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Carol Cottrell Childress, 1931-2012

It’s a flat stone in the small country churchyard at Byrd Memorial Methodist Chapel in Kents Store, Fluvanna County, Virginia. Yesterday morning it marked the resting place of Ray Childress, born 1924 and died 1992.

But there is another name on the stone: Carol Childress. And though it has only one date — her birthdate, in 1931 — there is more engraving now to be done.

For, yesterday afternoon, under threatening skies, the family gathered once again in that small country churchyard and said goodbye to yet another of our loved ones.

Carol Ray Cottrell Childress. Born 20 December 1931 in Midland County, Texas. The eighth-born child of my grandparents, Clay Rex and Opal (Robertson) Cottrell and sixth of the 10 they raised to adulthood.

My mother’s younger sister. My lovely aunt with the contagious chortle who always always always called me “darlin’” in that soft drawl…

Carol around 1932

Carol as a schoolgirl around 1943-44

Carol and Ray, wedding day 1953

Carol around 1970

Carol in recent years

It isn’t that we weren’t expecting this. Carol was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer this summer, and the news from the medical folks was uniformly grim. There was no combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or other medical wizardry that was going to change the outcome.

But even though you know it isn’t going to happen, you can’t help but want that miracle cure…

Because you just can’t bear to think that you’re never going to hear that chortle again… that no-one will ever call you “darlin’” again in that soft drawl… that there are only four left of my mother’s generation…

Saying goodbye doesn’t ever get any easier. And even these lovely images don’t ease the pain of a loss like this.

Rest in peace, sweet aunt. We will always miss you.

Note: Many thanks to my cousin Paula Williams for organizing, archiving, uploading and caretaking the family photo collection, and for taking and sharing the tombstone photo.

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