The Fragility of Life

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It happened quickly.

At first, her voice became hoarse, and they couldn’t figure out why.

Two short years later, she was dead.

She had been one of the most energetic women I’d ever known, but she lost her battle with ALS.  In spite of her fight against one of the worst diseases imaginable, she never lost her spark.

Now she’s gone, but she taught us some important lessons during her two-year battle.  The impact she made will live on for years, and I dedicate this post to her.

To Caron Jones.  An amazing woman who impacted this world for good.

Never, Ever, Ever take your life for granted. Treasure every day you're given, and make an impact while you can. Click To Tweet


The Fragility of Life

We first met Jimmy & Caron at the gym. 

They realized we were new in town, and they took my wife and me under their wings.  They were the most energetic and happy couple I’ve ever met, and they knew everyone.  They were the model of good health and showed my wife and me the reality that a 70-year-old couple could still sweep the Pickleball Court against those of us still in our 50’s.  They always beat us, but it seemed they’d let up just enough to let us leave the court with some semblance of respect.   They smiled a lot.

They invited us into their circle of friends.  We joined their Bible Study group and went to dinner with their Wednesday night friends at “The Safehouse”, a non-advertised hidden gem in our tourist town known only by the locals.  The place felt like an episode of Cheers, where everybody knows your name.

Everyone knew Caron.  And everyone loved her.

Jimmy & Caron Jones – Always Smiling.

Jimmy and Caron loved life and it showed.  After working for 30+ years at Delta Airlines (where they were stars on the airline’s tennis club), they retired to our magical little mountain town.  In the months that followed our initial meeting, we asked them why they had been so nice to us when we first met.  Their response?  Someone had done the same for them when they were new in town, and they felt it only right to “pay it forward” to someone else.

Someone had made a big impact on their lives, and they were returning the favor in ours.

Solid folks.  We became close friends. 

When my mother-in-law declined in the local nursing home, they were there beside us.  In fact, it was on the day that “Mom” was admitted to the hospital that we first noticed Caron’s hoarse voice.  She deflected the concern, smiled, and focused on our needs.

None of us knew at the time, but that hoarse voice would unfold into a very personal experience with the fragility of life.  The reality that our time on earth is finite.  The realization that there’s a sense of urgency behind the impact we can make in this world. Sand through an hourglass, with fewer grains remaining every day.

Don’t lose your opportunity to impact others for good.  Caron took full advantage of the opportunities presented, and that impact only intensified as the reality of her situation became clear.

In time, she could ignore the weakening voice no longer.

The hoarse voice never got better, and tests were begun.  And more tests. In time, the doctors announced their conclusion.

Caron had ALS.


Dying By ALS

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is “a rare and incurable progressive neurodegenerative disease” often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.  My wife and I had recently watched “Gleason”, a powerful movie about the last 5 years of New Orleans Saints defensive back Steve Gleason’s battle with the disease. The movie made a huge impact on us, and we were devastated when we learned of Caron’s diagnosis.

In spite of the horror of facing a degenerative decline in which her body would become paralyzed while her mind remained 100% clear, Caron never seemed to falter.  A strong Christian woman, she had the most powerful Faith of any woman I knew, and she was depending on it to see her through.  She intended to use her situation to make a lasting impact on this world in the limited time that she had left.

She did just that.

Time progressed, and her decline accelerated.

She became dependent on texting and used it with power.  Whenever we’d ask how she was doing, she always deflected to others.  Her concern was genuine about what was happening in the lives of others, and she focused her final months of energy on encouraging those around her. 

Her impact was encouragement, and focus on others over self.  Selfless love demonstrated with every text she sent.

She knew where she was going, and she knew her pain was temporary.  Her Faith was a shining light in a dark, dark night.  100% genuine, and a true example of what a strong Christian belief can do in a person’s life.  

She asked about how my Dad was doing during his quarantine in a Michigan nursing home.  She asked us to pray for her husband, concerned for him in light of her inevitable departure.  She had honest peace with her situation and was more concerned with its impact on those around her than in the reality of what she had to endure.

In time, she was left with typing only short texts with one finger, and yet she still focused on others. No self-pity. 

A truly amazing woman.

A few months ago, the texts stopped coming.  Our hearts were broken, knowing she was 100% “there”, and yet unable to communicate.  A few weeks later, we received the news we’d been fearing.

Her battle ended on April 29, 2021.

 


The Lesson of Caron Jones

Many of us have lost loved ones over the past year, and the fragility of life is something we’ve all come to appreciate a bit more.  As things begin returning to “normal”, I encourage you to never lose sight of that reality.  Caron made an impact with every day that she had.  Each of us should strive to do the same.

Before Caron came down with ALS, she took some newcomers in her town and weaved them into the very fabric of the small community they had chosen as their retirement home.  With a permanent smile and honest communication about what was happening in the lives of others, she showed that she cared.  With the looming cloud of a terminal disease, she showed the light that deep Christian conviction can bring to the darkest of days.  While most would be hopeless, she was the essence of hope.  She had peace.

Caron taught me that each of us is meant to make an impact during our short time on this planet. 

