Dear Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heidi,
It was a beautiful morning. I started the day off like I usually do on a Saturday. First thing I call my parents, as they are 6 hours ahead of us in Scotland. I chatted like I always do, eager to hear news from the week before. Then after breakfast, I made a cup of hot tea and sat at the computer to do our bills for the week. I had planned to cut grass that day, and my husband Mike, was going to run over to my daughter’s house to pick up an extension cord she had borrowed, so I could run the electric weed-eater. He had arranged with her the night before, calling her at the restaurant where she worked to figure the best time to collect it. Sitting at the computer by the window my husband and I both saw and heard an ambulance go by. There is always that dread when you see an ambulance. It was headed in the direction of a friend’s house and the husband was known to have heart problems. We thought of him and remarked that we hoped it was not Billy.
A few moments later, my husband left to go to my daughter’s house, which is just up the road to collect the extension cord. It was then that he learned the reason for the ambulance and the horror of what had really happened. He immediately came home and burst into the house, “It’s Carrie” he said, “she’s dead!”
I quickly got dressed, trying to digest what I had just been told, in unbelief we left and went just two miles up the road from our house to where someone had found her car. The ambulance was still there. The car was down a steep hill, you could see skid marks on the road, damage to a tree that had been hit and then the chaos the little orange VW had gone through to get to the bottom of the hill. I write this a month after her death to the date, still trying to let reality sink in, still in a state of shock.
“They handed me your red purse.
As if to say “Hold this for Carrie!”
The same purse I saw you swing
over your shoulder.
Open to answer your phone.
Its contents reflect your last minutes.
You zipped it up
as if to protect its contents
From being scattered all over the car.
You loved that purse.
It’s contents once private are cherished.
The key chain you loved.
The rings I always saw you wear.
The phone that rang,
not knowing you were gone.
How bizarre that it could survive
without a stain or bump
and you were so broken.
I look at your purse,
don’t know where it belongs.
I cherish it and hate it.
I will hold it for you.
Carrie left such a void in our lives. I think about her every day. Sometimes I still get that urge to pick up the phone and call her and then reality sinks in and I realize I can’t. Or something will happen and I want to share it with her, but I get a sick feeling in my stomach because I know I can’t. Carrie was the kind of girl that would brighten up a room when she walked in. She would make you laugh with her wit. As teens, a family time for us was often on a Sunday afternoon all of us would pile up on the king size bed we had and just talk and talk. Carrie would always run and jump on us, and the bed. She would go around the house singing lines from old songs just out of the blue, the one most sung was “The Hills are alive with the sound of Music” and I would cut in and sing with her. Or “we’re having a heat wave, a tropical heat wave”. I don’t even know what movie that one came from except she said the lady in the movie had fruit on her head.
Carrie was a great cook, she soon learned to make the famous Schuch’s apple pie, and went on to cook delicious cakes that she would take to friends for birthdays and an elderly friend who doesn’t get out much.
She was an artist. She loved math. Both seemed to merge as her artwork reflected patterns and designs a s well as the unexpected.
In her senior year in high school Carrie was a model student. She did well in School. She was the kind of girl that at Church people would comment, they wanted their kids to grow up and turn out like Carrie. She helped in Children’s Church and had a special love for children. The kids loved her. Carrie was kindhearted.
I miss her hugs. No one hugs like she did. She would hug you tightly like she meant it, and I used to pat her gently on the back which turned into, her patting me on the back too and we would both be there patting each other on the back and hugging, to see who was going to give up first.
