By Barb Arland-Fye
A friend invited me to her small prayer group six years ago to meet an amazing woman of faith, Carol Parr. My friend Cheryl hoped that Carol, a modest woman, would allow me to write a story about her decision to place complete trust in God while rejecting chemotherapy for treatment of Stage 4 cancer.
Carol welcomed me into her tastefully decorated Davenport home and introduced me to the Divine Mercy Chaplet and other prayers, including one asking for the intercession of St. Peregrine, patron saint for persons suffering from cancer.
The small group of five or six women invited me to return the following week. I did, and continued to participate for several years. Shortly after I joined the prayer group, I wrote a story about the inspiration behind it.
In May 2013, a cancer diagnosis turned Carol’s world upside down. Later, during daily Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, during the Prayer of the Faithful, she asked the Lord to give her strength, courage and perseverance because she had made the decision that “the Lord will be my chemo.” Two strangers, Tina and Melissa, heard that plea and wanted to pray for Carol. By coincidence, they discovered that their friend Cheryl was a good friend of Carol’s. With Cheryl’s help, Carol’s small prayer group formed. Other women found their way to the prayer group, too.
I am grateful to have joined them. They became my friends and confidants. We prayed for each other and others. If I arrived late for Tuesday prayer group, my prayer partners moved over on the couch or pulled up another chair.
Sometimes the soothing repetition of the Divine Mercy Chaplet caused me to drift into a nap. My prayer partners just smiled and continued praying. Carol’s toy poodle, Cole, joined us. She adored Cole!
Carol experienced pain; we could tell when she winced. But she didn’t complain. About a year later, Melissa was diagnosed with cancer. We stormed heaven with prayers, but God called Melissa home in 2015. The group prayed for me, Tina, and others when each of us dealt with a cancer diagnosis or other health challenge. Carol held on to her trust in God, continued to help others and bore her suffering with little complaint.
More recently, cancer returned with furious force. Carol agreed to start chemotherapy, but didn’t like the side effects and stopped it. She died Jan. 22 and we celebrated her funeral Mass on Jan. 24 at Sacred Heart Cathedral, her home away from home.
We sang “Glory to God” as the entrance hymn because as Father Rich Adam, the pastor said, it was Carol’s favorite song. We always sang “Glory to God” at prayer group, except during penitential liturgical times. Father Rich described Carol as a woman deeply committed to her faith. Even in the last week of her life, she asked her pastor and others to sing “Glory to God” when they visited her in hospice.
Carol’s baby brother Joe gave the eulogy. He spread his arms wide from the ambo and said “Carol’s house.” Then he spread his arms toward all of us in the pews and said, “Carol’s family.” We all smiled at the truthfulness of his statement.
Joe shared how Carol helped mother her younger siblings after their mother died when Carol was 18. “Now we can argue about how much Carol actually took care of us younger ones,” Joe said. “But there would be no argument about who you would go to…. She had to help if at all possible. You might get turned down everywhere else but you could always count on Carol.”
He ended his eulogy with audience participation. At his instruction, we stood, raised our right hand and then our left hand before waving both hands back and forth to show how Carol had loved us, helped us, encouraged us and inspired us. One more reason to sing “Glory to God.”
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at email@example.com)