She’s made hers.

It’s time for us to make ours.

40 comments

  1. Good reminder on how to live a life worth living. A life of gratitude is a beautiful thing to see. Thanks for the reminder Fritz.

    1. Oh my, with tears in my eyes, I say thank you for sharing this. Caron’s spirit lives on through your words and their impact on us. I am inspired and grateful.

  2. I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend. Thank you for the reminder that life is short and that we have a choice in how we live it. We can CHOOSE to be loving, caring, and inclusive. Look at what an impact we can have if we choose kindness.

  3. Like I always say, the greatest gift you can receive is what you gain from giving to others. – Bryan Mitchell

  4. Life is finite. Your attitude is optional. Choose optimism. Remain strong in your faith. Your forever home is awaiting. Life with purpose.

    A kind word from me yesterday brought smiles to a couple women with small children. Love that feedback of a smile. Kindness is free.

    Try to remain humble and grateful every waking moment. Fail sometimes, but I am always mindful of it.

    God speed Fritz. Great article not about finance. Money was not brought up. Good for you. RIP Caron. Prayers for her hubby.

    Peace, Steve

  5. Thank you for sharing your insightful words. I have witnessed firsthand the effects of this hideous disease. First we lost my 30 yr old brother in law, then my father’s second wife. Caron chose to keep her essence burning bright to broaden the rays of hope for others. Thank you for sharing her remaining resilience with us.

  6. A good reminder to all of us, Fritz, that it’s not always about “me”. To meet people of this mind set is magical. We need more Carol’s to remind us why we are here on earth.
    Prayers to you and Carol’s family that they carry on her love of life and care for others.
    Thank you for sharing!

  7. Fritz,

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful tribute to Caron. It reminded me of several people in my own life who were taken much too soon.

    After my mom passed in late 2019, the grief almost swallowed me whole, especially when the isolation from COVID occurred in mid-March of last year. 2 weeks into this social isolation, I lost a childhood friend to cancer. A few months later, another close young friend died after a 9 year battle with cancer. Ashley had just turned 31. She was a teacher at the elementary school that my sons attended. I doubt that I will ever meet another person who impacted more young lives than Ashley did. She was a daily example of courage, strength, grace and compassion to every child who attended Indian Springs Elementary during the 8 years that Ashley taught there. Like your friend, Caron, Ashley always made sure the focus of every interaction was the person she was conversing with, always deflecting any concern they may have had about her current condition. I never once saw her without a huge smile on her face, even on her worst days. Then, as if I hadn’t experienced enough loss, right before Thanksgiving of last year I lost another childhood friend to COVID. The immense loss and isolation nearly smothered me with pain and sadness. 2020 was, by far, the worst year of my life.

    Ultimately, what pulled me up from the depths of despair was self-reflection and the thought of how each of these important people in my life lived every day of their lives to the fullest. I realized that, while they would expect me to be sad that they were no longer here with me, they also would want me to follow their example of living life to the fullest!

    It was a long, 20 month journey through immense grief and loss. I’m happy to say that each day gets better as I remind myself of all the things I am grateful for. I don’t know how much more time I have on earth…none of us do. However, I’m going to do my best every day to make the most of the time that I do have!

    Thanks again for sharing this tribute to Caron. If my wife and I do relocate to Blue Ridge for retirement, I would love to meet Caron’s husband to learn more about the impact that she had on others’ lives.

    Take Care,

    Tim

    1. Touching stories, Tim, thanks for sharing. If you do retire in Blue Ridge, I’ll not only introduce you to Jimmy, but I’ll buy you dinner and share the secret “Safe House” location with you at the same time. Paying it forward with dinner in the Safe House seems an appropriate way to honor Caron.

      1. Fritz, I look forward to meeting Jimmy and would love to have dinner with you and learn the secret “Safe House” location. I’m sure it would make Caron very happy to know that you were welcoming another new resident to Blue Ridge!

  8. Staggeringly beautiful tribute and a reminder to each of us to live our lives to the fullest. I’ll leave you with some lines from one of my favorite songs “The Toast” by Adam Ezra Group – from your article I would say that Carol ensured her light burned brightly. Prayers for her husband and the friends she touched so deeply.

    Raise up your glasses
    Let us drink to the time that we have
    For these moments pass lightly and won’t come again
    May our lives all burn brightly, right up til the end
    Let us live with them with joyous abandon

  9. Thanks, Fritz, for what should be a daily reminder that life is finite and need to live life to the fullest.

    Lori McKenna wrote the song, “Humble and Kind” which Tim McGraw turned into a powerful and award winning country song and video in 2016. It ends with the lines……….

    “When you get where you’re goin’
    Don’t forget turn back around
    Help the next one in line
    Always stay humble and kind”

    Words to live by and words lived by Caron. May they always be in our hearts and minds to remind us daily to reach out to others.

    I pray for Caron’s grace when it is my turn. We all get one……..

    Bruce

  10. Fritz – Fantastic post. Brutal reminder. Love the responses. Another of my favorite authors, Ryan Holiday, has a simple reminder, memento mori – Latin for ‘remember that you have to die’. It’s a great reminder to live in the moment, be grateful and live life to the fullest.

