalf by asking you to write her a note of encouragement?
(January 26, 2017…THANK YOU for the many, many letters and cards you have sent. The mailbox was filled with uplifting encouragement! We have suspended the request for notes at this time and thank you again for your generous kindness.)
Now, a little explanation of what lead me to ask for your support of Carolyn. We have been friends for several years. From the moment I met this vivacious, non-judgmental, full-of-life woman, I wanted to be her friend. She has a contagious laugh and is constantly finding the good in people and the world around her. She is endlessly generous with her time and resources. In short, she is a people magnet.
Over the years I have given her some of my CDs to give away to others at her discretion. I’ve never followed up to see where the CDs found new homes, but recently I was contacted by three people via email in less than two months who were the recipients of CDs from Carolyn over the past year. They wanted to share the story of how the music blessed them AND more importantly what Carolyn did for them. The stories are nothing short of miraculous.
You don’t know me, but I wanted to share a story with you, so I tracked down this email address and I hope it finds its way to you.
I am a divorced mother of 2 or I guess I should say the father left me and the kids. I am not proud of it and it is not the story for this time. I was traveling to San Diego in October about a month ago for my father’s funeral. I had a connection in Salt Lake City, but the gate was in a different terminal. I was doing my best to drag two kids that were hungry and complaining to our next gate but I was yelling at them so I must not have been doing well.
It is at this point that a woman walks up to me and asks if she can help. I am telling her no thanks as she kneels down to talk to my kids and offers them a piece of candy. She then grabs one of my bags and the hand of my 6 year old asks me what gate do we need to get to. It ends up that she is on the same flight, so when we get to the gate she sets her bag down and told me it was collateral for my two kids that she wanted to take and buy them lunch.
I don’t know why I trusted her. I am not that trusting. But there was something reassuring about her so I let this stranger take my kids to get food. She told me to enjoy some peace and quiet and to relax and to gather myself.
She comes back 20 minutes later with two laughing kids and lunch for me. I couldn’t believe it.
I was not sitting with my kids on the plane because I got the tickets at the last minute and there were not 3 seats together. I saw that she was traveling with a large group that were all so kind to my kids. She helps me board the plane and then talks to members of her group to get them to switch seats so I could sit with my two kids. She switches seats to sit in the seat next to mine. She entertained my kids and talked to me the whole flight.
Really I talked to her.
I don’t know why it was so easy to talk to her. She asked a few questions and then I was telling her my whole story and crying to her. She just listened and truly tried to understand what I was feeling.
She walked with me to baggage claim and said good bye to my kids and then handed me a note and a CD. She said that you gave her the CD to give away to people that needed to feel something good in the world. She made me promise to listen to it. Her note told me that I was a beautiful daughter of God. That I was a great mom and to keep doing the best that I could. And to never give up on myself.
I am not religious and did not have a happy childhood. But there was something about her that made me want to keep my promise so I listened to your CD. It was amazing. From song one, I felt something so different from everything in my life. You sing about loving your life and faith in the middle and about your heart beating again and to win the day. At first it was foreign to me. That is not how I think. But it stayed with me and I don’t know how to say other than it connected to my soul.
I kept listening because it made me feel different. I didn’t like my life and all I could think of was how to get out of it. Your music was so different from the lonely and hard world I know. I went back to her note which told me to go to mormon.org/missionaries if I wanted to know more about why I felt better when i listened to your music and/or if I wanted to find a better way of life. Last week I chatted online with someone that told me about the Book of Mormon. Yesterday, two sister missionaries came to my house and gave me the book and told me about Joseph Smith. I am not saying I will join, but I do know I never knew what it felt like to have hope until I heard your music.
Thank you for making music and for generously giving it to someone that you trusted to give to someone that needed good in their life. I can’t remember her name, but please tell her thank you. She doesn’t know it but she saved me. I didn’t believe there were good people like her and you in the world. I want her to know how much her help and kindness meant to me. I haven’t had someone be kind like that. She made me believe I could survive.
