Lives Worth Remembering, Stories Worth Telling

By Lisa Batten Kunkleman

My hometown lost a treasure recently. A popular music teacher and friend to so many,  Carol’s unexpected death left people speechless, unable to fathom the senselessness of the loss. Unable to accept that someone took her life. For those of us fortunate enough to know Carol, we each have cherished memories and stories to share about how she affected our lives.

In the 1970’s, as our young, energetic Baptist church youth and choral director, Carol worked diligently to keep all her teens involved. She provided us with opportunities for learning and service. Here’s my story.

Although there certainly were far better pianists to choose from in our church, she recruited me to play piano for the children’s choir. She also founded a close harmony sextet named Starshine, consisting of five of my friends and me. She taught us to appreciate some lovely pop ballads, like Cherish and More, that we performed for adult functions, civic groups, and for our own church. We performed as an a cappella group before that was a popular style of singing.

Fortunately, I didn’t procrastinate in telling our friend how much she meant to me in those teen years. Twenty years later, I told her how influential she and Starshine had been in my life. I told Carol how she nurtured my love of music by encouraging me to sing solos in church. Assuring me that the more I did it, the less I’d be nervous, she was always a smiling face or a winking eye in the audience helping me through my fear.

I explained that her nurturing of me had trickled down into the lives of my own kids who  sang, played instruments, and performed in our family’s current church. When I told her that our oldest daughter majored in music, she lit up with my story of gratitude, so proud and pleased, yet humble. Always humble.

I was not alone in feeling her support. We all received her attention and nurturing. She went on from her church work to teach public school music for twenty-five years. I cannot imagine how many lives she affected, undoubtedly making every student feel important, special, like they mattered.

Our friend passed away this week. Someone took the life of one of the kindest, most talented people many from our small town will ever know. My hometown is in shock and disbelief. Murder does that. People wonder how such a horrendous event could happen to a lovely, caring person, one who lived her Christian beliefs, always putting others first. Carol’s pure kindness and caring made the world a brighter place.

I’ve decided there are Three Truths in Life: We’re all born. We all live a life filled with stories. We all die. The last part is difficult to accept. Whether by natural causes, accidents, old age, or tragedy of any kind, celebrating a life well lived is a positive and affirming way to deal with grief and sorrow. Sharing life stories and memories keeps people “alive” with us. Carol’s stories are well worth sharing. People’s stories tell so much more than how they died. Their stories show how they lived.

24 thoughts on “Lives Worth Remembering, Stories Worth Telling

  1. [J+D] Thanks for attesting a life lived for good.

  2. beautiful quote and great tribute

  3. There are no words. My thoughts and prayers for her beautiful life and her family and friends.

    • Thanks so much for reading this, George. I know about there being no words. This was difficult to write as I wanted her love and life to overshine my personal feelings and emotions.

  4. What a beautiful tribute to Carol.No doubt she touched many lives. I love, love the quote, Lisa! Happy Friday!

  5. A lovely tribute and soothing words – healing after such a heinous crime. So sorry for your loss and the loss of the whole community!

  6. Carol and I worked together for 13 years, together every morning, greeting the children on the way to breakfast. I can only agree with all the kind and loving comments that have been shared. The world will miss her.

  7. I am so sorry for your loss. Your tribute was lovely.

  8. I’m so pleased that you wrote this. I followed the link in the News Reporter and knew she affected many people, but you made it real to me since I had never heard of her until her untimely passing. Now that I am almost grown up myself I have been so enriched by the life stories of family and friends. We never know how the smallest kindness affects those in our circle of friends.

    • Thanks so much. I’m glad you got to know a bit of Carol. That was my hope. To share her story and encourage folks to talk to their influential people and not put that talk off too long.

  9. I am sorry for your loss.

  10. What a beautiful tribute, Lisa. I am so sorry for your loss and glad that you have such warm memories of Carol.

  11. So sorry to hear the news, Lisa. My condolences to all who loved Carol.
    Thanks for your tribute to her and your observations about life.

  12. Sorry for your loss. Our memories keep the ones we love alive in our hearts. Beautiful story.

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