On the morning of April 2nd, my family awoke to the news that my father had died during the night. Upon hearing this, I was not where I should have been. I belonged next to my mother and brothers in that moment, in our family home in Greenville, North Carolina, Instead, I was in a room in Duke Hospital, Dean a few yards away in a recliner. Somehow we would all face this day and those to follow with a positive attitude – that is a lingering gift from Dad to us all.
“There in Spirit”
My father’s memorial service was held Wednesday, April 5 at 1 p.m. in Greenville, NC. Physically, I was not able to be there due to doctor’s orders not to make the car ride. Yet in every other possible way, I was present.
To borrow a favorite phrase of my mother’s, I was “there in spirit.” In this sense, I was sitting in my rightful place with my mother, my brothers and their wives, and with my husband and children.
Vicky Jaimeson-Drake, dear friend and associate priest at Chapel of the Cross, my church in Chapel Hill, was with me in my rehab room in Durham and together we read the service from the Prayer Book at the same time as the gathered friends and family in Greenville. This was a beautiful gift to me, and to my mother, who knew about this arrangement in advance.
I missed sharing the greetings, hugs and stories of those who gathered in Greenville. I would have enjoyed thanking each close friend for the unique joy they brought into my father’s life.
With the passing of Herb Carlton, the world has lost a great man. He was of service to so many, a friend to so many, and his optimism will continue to inspire us as we move on.
Dad’s positive attitude has been a gift to me my whole life through, and I’d like to share here one of the ways I attempted to thank him for that:
Father’s Day Note to Dad, 2016
I’ve learned so much from you through the years, and still do. Of all of it, perhaps the most valuable is the learned skill of facing the world with a positive attitude.
In the past year, that’s been a major contributor to my recovering health – and a reason so many friends have supported me.
All my love,
From Black Tarp to Rehab
So, how did we get here, in the hospital? Unbeknownst to me at the time, the March 10 infusion of my new chemo med, CPT-11, was accompanied by an anti-nausea med that I don’t tolerate well. Days later, a chain reaction set in that led me through a variety of minor gastro-intestinal issues. The final issue wasn’t minor at all: a painful 5 x 8 cm abscess that caused urine retention. It was time for the ER.
I don’t recall much except suffering before the ambulance arrived, but I do remember the ambulance ride and the black tarp. The ambulance transport was on a stretcher of course, but getting onto that stretcher was a unique experience this time. The EMTs and firemen used a black plastic tarp with handles on the sides to lift me. Lying on my bed, I heard “On three – one, two, three!” and landed gently, face down, nose pressed firmly into the utilitarian black plastic tarp. Four strong men carried me down the stairs and onto the stretcher. Dean rode with me in the ambulance – though he had to ride up front, I enjoyed knowing he was close by.
The ambulance ran with no lights, horns or sirens, except for the time Dean accidentally stepped on the horn button. I spent the ride wondering if my post-chemo puffy face would retain an imprint of the plastic tarp, hoping it might be possible to capture that in a photo. No such luck: we arrived at Duke, they peeled me out of the black cocoon and the E.R. experience commenced.
One CT scan was all it took to make the problem and solution clear: In an emergency procedure, the General Surgery team removed the abscess. With that mass gone and bladder clear, we were admitted into a post-op room on one of the “neuro” floors. Even though the surgery wasn’t on my head, I’m still always a neuro patient any time I step into a Duke facility.
I spent five nights as an inpatient, during which we realized that I needed nursing care beyond just the basics; I couldn’t be discharged home. Dean – with help from our friend Carol and from the team at Duke – checked out options for rehab facilities, which we expected I would need for one or two weeks. After assessing which facilities would accept new patients straight into nursing care, had beds available immediately, were near our home, and would accept our insurance, we selected the Brian Center as my temporary residence, and were able to get transported and settled into the room Monday night. I’ve got a garden view and guest seats, both of which I’ve enjoyed in my few days in residence so far.
The Goal here is to get out of here
My one goal at the rehab center is to leave. To earn that discharge, I’ve got to heal and I’ve got to work as hard as I can in physical therapy to regain lost strength and re-learn some basic “around-the-house” type skills. Meanwhile, Dean will work through the challenges of getting the house ready for my return (hospital bed, nurse visits, and such).
Today, I am where I belong
My brother Roy and his wife Susan are bringing my mother to visit me today, and at long last I will be at her side, and her at mine.
Back to Dad
While all of this was unfolding on the healthcare front, we learned of my father’s death. I’d like to end this post by sharing more about this great man’s life; to that end, here is his obituary:
Herbert Raymond Carlton, Jr. died on Sunday, April 2, 2017. He was born December 20, 1927 in Richmond, Virginia to Annie Martha Long Carlton and Reverend Herbert R. Carlton.
Herb spent most of his youth in Galax, Virginia, which he considered an ideal small-town American community. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout and served as co-captain of the high school football team. Herb graduated from Galax High School in 1945.
