Cathy Carraway

The following remarks were by Diane Moore,

What can I say about Cathy that a lot of you don’t know already? She was a good, loving, caring, person who would do anything you asked of her.

She was a special friend to me because she helped keep me sane during some difficult times in my life. She was a teacher to my twins who did her very best to help them in their early years of development.

She was a friend you could count on any time you needed her. A friend you could laugh and cry with, but mostly laugh with. I knew her for 20 short years and all my memories of her are only good ones.

Cathy was loved by her friends and family and she will be greatly missed. I will never forget her loving spirit, her generous heart, and her beautiful smile.

The following remarks were from Cathy’s friend and co-worker Monte.

Cathy Caraway was special beyond our expectations. She is best remembered by the things she loved:

Cathy loved red barns. On the trip here I understood why. Red barns are dotted across West Central Illinois landscape and they reminded Cathy of her home.

Cathy loved books – books to read and books on tape that she could listen to in a car.  Dictionaries were a favorite gift for our children because she liked the words in books as much as the books themselves. Cathy loved Barnes and Noble because of the stacks and shelves and the anticipation of hours curled in a chair or snuggled in a bed that awaited her each time she bought a book. She loved to share the awe and wonder of books and they seldom rested on her bookshelf for long because she needed to share this joy with her friends.

Cathy loved the relationship of friends. She often said that friends are the family that you choose. Cathy was generous with friends in both material and physical ways. Cathy loved to have friends over for cook outs and special parties. When she found a friend, she was both loyal and devoted always finding a way to fill their life with little treasures. Our home is dotted with bits and pieces of life stamped with the mark of Cathy’s love.

Cathy loved to shop. Her dream house was created on piece at a time and she loved every minute. She was not afraid to stimulate the furniture and country accessories market. She loved to manage handy men and repair men and could clearly share her opinion of the quality of their work.  Cathy appreciated a good maid more than anyone I know. She loved a clean and orderly home. Even though she never developed a deep love of cleaning, she did know that she wanted and she knew how to make it happen.

Cathy loved a good dessert as much as anyone and she loved working through a meal to get to the dessert. She loved to experiment with new desserts – My favorite was Bananas Foster” – both simple and elegant. Cathy is also directly responsible for my addiction to frozen Snickers bars.

Cathy liked a good facial and a new haircut and even clothes, but mostly she loved a new pair of nails. Her manicurist was always a best friend, source of gossip and a shoulder to lean upon – an ultimate pleasure that dried in 20 minutes or less!

Cathy Caraway loved games. She knew every variation of Gin Rummy and sometimes made advantageous rule mutations that fed a strong desire to win. Scrabble was an ultimate pleasure and she was almost undefeatable. Cathy spent house reading lists of acceptable words and used a phenomenal memory for the mundane, nondescript and well researched word that no else had encountered.

Cathy deeply loved family. Every place she lived, she created new family with scores of friends. She was the glue that pulled all of them together and held them all close. Our family grew closer with each phoned report of a visit or a party or a chance encounter shared back and forth, to help us all remain in touch.

Cathy will be remembered each time I see a red bard, a chocolate éclair, a book store or freshly painted nails, but her greatest impact was her vocation. Educators are drilled to always maintain a professional distance with students and parents. Cathy discarded this as soon as her heart was touched by little girls and boys with challenges that seemed insurmountable. Cathy not only taught children, she adopted them. She became a surrogate mother, friend, advocate, sister and encourager to every child in her care. Parents are awed by her commitment that permeated every aspect of their lives in an effort to defeat a disability of profound proportions.

Cathy never was blessed with biological children of her own but she has children scattered from Texas to Maryland, Florida and Illinois that know her as a teacher that followed them home and to the store, and to the park and was there for birthdays and parties – all in what became a surrogate mother’s pushing, protecting, playing – proud of each step in the right direction kind of way, until they began to bloom in the love that she had for each one. And she performed this magic over and over and over again. And just as a mother, she monitored each child’s progress long distance just as a mother will do. Cathy had dozens of children born of countless miracles.born in and out of the classroom.

Cathy will be missed more than words can express, but she will be remembered by the things she loved and the families that she collected.

Bruce’s Comments . . . .

Cathy Caraway was a woman who lived her life full throttle. She loved people, she loved life, and she saw every day as a new challenge.

Cathy was resourceful.  As a child she once wandered in to her brother David’s room while he was crying. June heard the crying stop and thought she should check to see what was going on. When she looked in the room there was Cathy with one of her thumbs in David’s mouth and the other in her own!

