Gardening Notes From Heaven

IN MEMORY OF CAROL ANN TONAN  – Died:  November 14, 2007



How fast summer left us, but in its wake we stumbled over new beginnings.  Some of our teens went off to college for the first time while others, returned to their schools for another year.  Families expanded, from infants to older loved ones needing care.  The pool closed, leaves began their fall, and Adams Run residents began another season.

Long before I was ready, the holidays were closing in.  Many of my normal seasonal activities were crossed off my list due to changes in our family.  Christmas cards were never mailed nor banana nut bread baked, (sorry neighbors).  When Carol Tonan called to ask me to join her for our annual Christmas decorating class, I almost said no.  Something, or rather Someone, changed my mind.

Carol was a neighbor, long before she became my friend.  I’d been told she was a nail technician, and I was in the market for one.  I’d get my nails done every other Friday.  My ex-husband used to say he hoped he didn’t die on a Friday, ’cause he’d be “laying up a corpse” and I’d be at the salon.  He was probably right.  I’d made Carol promise if I died, she’d make sure I wasn’t lying there with chipped nail polish.  I bet she would have too.

It seems like everyone relied on Carol for one reason or another.  She volunteered with the local teen pregnancy center, her Catholic church, the Knights of Columbus and fortunately for me, she served on the garden committee of Adams Run.

Carol, Barbara and I picked out the Yard of the Month.  What fun we had discussing everyone’s weeds (like faults, we all have a few) and we enjoyed the color and creativity found in so many gardens in our neighborhood.  Carol loved gardening.  Every spring, we attended the Saturday gardening classes at Lichtenfelts.  Clutching a steaming cup of coffee to warm our hands, we huddled on folding chairs notebooks ready. After class we’d wander among the rows of plants and discuss our latest finds.

Friday, November 9th, was my usual day to get my nails done.  Afterwards, Carol and I drove on to our decorating class where we shopped for our mantles and gathered ideas for decorating the Adams Run entrances. It was Carol who made the beautiful red bows that topped our wreaths.  She and I often decorated in the dark, shivering while we decked the street lights and stone walls for the Christmas season.  She wanted to attend the class to learn to make better bows.  I thought her bows were gorgeous, far better than any I’ve created.

After our decorating class, our next stop was Palmetto Home & Garden’s open house;  we ate so much we could hardly walk, (our high heels didn’t help any either.)

Armed and ready to decorate our own homes and the two entrances to all our homes, we headed to my car.

I dropped Carol off around 9:30 PM.  We transferred her purchases to her vehicle and she backed out of her spot to head home.  I didn’t move my car until her face came into view.  For some reason, my gaze lingered on her and I took a mental snapshot.  It was only at her funeral that I realized over all the years we’d been friends, I’d never taken a photograph of her.

Although Carol and I exchanged phone messages over the next couple of days, I never spoke to her again.  Wednesday, our neighbor Nancy, came to tell me in person Carol had died.  That evening, I looked upward to seek God in the midst of her loss and was startled to see a dazzling display unlike any other I have ever witnessed.  The night sky reminded me of Carol, a one of a kind, sparkling, sequined, and sought after jewel.

One day, I was explaining to my teenage daughter, Lauren, that cars (like teenagers) don’t appreciate, but houses do.  When I recall the fun times I had with my friend, I can’t help but wonder if she knew how much I appreciated her.

The following Christmas, in honor of Carol, I placed 58 luminaries across our neighborhood dam. Each light represented a year of Carol’s life.  This beautiful picture was taken by  David Korobkin, a professional photographer, who also lives in our neighborhood.    Through his incredible talent he captured the reflection of light Carol brought to her family, friends and community.

Spring is in the air and my garden is waking up from its winter sleep.  I’ve begun my seasonal planting and often think of Carol as I pull on my garden gloves.  Tears fall and I remind myself although my gardening buddy is no longer here she’s only moved, and we’ll be neighbors again one day.  I bet she has a gardening spot started and is learning from the One who made every shrub, flower and tree.

So Carol, be sure and take notes and hold me a chair next to yours.  I’ll bring the coffee.

Written Spring of 2008.

  1. Vonda Skelton, 13 November, 2012

    I remember when you lost your dear friend and later wrote this to honor her. Beautifully-written tribute. I’m sorry for your loss.

  2. jorae, 14 November, 2012

    Thanks Vonda. Carol impacted my life in so many ways and we shared many great times. I only hope to leave here knowing I have loved as well as she did. I pray you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family. Blessings~

  3. RJ Dawson, 19 November, 2012

    Great writing, Jo Rae. And wonderful memories…

  4. jorae, 20 November, 2012

    Thanks Bob! I am thankful I met Carol and she was such a blessing. I pray you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, my friend.


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