I have no doubt Carrie loved me, she wrote this email, her first year of college:
“Dear Mum, I get a point for writing Mum don’t I? (I liked my children to call me the British Mum) First off, I love you just as I love Daddy. You gave up a lot for me, I appreciate it. You stayed home with Isla and I when we were little. You will never know how much that meant to us. You home schooled me for a year, although you are probably why I have such a harable spealing prublums. I still love you. You are very smart, it isn’t all Dad! You are a lot of fun, you have a different sense of humor, yes you have one. You are very artistic and creative. I know I pick with you and tell you that you have no taste, but you do have taste it is just different from my weird taste! I mean you picked out some very cute shirts for me! But don’t feel you have to buy me stuff to make me happy. I really love you no matter what! You have been a great example to me, who could ask for better parents, as a Christian you have been a good model, and as a mother you have been very supportive and loving. You never told me that I couldn’t do anything, you have always been supportive of my dreams. Some of them may be a bit outlandish and I usually grow out of them but you don’t. Thank you very much, I am glad that you are my Mother. I wouldn’t trade you for the world. I love you TONS!
the Greatest and Wonderfullest daughter in the world”
It was at that first year of college, that Carrie started having problems. I think Carrie started out trying to be strong, she would go to Christian meetings and Church with her sister. We had sent her to Summit Ministries, which is a great camp for Christians to be warned of the dangers at college and what to look out for. We all knew that Carrie was weak willed. She was our chameleon. A personality test we took for fun as a family said that she was easily led astray. It was eerily correct. Carrie started to have two lives, the one she told us about and the real life. After a date rape incident at college, which we knew nothing about until many months later, she headed into a world of pain, darkness and depression. A world where she tried so hard to find peace but turned to drugs as a temporary solution to her problems.
Things came to a head on October 19th 2002. Carrie called that Saturday to say someone had stomped on the top of her car at the restaurant where she worked, and something told Mike to go, we were going to wait and go Sunday after church but Mike got restless at home with worry and left early. That day I was praying and fasting for Carrie. Begging God to intervene in her life. We had started to know that things weren’t what they should be or what we thought they were. Mike parked outside the restaurant and waited hours for Carrie to get off work later that night. She was inside working and trying to decide wither to leave out the front door with a friend and disappear, or come out the back door and meet with her Dad. She decided to see Dad, and they talked for hours, the whole truth came out. He persuaded her to come home, not making any demands on her, saying just for the weekend and she could decided what to do later. Carrie at that point had a revival in her life. She decided to stay home, she knew to stay in Oxford, meant being constantly around friends who’s love involved drugs and sex. She confessed everything to us. It was painful to know the things she had been through, and I as a mother wanted to wrap my arms around her and protect her.
Here in Carrie’s words are what happened to her, taken from a letter she wrote to her sister.
“You may look at this as a failure and in a way I did fail, but I think that is the wrong way to look at this. When I came to Ole Miss, it stared out good. I never really made any Christian friends there and soon I was into drugs and sleeping around. I was suicidal, depressed, failing school, not going to class and holding onto work because I saw it as all I had. I was in a box. I couldn’t see anything but darkness. I couldn’t see a way out. I only remember pain and what it felt like to be in my box. I began to feel comfortable in the depression. I liked it. I liked being sad because that is all I could really remember. I didn’t think there was anything good left in life for me. I saw this world as full of pain and I wanted out. When I was high, I was happy. Just because I didn’t care, I had no stress, no worries. They were still there and they would just be more numerous and bigger when I came down. I stayed insanely busy with work and having fun just to drown out my mind. I didn’t want to hear what I had to say. I knew what it would tell me. I listened to music, non stop, almost all the time so I couldn’t hear myself think. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I was comfortable and was having fun even though I was killing myself mentally and physically. Dad knew what was going on. He isn’t dumb. I knew he knew. He also knew that he couldn’t treat us like we were five. He knows that if we don’t want to do right there is nothing he can do. Anyway, Dad and I had been fighting for quite a while. Saturday morning we were fighting over the phone over my car. He told me he was going to come Sunday after Church to look at it and he told me he thought I really needed to think about my life and where it was going. I broke down and cried after he got off the phone. I was so depressed and torn up that morning. I went to work almost breaking down in tears all morning. Finally around lunch time I prayed actually, it was more like I told God: He knows my life, my mind, me. I couldn’t hide who I was and I wasn’t going too, I never tried to hide who I was from God, only others. I told him if he loved me still and thought I was worth the trouble, if he wanted me he was going to have to take me. I couldn’t walk away. He knew me. I told God to pull me out of this mess. Then Dad showed up. He had been at home and about the same time I had been praying he dealt with Dad. Dad felt led to come and talk to me on Saturday. He didn’t know why. It wasn’t to come and drag me home by the hair. It was simply to talk. He just felt led to come and was worried about me. He really had no clue what was going on. He waited in the back parking lot till 10:30pm praying and worrying about me. At 10:30pm I walked out there and he suggested I come home and we would talk on the way and he would drive back in the morning after Church. I got in the car and told dad absolutely everything about my life. He never once was mad at me, he never once raised his voice at me. He still loves me. I am one person now. I am no longer two battling inside. God answered my prayer, he saved me, I didn’t have to do a thing. He pulled me out of the mess I had made. I am no longer in my box. I can see so much better. At first things were so cloudy. Everyday the clouds are getting thinner. I am so happy now. I don’t know what I am supposed to do but I don’t have to as long as I am looking to God he will take care of me and use me and put me to his works. Isla don’t feel in any way that I have failed. Don’t be sad that I had to withdraw this past semester. I did not fail but I won.”