Cathy was the life of the party. While Cathy was around Fountain Green was the center of excitement. She was proud to be a “Greener”. It was always a treat to be able to go out to Jackson’s and spend the night. Part of the reason for that was that the girls would sneak down to Kermit’s to get themselves some “wheels” for the night. (They were too young to have a license or cars of their own).

For awhile while in High School Cathy had a Plymouth that she drove.  The problem was that it didn’t have a reverse gear. She always had to be careful where she pulled in or they would have to push the car out.

Cathy had a photographic memory. As a Telephone Operator for Fountain Green she had all the numbers memorized and remembered most of them for years. She could remember every conversation and was known to “juice up the conversation in the re-telling”.  She could tell a story!

Cathy was a people person. She knew who was related to everyone. She made it a point to study up on family, but also on friends. Often in a conversation she would say something like, “Oh, you’re the niece of the second cousin of my uncle’s nephew.”

Cathy was a woman who was eager to care for others. She loved her nieces and nephews as if they were her own, she loved her students, she loved her family, she loved her friends, she loved her husband, she loved her work and she loved her Lord. I’m told that Ernie said once, “she was a wife who had no faults.”

Cathy and Ernie had a special relationship. They understood each other and loved each other. To Cathy it was the perfect relationship. She had a man who loved her, who understood her, who understood her work and her passion, and who worked hard to give her everything she wanted.

Cathy cared about everyone. She kept in tune with the details of the lives around her.

She read the Quill every week carefully so she could keep up with all her friends and classmates.

When you talked with Cathy she gave you her full attention so that she could learn something about what was significant in your life.

She made it a point not only to know her students but the family of her students, their home surroundings, and the likes and dislikes of all of them.

Cathy had an incredible ability to file all this information away and have it available at any time. She loved to learn about any and every thing.

Cathy loved to get together with her “Greener” friends and have fun. She worked hard to keep in touch. In fact, every conversation with family and friends ended with the same sincere request, “Keep in touch”.

Cathy always seemed to have a smile and was always up for any adventure. She was always ready for a piece of Rhubarb pie.

Cathy was a person who was in the center of all the plans that were being made. When Cathy came home to visit everyone had to clear their calendars because Cathy had plans for everyone. She wanted to make the most of every moment and was constantly on the go. She wasn’t about to wait for life to come to her . . . she went and grabbed it and squeezed everything she could from it.  Someone said (it was John), she was like the Tasmanian Devil the way she ran around.

Cathy didn’t have any biological children but she always had children around her. When each niece and nephew graduated from kindergarten they looked forward to a trip with Aunt Cathy. Every summer Aunt Cathy would take one of the nieces or nephews to spend time with her in Texas. Tim and Teri used to enjoy flying down to Texas regularly to spend time with Cathy. And when Aunt Cathy was back home they knew they would have a special time alone with her . . . . no adults invited. Often they would all head off for pizza so that Cathy could catch up on their lives.

Cathy continued this relationship with her nieces and nephews and cousins, as they got older. She welcomed their spouses, embraced their children, babysat whenever she could and I’m sure she was looking forward to taking this new generation of family on trips and outings.

Cathy made it a point to visit with her friends regularly. It may have been a friend she new for years or a friend she had known only for month. It may have been a phone conversation, a lunch meeting, or a fun dinner, but she was going to “keep in touch”. You could expect to be greeted by a warm hug and given a warm hug before you left.

Cathy was a person you could pour your heart out to. She was a friend who listened; a companion who cared.

Cathy Jackson Caraway knew how important relationships were. She wanted everyone to get together not just for her sake but for the sake of the entire family. She wanted her family to be close. She wanted her friendships to be current. And more than anybody, Cathy understood that life is short and believed that you need to make the most of every day and cherish every relationship.

She was a daughter parents could be proud of. She was a sister that brought out the best in you. She was an aunt who was the coolest adult around. And she was a friend you knew you could always turn to.

You can’t talk about Cathy, however, without talking about her as a teacher. She loved what she did. In 1984 she was named one of the Outstanding Women of America.  And in 1999 she was named Teacher of the Year.

Cathy was always talking about her kids. People who didn’t know her would think they were her biological children. If you knew Cathy, you also knew about her students.

Cathy had a heart for the autistic child. She was their advocate, their protector and their greatest cheerleader. But she not only loved her students, she loved that student’s family. She understood that caring for an autistic child was very draining and understood that the parents needed care too.