  11. It is so powerful to see a strong Christian resting in God’s arms and living in God’s PEACE. Thanks Fritz for sharing your friends loving memory… Denny Engle

  12. I love this quote and i think she lived it beautifully. “Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, leave the rest to God” Ronald Reagan.

  13. Good post Fritz, sorry for your loss. You were fortunate to have known her. I have been lucky to have known a few Carons in my life, it’s only sad they are so few and far between. That’s why its so important to be the best person I can be each and every day, at least that’s the goal. I know how a person’s life can totally change in the blink of an eye, and the only thing those people ever have in common is that they never saw it coming. Thank you for sharing your story about Caron.

  14. I’m so sorry for your lost. Thank you for sharing your experiences with this amazing woman.

  15. Fritz, we are so sorry for the loss of such a beautiful friend. Caron’s life has now given those who weren’t blessed to have met her, an eternal model of love. No matter what, the greatest thing one can leave for those still on earth is Love. God bless you and your community.

  16. Fritz,
    Thanks so very much for sharing your knowledge about an absolutely wonderful person who did so much to make people happy. Also, I have read the above comments and assure you that your writing has really touched a large number of people. As you know when you published the article “The Veteran” in 2018 I will be 95 years old in two days, and your writing plus the writings of those sending comments, have inspired me to do my best to live the final years trying to keep others happy.
    Don Mathews, Colonel, USAF (Ret)

  17. I am sad for you and everyone who was directly part of Caron’s life. The loss you feel leaves a hole that is never filled, but somehow, over time, you learn to ‘deal with it.’ Maybe there can be some comfort in knowing that your post is a great tribute to Caron’s memory, and it clearly helps to carry on her wonderful legacy.

    May God grant his peace to you all…

  18. Thank you for sharing this article and tribute to Caron – it was emotionally moving. The article triggered several thoughts. My grandmother died of ALS when I was very young. I didn’t understand the disease but it’s progression was fast – 9 months. Caron was an outstanding example of loving woman who modeled and lived an admirable Christian life. Caron is the name of an addiction clinic that I visited for a family member addicted to drugs and alcohol. This clinic was instrumental in his recovery. I will aim to keep Caron’s memory alive as I head into retirement in 2022.

  19. A great blog and a powerful reminder to make the most of every moment of our life. A truth that Caron lived out beautifully in both sickness and in healthy. She was definitely a bright spot in our church and our community. No one is promised ‘tomorrow; therefore, we must make today count. Caron will always be remembered for her kindness, zeal for life and her selflessness. I am thankful to have known her. Thanks you, Fritz, for honoring her life.

    Blessings,
    Pastor Chan

  20. I am Caron’s sister n law. I married her brother 27 years ago. And she was more like a sister than n law. She was a true example of goodness. And her example while sick was mind blowing. She was the strongest human being I had ever known. And she fought this disease to the end. And not for herself. But for all of us that loved her. And miss her. Her funeral service was just as wonderful a tribute to her as this article is. She lived on. God bless.

  21. A few lessons to be learned from that post. Thanks fritz. And an opportunity to re focus one’s priorities. If we all have a little of Caron in us, I think we’ll be just fine. Prayers to her husband and family.

  22. Aging and eventually dying is an inevitable fact, just as the sunrise and sunset!

    Factually, the sun is aging and dying just like the rest of us.

    Yet, the sun is faithfully and passionately provides benefits for the earth with its rise and set actions.

    Instead of thinking of life is fragile, let’s focus our mindset on the usefulness of each and every precious life every step along the way.

  23. Thank you, Fritz! You captured with your words what those of us who were blessed enough to know and love her consistently experienced from her in our every interaction with her. What an amazing life. What an amazing impact for good.

    Robert

  24. Hi Fritz – I’m a new subscriber to your blog. I’m the type who don’t normally post comments on any media platform and I’m trying to do better with providing feedback. I heard of you from going thru Roger Whitney’s old podcast (new to his podcast too). Your writing is captivating. So sorry about your loss. I am a new fan. Seven years from retirement and looking to learn a lot from you through your blogs and books.

  25. Fritz thank you for this post and reminder to us all of what is truly important in our life….FAITH.

    Prayers to her husband and extended family, as God’s blessings continue to keep them in their time of loss and sorrow.

  26. Thank you for this reminder of the fragility of life. My condolences and prayers for you and Caron’s husband. She sounds like an amazing woman. I had my own experience of life changing in a second. I was diagnosed with leukemia and spent the next 5 months in the hospital. My faith, the prayers of many, the medical professionals and most of all God are what got me through it. I am thankful for each day.

  27. A poignant & thoughtful post so different from your normal material Fritz. It kinda puts everything into perspective especially during these difficult Covid times.

  28. The world needs more people like Caron.

    I hope that I can learn to achieve the level of goodness, kindness, and strength that she exhibited to you, your mountain town, and anyone who crossed her path.

    Thank you so much for this great reminder. Life is too short to be an unkind person. Life is too short to not try to enjoy every minute that you can. Thank you.

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