Thank you for creating something good for this world. Your music has brought me smiles over the passed few weeks.
After I read this email, I wondered who this kind person was! It took me all of three seconds to figure it out. I called Carolyn immediately to ask if it was her, and my assumption was correct. I was totally blown away by her love and how brave she was to approach this sweet mother who was a complete stranger and offer help. Carolyn didn’t walk away when the women refused help, she figured out a way to serve and make it happen.
Imagine my surprise when less than a month later, I received another unbelievable letter.
As I enjoyed thanksgiving with my family and prepared for the holiday season, I knew I needed to write you a letter and express my gratitude for your music, but the week goes quickly and I put it off and now it is a week after Thanksgiving, but I feel like it is still a good time to express my gratitude. I can only imagine how many letters you receive in a year but I hope this one finds you.
The past 8 months have been overwhelming and difficult but oddly they have also been filled with some wonderful moments. And it all started with your music. What a gift your talent is to the world. Your music has changed my life in so many ways and I don’t know how to start to explain it to you or properly say thank you.
I was brought up Catholic which means I went to mass 3 or 4 times in my 38 year life. I was Catholic and that is all you needed to be religious, but 9 months ago my 13 year old was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). It was severe and the outlook was not very good. I was angry and even though I had not invested in my religion, I wanted my religion to save me and my son, but it did little to help me.
In an odd twist of fate, I was given a CD of your music (Every Step) and it changed my life forever. I was losing hope, but your music helped me hang on to the last ounce I had and then fill me back up again. I had heard religious music, but the power of your songs; they just inspire. You music is such a contrast to the world and even to my Catholic religion. But more than anything your music can touch the soul.
I was in the cafeteria at the Mayo Clinic where my son was receiving chemo and a blood transfusion. It wasn’t a good day so I took a break to go to get a coffee. I had been trying to hold it together but watching my 13 year old son fight for his life was killing me. Lost as how I could help my son, I no longer could hold in the tears. As I was lost in thought, a lady walk up to my table and ask if she could sit with me. There had to be at least 10 empty tables that she could sit at and she wanted to sit at mine. I did not respond very nicely. I can’t remember what I said but I can sum it up with “go to hell and leave me alone”. She responds with “don’t worry I am already on the express elevator to hell so I will be there shortly. However, my intention is not to intrude, it just looked like you need a punching bag and I wanted to volunteer.”
She told me that if I would listen to a song on her iPad and didn’t relate to the first verse then she would leave but that if I did relate and if I wanted to talk then she would stay as long as I needed. It was odd and I was still annoyed and yet something was interesting about this offer, so I accepted it.
I listened to your song, Never Alone, and was overwhelmed with emotion. She had me stop after the first verse and gave me time to control my emotions enough to talk. Then asked, “So you are feeling alone? But I don’t get the feeling that you are sick so is it your child or husband?” I just nodded. She asked, “is it your child?” And I nodded again. She ask if the prognosis was scary.” And I nodded again. She then asked a few other questions followed by “but you aren’t necessarily crying about the cancer and prognosis. Is your relationship with your child distant?”
For the first time I looked her in the eyes and said YES!
She then asked more questions about him and my relationship with him and I just unloaded. I talked for 45 minutes straight without realizing it. If she had somewhere to be she didn’t act concerned. I was actually amazed as she seemed to truly care about what I was saying. At this moment, she stood up and said, “Well, it is obvious that I need to meet this young man. Will you walk me to his room and introduce me?”
I introduced her to my son, Joshua, who didn’t look up and barely gave a hello. I was about to correct my son on his behavior when she grabbed my arm and whispered “it is fine. Let me try.” She walks over and sits down. Josh had been watching Star Wars. He is a huge Star Wars fan. Immediately she asks a couple questions about some of the characters which starts a 30 minute conversation. It was the first time that I had seen him engaged in 2 weeks.