Cathy would drop what she was doing to go to a home where they were having problems with their child. She would take them for a day to give the parents a break. She always had several good ideas for any difficulty a teacher might be having.  No matter where Cathy went, as soon as she entered the classroom the mood of the room changed.  She brought energy, enthusiasm and hope.

Cathy would often pile up her students and head off somewhere. It was not unusual for Cathy to arrive at the airport or some other place with several of her kids with her. She wanted to expose them to as much of life as possible. It wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination but Cathy did it because she felt it was important for the growth of the student.

Where most people would have been discouraged Cathy was not. Where others threw up their hands and declared “nothing else could be done”, Cathy didn’t accept that. She believed there were always more gains to be had, more progress to be made, more life for that child to enjoy. She learned to celebrate the “inches”. She celebrated and rejoiced at any and all progress no matter how small it seemed.

Once she was having a war of wills with one of the students and the student said, “Cathy you’re ruining my life!” to which this students mother replied, “She’s the only friend you have right now!”

Cathy worked once with a particular young girl names Emily who many concluded would never talk . . . but Cathy got through. The girl began to speak. One Thanksgiving this little girl was up in the front of the church with the other children and the Pastor asked, “What are you thankful for?” This child piped up. “I’m thankful for Kaf-fy”

This child was not alone in being thankful for Cathy Caraway. Lots of children and their families are thankful for Cathy. Many who taught the children are thankful for Cathy’s wisdom and insight. Her friends are thankful for her persistence and her refreshing enthusiasm for life. Her family is grateful for her love and her energetic spirit.

The fact is, most of the people in this room are thankful for specific ways in which Cathy has touched their life. And I can’t help but think that God is grateful too. I suspect He is grateful for her faithfulness, for her service and for the way she infected everyone around her with joy. I’m sure the Lord welcomed Cathy into heaven with the most coveted words of all, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Cathy Caraway will be missed. Her sudden death leaves an ache in our soul and a hole in our lives. But because of Cathy Caraway you are changed. You are different, better, more caring, more joy-filled people.  And in the midst of the sadness of her death we rejoice and give thanks for her life.

She Left a Legacy

I read these words, not long ago

On a headstone, worn and old

“No one knew her but to love her”

A person’s legacy was told

Many knew this beautiful soul

We’re remembering today

She left a legacy for herself

More than our words can say

Daughter, sister, aunt, wife, friend . .

She’s touched the lives of many

So many children filled her life

We can’t say she hadn’t any

Even though not born to her

She changed their lives so much

And some of them won’t remember

The love that was in her touch.

The one’s who can’t remember

May be the luckiest of all

For those of us who knew her love

Were not ready for her to be called

Some of us knew her many years

And some not nearly enough.

Some were blessed with the lucky chance

To rekindle friendships and love.

We know she’s in a better place

Watching over us from above . . .

This beautiful soul with an angel’s face

Glowing with beams of love.

Now she holds the hand of God

And her legacy’s been told

And if we listen closely we’ll hear

Her footsteps on the streets of gold

            In loving memory to Cathy

Elaine

 There isn’t really a whole lot that I need to say as a message today because Cathy has spoken so eloquently with her life.

But there is a verse I want to take you to.  It’s a simple prayer attributed to Moses and found in Psalm 90,

Teach us to number our days aright,

           that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

I don’t know when Moses wrote these words but it must have come later in life because it shows a wisdom and maturity that is uncommon in the young.

When we number our days aright we do several things.

1.   We will realize that the length of life is uncertain. We all tend to live our life assuming we will live to be 70, 80, 90, 100 years old. In fact, one of the things that makes Cathy’s death so difficult is the fact that it seems so premature. However we don’t know how much time we have.  There are no guarantees and it is foolish to live like there is. We must live each day as if it is a gift.

2.  If we number our days, We will make the most of the present. Making the most of your life means that you focus on the most important issues and don’t waste a lot of time on the stuff on the periphery. Cathy understood this. Her focus was on people, relationships, creating memories, and expressing love. She worked to enrich life rather than waste it. She wanted to give rather than take, build rather than destroy, celebrate rather than complain.

When you make the most of the present you live so that you will “have no regrets.” You will take care of the important things first. That’s the way Cathy lived: with no regrets. She didn’t put off the important things.

3.. If we number our days, We will not put off eternal issues. Too many people don’t address the matter of their relationship with God because they figure that “there is always time for that kind of thing.” But we don’t know that.