In her time of revival Carrie also wrote:
“Life is not about pleasure or entertainment or trying to make yourself happy. There is no end to these things. You have to be content with everything you have, who you are, and others. You have to love others more than yourself and love God above everyone and everything. Do not think about what you would like to make you happy, it won’t. Nothing in this world will. True Joy will only be found in Heaven. You will know no joy like it. That is truly what you long for, that complete happiness. There is no way to find it here, so why look! Be happy!
Carrie spent a time at home. For a time, she didn’t answer the phone or the door. She didn’t go anywhere. She wanted to get away from her old friends and bad habits in Oxford. For a time, the old Carrie was back. She had that glow about her, you could tell she was happy. She used the time to read and paint and write. Slowly she faced the world again, getting out and about and looking in to going to college in Fulton at ICC. It was during the Thanksgiving break, when some of her old friends were home from college that she fell back into the other life. These were very troubling times for us, as we felt our child slowly slip away from us almost as if she was dead to us. There was no reasoning with her, even begging. I continued to pray and fast for her. On 24th November 2002, I wrote to God, (you can tell our family likes to write)
“I love you and I trust you!
And I just hang on to that.
When I feel numb by the world’s troubles
I love you and trust you!
When nothing looks right
I know You are in control of my life.
When dreams fade
I hold onto you tightly.”
That is what we did as we went through more troubles with Carrie. Mike left to go to Chile for work April 8th and Carrie moved out the house April 9th. She rented a small house not far from where we live. She worked, went to college and partied. The day she moved out we talked, I cried and begged her to turn her life back to God. I told her she would never find true happiness unless God was 1 in her life. I wasn’t getting through though. Drugs had their hold on her, there was no reasoning.
Two weeks before her death, I again prayed and fasted, on Saturday May 31st I wrote: “I set aside this day to pray and fast for Carrie. I am begging You Lord to intervene in her life. Lord she has lost her way and is blinded by satan and his lies. Lord put your Angles around her for protection but Lord guide and do what needs to be done to bring her back to you before the devil kills her completely. Lord, SHE IS YOUR CHILD. Remember the goodness that used to flow from her. The bright kind eyes. They have been filled with a hollow look and ugliness. Lord drugs have a hold on her. Lord it is way out of control and we are helpless in of ourselves. Lord I beg you please intervene in her life. Do what needs to be done by your understanding. You know Lord, we just ask you and beg you Lord. She is your child. Lord I am knocking at your window with the pebbles Lord. Answer these petitions I pray. It is a day to pray and fast, it needs to be done. Lord it’s in your hands. Your Almighty hands.”
Later that same day of prayer and fasting for Carrie I wrote a note to Carrie after seeing her Christian CD collection left at home. “Dear Carrie, Came across your CD’s today. I don’t guess you have any need for them. Looking though them I remember you listening to each one, Third Day, Sonic Flood, Rebecca St. James. I wonder where your little brown Bible is with the leather cover. The one you took to Church so often. I don’t understand Carrie but I rest assured that God knows your heart and He knows what is best for you. I haven’t handled this very well. You have shut me out of your life completely. I am not supposed to understand. I feel like you have died. I don’t want to bury you. I love you. God has a plan for your life. Remember !!??”
