Carol Haeussler was born on November 24, 1945 and grew up in the house her father had built at 14 Ute Street here in Parsippany – the house where she would call home for the vast majority of her life. Before Carol had reached her third birthday, her mother Gladys died unexpectedly on appendicitis. Carol suffered an unimaginable loss for a girl so young.
God provided a healing balm for little Carol’s life in the form of Margaret Mae Ike, who would marry her father Henry and enthusiastically take on the role of mother for Carol. When Carol was six her sister Sharon was born, and when she was sixteen, her sister Krystal was born, for whom Carol would spend much time in her life worrying over as a mother worries over her child.
Carol graduated from Parsippany High in 1964, and began commuting into New York City to a job working for Dell Publishing. It was there a year later that Carol met George, who, recently discharged from the army, and had just begun working there. George bought Carol a cup of coffee, and she was struck by his sweetness. Three weeks later George asked Carol out on their first date to go to none other than the World’s Fair.
Very quickly, George and Carol fell deeply in love. Just three weeks after their first date, they were engaged, but not before George made a point of asking Carol’s father and mother for her hand in marriage — a request they were most pleased to grant.
It was only three months later that George and Carol were married right here in the Parsippany Methodist Church, in what would have been one of the very first weddings held here in this church building. A reception was held in a restaurant in Boonton, but their work schedules prevented the newlyweds from taking a honey moon.
They lived in an apartment at Colonial Heights on Parsippany Road.
In 1968 Carol gave birth to her son Michael. Born prematurely, Michael weighed only two pounds, two ounces and would need to spend the first three months of his life in the hospital. He would be a great blessing that Carol would treasure throughout the course of her life.
On December 19th, 1975, Carol’s father died unexpectedly. Soon afterwards, Carol, George and Michael moved in to the family home on Ute Street in which Carol had grown up in order to look after Carol’s mother and Krystal, who was entering high school. In time Carol’s sister Sharon would come to live there as well.
When Michael reached the end of elementary school, Carol went back to work outside the home, finding employment in a variety of settings: A hamburger joint called Geno’s, an insurance company, Tiffany and Co., and at a bank.
Carol was her son’s solid rock when his health declined, culminating with kidney failure at the age of 24. George gave his son the gift of life through the gift of one of his own kidneys.
Shortly before this, Michael had begun dating Larli. When he first brought her back to the house to meet his parents, afterwards Carol said to George, “What did you think of Larli?” “I thought she was nice,” George answered. “That’s good,” Carol said, “because you just met your future daughter-in-law.” George was dumbfounded, but Carol knew her son, and she was right. Because Michael’s health concerns and financial constraints, it would be another seven years before they would be married in a beautiful wedding at St. Peter’s on Valentine’s Day in 1998, followed by wonderful celebration afterwards in a restaurant in Mountain Lakes. It was one of the happiest days of Carol’s life.
But other wondrously happy days were soon to follow, beginning with Matthew’s birth, followed two years later with the birth of Danielle. They all lived together in the house on Ute Street, and Carol, who simply adored children, and her grandchildren in particular, delighted in her new role of Granny. She showered them with love. She particularly enjoyed Christmas with her grandchildren, treasuring the delight in their eyes when they opened their presents on Christmas morning.
In the coming years Carol would bear burdens of struggle and heartache that might well have crushed her if not for the joy of her grandchildren, and the love of her family. In 2003 severe breathing problems forced Carol to undergo surgery to install a tracheostomy – so for the last nine years of her life she breathed through a tube in a permanent hole in her throat.
In 2005, Carol’s often-troubled baby sister Krystal died. Three years later in 2008 Carol’s beloved sister Sharon, the person with whom she spent the most time in the day to day routines of her life, finally succumbed to death after more hospitalizations than could be remembered.
A sweet memory stands out a year after Sharon’s death in 2009. Carol summoned the courage to board an airplane with oxygen tank in tow to travel to Disney World with her family for the first out-of-state vacation of her life. It was a blessed time of shared family joy, a foretaste of what is to come in heaven.
What Carol didn’t know at the time was that she would only have her husband George for one more year. It was assumed that he was in far better health than she, but little over two years ago George died quietly and unexpectedly in his sleep after 45 years of marriage. George was the love of her life – her soul mate – the man who routinely would lean over in the middle of the night as the slept beside one another simply to tell her once more he loved her.
And yet for the past two years and two months Carol carried on in spite of missing George terribly. She would have a sandwich or cookies and some lemonade waiting for Matthew and Danielle when they got home from school. They were the apple of her eye, and they loved their Granny. “Granny, I love you, see you when I get back,” they’d say to Carol as they set off to school in the morning. She took delight and pride in Matthew with his choral singing, and in Danielle with her dance lessons. She was so proud of you. She was proud also of sister-in-law Susan’s three grown children: LauriAnn, Virginia and Michael and all their many accomplishments in life.
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about Carol was her great compassion for others. The heartaches of her own life, dating all the way back to losing her mother as a child of barely three, seemed to deepen her capacity to identify with the sufferings of others. She enthusiastically carried on a tradition established by her mother Margaret before her, that there was always a place set at their table for someone who needed a warm meal and a kind word. If you were alone for Thanksgiving or Christmas, you could count on finding a welcome in Carol’s home. She was always a willing and sympathetic listener. In Michael’s word, she was simply “amazing” this way.
Once she heard about a house fire that had left a man with no presents to give his kids at Christmas time, and she and George and went out and bought gifts for the man’s kids, though she had never met the man nor his kids. She felt strongly that every child in this world should find presents waiting for them under the tree on Christmas morning.
Many years ago when Carol heard that our church would be holding annual weekend retreats for people living with HIV/AIDS Carol was quick to offer her assistance. Her heart went out to people who were bearing the burden of the disease and the stigma that especially in those days went along with it. For years Carol provided craft projects for the people who came looking for rest and renewal to work at their leisure, as well as the gift of her easy companionship as she worked along side them.
Although Carol was a worrier, deep inside her was a deep, abiding faith in a loving God. She trusted that Jesus had prepared a place for her in his home, and that she would be one day reunited with George, with her sisters Sharon and Krystal, with both her father and both the women who had mothered her in this world.
And so life goes on. The day that Carol died was the day that Larli and Carol had set aside for their traditional day for baking Christmas cookies. There will be a heartache for sure in the absence moving forward of Carol’s physical presence in these traditions of life. But she loves you yet.
On New Year’s Day Larli made the stuffed cabbage that was the families tradition for the day. Carol had taught Larli how to cook this dish. As Larli made the preparations for the New Year’s Day meal, she could her Carol’s pleased voice saying, “I taught you good.”
And so she has. She has taught you about love and loyalty. Carol has taught you about how to keep on moving forward when at times life is very, very hard. She taught you how to trust in God and to care about the people God has given you to care for.
1Corinthians 13 the Apostle Paul declares, “Though I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, if I have not love, I am nothing… Love is patient and kind. Love bears all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
Love bears all things. Carol had to bear a great deal in this life; in spite of it all, she never stopped loving. She never closed down her heart.
Everything else passes away. We are here to love; to embody, in our own unique way the love of God in our flesh. This is what Carol did. We often get misled in life regarding what life is all about. It is not about attaining riches, fame or power. It is about sharing kindness. Carol knew this. And this knowledge is her legacy to us.