Cathy didn’t wait to address her spiritual life. She trusted Jesus Christ as her Savior. She placed her confidence for eternal life in what Christ had done on her behalf. It was His love that flowed through her.  She was raised in a Christ-centered home and reached that point in her life where she embraced the faith she had been taught, as her own.

In one sense Cathy was not ready to die any more than we were ready for her to die. But in another sense she has been ready to die since that day when she placed her confidence in Christ.

You see, this is the ultimate issue. Where you stand in relationship to Jesus is the preeminent issue of life. If we are “numbering our days” then we won’t put this matter off.

I can stand here today and declare with confidence that Cathy is with Jesus today. Cathy is in Heaven.           Cathy is not in Heaven today because she was a great woman. (And she was a great woman.)  She is in Heaven today because she trusted a great Savior. She believed that Jesus died in her place. She believed that Christ really did rise from the grave. And she trusted the Lord to see her home.  Last Wednesday night Cathy’s body gave out and fell down the steps at her home, but Cathy fell into the warm embrace of her Savior.

As much as Cathy loved her home, I suspect she already loves Heaven more. As much as she adored Ernie, she has been swept off her feet by her Savior.  As passionate as she was about her work, she is even more passionate now about singing the praise of her Redeemer. And as much as she looked forward to family gatherings before, we can’t even imagine how much she is looking forward to our reunion in Heaven.

We grieve today. But we need not grieve for Cathy. She is with the Lord. I’d like to think that she has embraced David and the two of them are looking up all those relatives in the pictures that hung on her walls. She’s checking on former students, friends, colleagues and any of the thousands of others she has met and who have gone on to Heaven.

Some of them won’t be there. They won’t be there because they thought there would always be time to address the issue of eternal life. And they were wrong. Some won’t be there because they didn’t think the spiritual issues were important. Don’t make that same mistake.

So as you grieve today, realize that the grief is for your loss. You grieve because of what has been taken from you . . .  .not what has been taken from Cathy. Nothing has been taken from Cathy except the limitations of this world.  So use this time of grief as a reminder to number your days. Use this time to answer that most important question: “Will you place your life and faith in Jesus Christ or will you turn away.”

Settle this important issue, and do it now. When you do, you will not only find forgiveness and new life in the present, you will also be making reservations for a future reunion with Cathy where I’m sure she’ll have a whole list of things to do.

I really didn’t know Cathy but after listening to all the wonderful stories that you have told I have a sense of the person she was. So, even though it may be a bit presumptuous let me suggest a few lasting things Cathy might want to say to you:

1.      Life is short, live it well. Enjoy the journey, try something new, don’t forget to laugh often.

2.      Family and friendships are more important than “stuff”. Make sure to reflect those values in the way you spend your time. Devote more time to relationships and less time to things.

3.      Every person is a treasure. It is foolish to write someone off because they are different from you. Often the people who are the hardest to connect with are valuable and hidden treasures worth the time and effort.

4.      Hugs are good

5.      Faith is more valuable when it is expressed than discussed

6.      Learn to “celebrate the inches” in life and work. You’ll be disappointed less, you’ll be a lot more fun to be around, and you’ll be able to have a lot more celebrations.

7.      Don’t wait to tell those you love that you love them. Why risk dying and leaving people to wonder how you felt about them? People who know that they are loved will grieve more when you are gone, but they will also smile more when they remember.

PRAYER

Father we bow before you this morning in our sadness.  We thank you for touching our lives with Cathy Caraway. Through her you taught us about love, laughter and life. Help us to remember those lessons and put them into practice in our own lives.

Lord, we know that Cathy is with You now. Give her a hug from us.

Father, in our sadness we are afraid. We are afraid that we will forget. We’re afraid that Cathy’s memory will fade with the passing of years. We ask that you keep our memories sharp. Help us to remember her smile, her hug, her laughter and her faith.

Lord, I pray that you would stand with these who grieve. Father, draw Ernie close to you. Give him the strength he needs to move forward from this day. Strengthen Bob and June in the times of heartache. Fill John and Roger with a measure of Cathy’s spirit that they might work to keep this family close.

Lord, we ask that you comfort the students who loved Cathy in ways we may never know. Support those teachers who feel that a lifeline has been cut. And comfort Cathy’s many friends with rich and wonderful memories.

Most of all, we ask that you work in us. Help us to number our days so that when our days our over we could leave this world with our faith sure and with no regrets to leave behind. Help us to live like Cathy.  We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, our comfort and our hope. Amen.