A week before Carrie’s death she had a visitor. A boy she had met at parties. He had been in rehab and had a day out to visit. Carrie didn’t recognize him when he got out the car. His countenance had changed so much. He looked so different. We only know about this through a letter we found after her death. Because of his visit, Carrie had decided she wanted to straighten her life up again. She wrote a letter to her Dad stating as much but we didn’t get it until later, she ended it by saying that she wanted to clean up her life and try to go back to the morally straight Carrie. As we look back, Carrie had a week of change.
The hardest thing in my life was to go through my daughter’s belongings. She had rented a house and we felt the need to sort through her things quickly. I remember sitting there alone in her house on the floor. I saw the pile of clothes where she had taken her work clothes off and changed before going out that last night. I saw the little things, the hopes and dreams come to an abrupt end. She had a big day planned, Father’s day. She was going to feed us at her house and I have a feeling was going to reveal the change in her life then. She had repainted the house because at parties she and her friends had drawn all over the walls. She had gotten rid of all her CD’s that were questionable. She had painted over some paintings she had started, but were in bad taste. She was so proud of the cross she had made for her Dad for Father’s day at the pottery shop. It was laying on top of the microwave. The shopping list for the next day lay on the kitchen counter for the meal she was going to cook for us:
Grocery List: 6 Tuna Steaks, butter, lemons, olive oil, parsley, lettuce, feta, almonds, red peppers, mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, raspberry vinegar, balsamic vinegar, cumin, bell peppers, garlic, onions, shrimp, cocktail sauce,
Sat. Night Prep. Cut up veg. marinate steaks, wa sh lettuce and boil shrimp, make dressing, set up shrimp platter, set aside shrimp for salad. Tuna marinade: butter, olive oil, lemon, bacon, red peppers.
Saturday night never came for Carrie. Friday night, Carrie though wanting to change her life, to do right made a bad decision. She chose a road that was dangerous and it was late and the person she was going to meet meant trouble in her life again. It had been raining. She headed in that direction but never made it. We don’t know if she dodged an animal or was just tired, something made her skid and hit that tree. Everything Carrie left, gave us the impression she was seriously changing her life that week. All it took was one more trip in the other direction. Her Heavenly Father decided it was time Carrie came home.
Now she is in perfect peace, that peace she wrote about being in Heaven. A wise friend told me after much prayer and thought, that she thought Carrie’s life wasn’t cut short, but it was more a matter of Carrie’s short life was competed. Carrie touched our lives more than anyone will know. Our sorrow is deep. The idea of the Coffee House for Carrie came shortly after her death. We felt such a deep sorrow for kids that were in Carrie’s situation. Her friends. With the insurance money from her death we started a non profit organization Carrie’s Coffee House. It is a safe supervised place for teens to hang out on the weeknd. If the Coffee House could stop one young person from going in the wrong direction we thought, it would all be worthwhile. So, in her death, and in her loving memory Carrie’s Coffee House was born.
It has been four years now since her death and ever weekend my husband and I still spend our time at the Coffee House with anywhere from 50-150 teens. We have watched a lot of kids grow up in four years. It has not only been a blessing to us but a channel for out grief. I don’t think I would have made it without the Coffee House. I still think of Carrie every day and miss her terribly and look forward to seeing her again one day.
Written by Alison (Carrie’s Mum)
Drs. Gloria and Heidi Respond
We are so sorry for your loss. Losing a child is one of the hardest things that we ever have to face. Neither time nor words can fill up the hole that is left inside us. But you have found a wonderful path to healing and that is in helping others. We applaud you for starting Carrie’s Coffee House to give other young people a place to come that is fun and safe. We wish you great success and continued healing.
Thank you for sending us your story. By the way, have you considered writing a book about Carrie , the Coffee House and the young people who come to there? You write very, very well and many could be helped by hearing what you have to say.
Drs. Gloria and Heidi Horsley