The above quote has circulated for several years now, and each time I read it, I feel, once again, it serves as a great reminder to us to live each day as though it could be our last.
For those of us who have our health, every day should be a day of grateful celebration. For those of us who can walk, there should be no grumbling about having to take a far-away parking spot. For those of us who are blessed with a warm home and a loving family, there should be gratitude, endlessly.
Farewell. My small community recently paid its respects and said farewell to a great lady who taught us all to celebrate life’s gifts with a warm heart and a dazzling smile. If you had known Candy Carl when she was a young girl, you would have considered her a golden girl born in to a charmed life.
The oldest of three, Candy had wonderful leadership abilities, beauty and intelligence, a huge circle of friends and family who adored her endlessly.
My very first memory of Candy is watching her crowned Hillsdale High’s first homecoming queen shortly after the consolidated communities of Jeromesville and Hayesville opened its doors to a new school. I was only 6 when this event took place, but the image of Candy as the queen stands out vividly in my memory.
We all admired her beauty, her sweetness, her zest for life. Candy went to college, then married her hometown sweetheart, Don Fickes. All eyes were on this happy pair who served as community royalty, whether they wanted to or not.
To this marriage, three beautiful boys were born, and it was clear Candy loved being a mother. She did not go back to teaching until her sons were well on their way in school themselves.
“Please let me have Mrs. Fickes!” kids would say as they checked the class listings each August. Those whose names appeared under her third-grade classroom listing were truly the lucky ones.
Struggle. I will never forget the first time I saw Candy struggling to walk up a small set of steps. I offered my arm and asked if she was OK.
“Oh, I just stepped wrong the other day, but I’m fine,” she said with that beautiful smile, taking my arm, allowing me to help. It wasn’t long until the worst fears were confirmed. Candy was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
I remember reeling with rage at the unfairness of it all. Candy, on the other hand, accepted each step with true class and grace. She shared her motorized scooter with her students, explaining to them that it was her prized possession that gave her mobility.
If a student met certain requirements, he would be rewarded with a ride on her scooter, perched upon her lap, Candy’s vibrant smile a part of their reward.
Commitment. Through it all, Candy’s husband, Don, showed us all what true love is. He drove her to school when her strength diminished, helping her get settled in her classroom, and returning for her at the end of each day. And no matter their own personal burden, both Don and Candy asked about others, always concerned for those with health issues.
Candy’s early retirement in 1998 due to her illness left such a void in the grade school. Candy’s passing has left an empty place in this community, but I try to imagine her rejoicing, as she was set free from years of pain.
We were blessed to have known her, to have been touched by this angel, to have shared in her remarkable journey.
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