She turns to me and says why don’t you walk to the lounge and listen to the rest of Never Alone and find out how you are not alone. And then listen to any other song on the list. I came back 30 minutes later to find my son actually laughing. Just like words can’t express the beauty of your music. I will never be able to express the beauty of the sound of my son laughing in his hospital bed. They stopped and look at me and then she turns to Josh and tells him to google something while your mother and I go for a walk, but I will expect an answer when I get back.
I had so many questions, but she stops me and tells me about my son first. She then proceeded to help me understand what my son was feeling and that Josh was distant because he knew that he was causing me stress and making me sad and he didn’t know how to talk to me because every time he did I would cry. I must have looked panicked because she said not to worry and that she would help me through it. We went back to the room and she started the conversation and asked him to explain what he found with his google search. He read a sentence about AML and then she asked him what he wanted to know. He went on for an hour with questions and she carefully explain everyone one. It didn’t matter the answer, listening to her everything seemed hopeful.
Then she went on to help him express his fears and feelings to me so that I could explain myself to him. This goes on for another hour and then she casually gets up and says she needs to get a couple of tests done. And then it hits me, she has been walking with crutches the entire time and I never asked her about them. She must have guess my thought by the look on my face because she looks at me and says, “No worries. My story is not nearly as exciting, but it helps me know how you both feel. You two keep talking and keep it real.”
I realize that this email is becoming the longest story ever and I am sorry. So I will sum up the rest. She came back later that evening and we laughed for most of the night. A day of laughter with my son was the best gift anyone could have given me but then she surprised me by coming back the next day to give Josh a present. She sat down and said she was ready to answer the questions that I had yesterday. I won’t bore you with the entire conversation, but she helped me understand where your source of hope, love and strength that you sing about comes from. She introduced me to my Savior through your songs He is and He Will Carry You and Through His Name.
My favorite came near the end of our conversation, I asked her if this is why she told my son that the force is real. She laughed and said yes and then explain it was an easier way to explain the power that comes from our savior in a way that he could relate. In short, she really peaked my son’s interest and looking back whether the church approves or not it was the perfect way to introduce my son to the church. She then asked if she could send two young men to use the Saviors version of the force to provide what the LDS church calls a priesthood blessing to Josh.
The gift that she gave Josh was your Collection CD with the most powerful and encouraging letter. She left me with the Every Step CD. She explained to me how you provide the CDs and allow her to give them to whoever she feels needs them. She told me to listen to them whenever I was struggling, lonely or losing hope and promised me that the fear would go away. She explained in her note that it is impossible to have those feelings while listening to your music and when I started to doubt or not understand everything about the gospel to listen to your music because it will remind me how to feel the gospel. She signed her name, Carolyn.
There is so much more to the story, but I have taken enough of your time. In short, I now realize that she used the priesthood blessing to sneak the missionaries into our room to continue the conversation about the church. My family and I have been official members for 5 weeks now and words will always fall short in effort to thank you for bring the gospel into our lives. And she was right, the power of your music is the ability to help us understand and remember how the Savior and the gospel relate to our lives. And I now understand what she meant when she said the gospel was meant to be felt.
Josh and I and the rest of the family have held on to your CDs for dear life the past 6 months. And we have now passed on the CDs to our extended family. Josh is recovering well and the prognosis is great. He still loves to tell people how he was introduced to the church by a lady that told him Joseph Smith was like Luke Skywalker. What a blessing to have my family together for the holidays and to know my Savior. None of this would have been possible without your songs, so THANK YOU!
I know she told me her last name, but I can’t remember it and so I don’t know how to find her. I am hoping you can thank her for me. I figure you are sisters because you are too good of a team in how you help people see the Savior.
Please keep sharing your music with the world.
