She helps us ‘see the good in all we face’
I suppose we all have a time when we realize how someone has touched us, or the impact they’ve had on our lives, too late. This is my time.
We lost Carole Allen this past week, and with her passing, many of us have lost more than a colleague. Carole was a friend, a passionate and generous champion who lost the last fight but whose spirit and determination will inspire us to see the good in all we face, to try harder than we think we can, and to say “thank you” and “I love you” more often.
I had the privilege of visiting with Carole two days before her death. She was quick to ask how I was, about a recent trip I had taken, about how my son was doing. She remembered our previous conversation and picked it right up. She was interested and thoughtful. She cared.
When Carole first went into hospice, she didn’t know what lay ahead, but it would be part of her journey, she said. What a journey she’s had.
Diagnosed with advanced-stage ovarian cancer nine years ago, Carole took on cancer like a heavy-weight fighting for the title. But the stakes were higher. She fought for her life, round after round after round. When she was down, she got up. She kept getting up and finding new hope, new treatments, new drug trials. She fought like a champion. At her graveside service Sunday, her son, Josh, called his mom a superhero and it is so fitting. Carole overcame obstacles and fought for each day, outliving the expert’s predictions to watch both sons graduate high school and then college and beyond.
And through it all, she photographed life in the Monadnock region. When others might have said they were too sick to work, Carole showed up, looking for assignments. When others might have found photographing the same event year after year less than thrilling, Carole jumped at the challenge, determined to find the interesting photo that captured the event for those who were there and those who weren’t able to attend. Known to take sometimes hundreds of photos while on assignment, she hated to choose which photos to use because she could see the story in every frame and wanted to share each one.
She was generous with her love. I saw that more in the last few weeks than ever before. Maybe she wanted me to see it, and maybe I let myself see it. Carole could be challenging. She had her way and wanted to do things her way. She wanted the photo she knew was possible and made sure she was in position to take it, unaware she might be blocking someone else’s view. That sometimes meant she was pushy, persistent and singularly focused. And, I have learned, that’s part of what made Carole an award-winning photographer. I’ll bet if we strung together all the frames that Carole made in her 15 years with the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, and looked at how many faces were in the newspaper because of those photos, we’d see that she touched more lives than most of us will in a lifetime.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, Carole was undergoing treatment of her own but always had the time and energy and room in her heart to ask how I was, and how treatment was going. Her upbeat attitude in spite of her own hardship, and her determination and persistence were inspiring. In the last few years, as treatments took a greater toll, she worked fewer hours and came to the office less frequently. But she always had an uncanny ability to pick up where we left off, ask about something important in my life, as though little time had passed. Her quick laugh, her big hug, her kind words all expressed her love. I hope I’ve learned from her. I know I’ll miss her.
Heather McKernan is publisher of the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript.