In the past week, the residents of southeast Missouri have lost one of our finest neighbors. She was not a highly decorated public official, not an individual that commanded inordinate attention, nor had she amassed great financial means. She was, however, an uncommon and endangered breed. She was a servant . . . . a woman who lived her life devoted to others. Many only knew her as the voice of the VNA Answer Nurse while others were privileged to welcome her into both their homes and hearts as we struggled with illnesses and ultimately our own mortality. Carol DeGraw spent over 30 years ministering to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of our communities and she did it with grace and humility. She was a friend when we need a friend the most. She entered every home as if it were a mansion and treated every patient with dignity and respect. She celebrated our triumphs and grieved our losses. We will not fully recognize the extent of our loss until we need her service. In a rare and uncommon display of humanity Carol followed her heart and found her purpose as a public servant.
I was privileged to know this woman and call her friend for the better part of my life. She was my mentor and my colleague. I know that her work was more than a profession it was a calling. So how does a community repay a life of service? How do we honor the memory our friend and neighbor who gave so much and expected so little? Perhaps Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best when he called us all to "pay it forward."
Dr. King reminded us that, "Everybody can be great . . . . because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."
Service was in Carol's heart and love was her only motivation. So on the occasion of her loss, I take this opportunity to challenge each of us to examine ourselves and remember that communities such as ours are enriched by the "Carl DeGraws" among us. As evidenced by her efforts, we need only the desire to meet the need.
Thank You Carol. I will always be . . . .
Your grateful friend,