Near the end of WW II, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, which he considered a wise decision and meaningful experience. Following an honorable discharge, Herb enrolled in East Carolina Teachers College in 1949. He was active in the Veterans Club and in the newly-formed Air Force ROTC training program, earning a USAF commission in 1951. Herb graduated with a B.S. in Social Studies and Physical Education in 1952 and a M.A. in School Administration in 1954.
Following graduation, he worked in Washington, N.C.’s high school, where he taught, served as assistant football coach and became the school’s first Assistant Principal. In Washington, Herb met the love of his life, Virginia “Gina” Gray.
Herb and Gina married on April 6, 1955. Herb remained dedicated to his beloved Gina through 62 years of marriage, with lives interwoven, supporting and caring for each other, still holding hands and sharing every meal. Together, Herb and Gina took several “dream trips” after retiring, including destinations as diverse as the Arctic Circle and the Panama Canal.
In addition to dear Gina, he is survived by his son, Roy Oliff Carlton (and wife Susan Williams) of Greenville, his son, Jim Carlton (Linda) of Clarkston Michigan, his daughter, Nora Elizabeth Carlton (Dean Broz) of Chapel Hill, and two grandchildren, Alexander Turina Broz and Jacqueline “Jackie” Carlton Broz of Chapel Hill. He is also survived by his sister, Carolyn Carlton Hollowell, and her husband, Greene, of Richmond, VA and their children and grandchildren. Herb anchored the Carlton family as husband and father, as father-in-law, and as grandfather.
In 1958, Herb joined the ECC Social Studies Department Faculty as Assistant Professor and Director of the Department’s Student Teaching program. From 1963 to 1964, President Leo Jenkins wisely divided the Science and Social Studies Department into several subject-matter departments. Dr. John Howell, first chairman of the new Political Science Department, selected Herb as one of five founding faculty members.
From 1964 to 2004, Herb taught American Government, International Relations, National Security Policy, and Contemporary Political Issues. As faculty advisor, he counseled all undergraduate political science majors from the 1960’s until his retirement in 2004.
During the Vietnam War era, Herb taught National Security Policy for ECU’s Continuing Education Division in night classes at Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point. He often commented that Marines returning from combat taught him as much as he taught them.
When ECU established two scholarships to annually recognize one female and one male instructor, Herb was the first male honoree. When a similar award was initiated regarding faculty advising, Herb again was the first recipient. Herb regarded teaching as a totally rewarding experience and considered working with ambitious young people a joy. After 53 years in the profession, he retired in 2004. For a few years, he continued to be a volunteer faculty advisor for General College students.
From 2004 onward he was an active member of the ECU Retired Faculty Club, serving two years on its board and as its Membership Coordinator. He was an active member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church from 1958 onward, including serving in its Food Pantry outreach program.
Always a planner, Herb’s organizational skills benefited his many environmental and community efforts. He served on the Public Works Department citizens’ committees dealing with recycling and drafting the master plan for the city’s Greenway System, was a member of Friends of Greenville Greenways, and joined ReLeaf: Advocates for a Greener Greenville, shortly after its founding, serving three terms on its Board and as Treasurer in the 1990’s.
Herb joined the Sierra Club Cypress Group in 1975, served two terms on its Board and as service projects coordinator (highway clean-up, trail construction and maintenance at Goose Creek State Park, etc.), and led over 50 outings, primarily hiking/camping and week-long backpacking treks on the Appalachian Trail. In 2000, the National Sierra Club presented Herb with its annual outings leadership award, normally presented to outings leaders in the western states or Alaska.
Preservation of the Appalachian Tail was a passion; following retirement, Herb joined the Mt. Rogers A.T. Club and spent over 700 hours as a trail maintenance volunteer on the A.T and other trails in Jefferson National Forest. He received special acknowledgement for his contributions to the Appalachian Trail Guide to Southwest Virginia. Health factors ended this work following the 2012 hiking season.
In addition to having an outstanding wife, parents, and family, one-and-all, scores of friends were highly influential in Herb’s life. Any listing would surely include Coach Tom Morris and Mrs. Mary Guynn of Galax, VA; fellow Marine and college roommate, Raymond Gordon; Washington High School Principal Joe Kornegay; ECU colleagues Dr. John Howell, Dr. Tinsley Yarbrough, Ms. Marguerite Perry, and Mrs. Cindy Smith; Sierra Club friends Dr. Earl Trevathan and Grace Smith; AT colleagues Dave Thomas and Bill Finch; and St. Paul’s Reverend Bob Hudak.
Herb had an ever-positive attitude that drew others to him and enhanced the lives of his friends, students, and acquaintances in the community. He had a knack for remembering names and making people feel special. An excellent story-teller, Herb’s conversations often included humorous tales of antics from college, the Marine Corps, and beyond. The best of these included his singing favorite “hillbilly” songs.
Herb’s philosophy of life may be most easily shared via his favorite couplet:
“Only one life will soon be past; only what’s done for others will last.”
To see that in others, he might have responded “good shot!”