My eternal thanks,
I was BLOWN AWAY! I immediately printed the email so my family could read it! Carolyn had done it again! She happened to be with us when the email came and so we sat down with her and asked the obvious question. “Are you one of the three Nephites?” She laughed, but we pressed. “No, seriously. Are you?” Who does this kind of stuff? Who gets told to “go to hell” and still sticks around to help. (Not me, I’m sorry to say. I would have cowered away with hurt feelings.) Carolyn clarified that the three Nephites are men and said she was just trying to help someone who needed it.
I had to know why I was getting these emails? So I asked her. “Carolyn, why am I getting these all of a sudden? Why are people just now deciding to reach out?”
She said that she had been praying to Heavenly Father to know if her life mattered. As she fights cancer for the fourth tiring, overwhelming time, had she made a difference? Did her life have meaningful purpose and was God pleased with her efforts?
I don’t mean to answer for Him, but hello…I’d offer a resounding YES!! Double YES.
These letters are the sweetest, most tender answers to prayer that I’ve witnessed in a while. And it doesn’t stop there. There is a third email. I know, it doesn’t seem possible. Even as I type this blog, I’m still in awe. I hardly believe it myself and I read it with my own two eyes!
I am not sure where to start to express my Thanks to you. It was one year ago today that my life experienced a miracle.
I had been struggling for a little over a year. I had lost my job when the company went under. I had taken several odd jobs to sustain my family over the past 10 months, but I was struggling to find something stable. I didn’t make a huge amount to begin with so you can imagine how we ate up the little savings that we had just trying to survive. I thought I had a testimony, but in my struggle and no apparent solution to my problem or answer to my prayers, I lost hope. I gave up. I stopped going to church and had reached the point that I had told my kids not to read the scriptures or go to church.
A year ago today, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up something for my family to eat. We had barely been able to provide two meals a day for several months. I carefully selected the few items that I felt I could afford, but I was wrong and as I was checking out, I realized that I didn’t have enough money. I was in the process of having the clerk take back some of the items when an Angel appeared and offered to pay for all of them.
The Angel helped me load the groceries in my cart. Said Merry Christmas. And then went on her way. It wasn’t until I got home and my wife was putting the stuff away that she handed me a note and two CDs and ask where I got them and who they were for, that I realized this Angel had slipped something extra into the bags.
The two CDs were from you. One was your Christmas CD and the other was the Collection CD. Last year that was the only Christmas present that my wife and I received. However, in the note we found $150 which provided food and a few small gifts for our 3 children.
The note read:
“I know you are struggling, but don’t lose hope. And now you are thinking how can I possibly hold on and not lose hope. Trust me…. listen to the music. You won’t want to at first. It will be annoyingly hopeful which is anything but what you want to feel now, but you wait….It will speak to your soul/spirit. I promise you that you will find yourself hearing the music in your head throughout the day. The miracle of this music is that it will help you hang on when you don’t think you can. This music will help you find hope and joy again. Use the money to ease your burdens in any way you see fit. It is not my money….the savior provides….I am just the minion delivering it to you. Merry Christmas!”
To be honest, I am not sure if you were my Angel or if you have an employee that helps you. I only remember that she was blonde and had the most contagious smile. Either way, it is true. My wife played your music all day on Christmas and every day since. Your music gave both of us the hope that we needed. Your music gave me back my testimony. It wasn’t immediate, but it came back and my family and I are active in the church.
I hope you don’t mind, but going through the day and thinking about the last year, I knew I needed to tell you Thank You. People don’t think there are miracles today, but I know there are.
CAN YOU BELIEVE IT???? This woman is unreal. It’s her alright. I asked. Carolyn said she noticed Robert as she entered the store and just felt like he needed help. So while he shopped she quickly pulled cash from the ATM, grabbed a CD from her car, wrote the note, got behind him in line and made a miracle happen.
She is an inspiration.
Blog to you soon,
Letters used with permission from Tanya, Elizabeth and Robert. I thank the three of you for taking the time to be answers to Carolyn’s prayers. You have been angels in return to her. May the Lord continue to bless your lives. Hilary