Who is your Judy?

Carolyn & Judy circa 1986

I should be ashamed and embarrassed to share this negligence, but perhaps I’m hoping that the public confession of my wrongdoing and the declaration of the virtues of a truly remarkable woman whom I dearly love will bring me some peace for my years of procrastination.

This letter is exceedingly long overdue. Judy first wrote a letter of recommendation for me in 1987 when I applied for a teaching position with the Wake County Public School System. She proceeded to write recommendations for me for every job for which I applied after that, letters to Africa Inland Mission, Wake Technical Community College, and Meredith College. She probably wrote a reference when I applied to North Carolina State University for graduate school. Rules of business etiquette, basic decorum, and certainly my refined Southern upbringing all dictate that one “promptly” write a gracious letter of appreciation to those who take the time and effort to recommend you to potential employers. A 23-year delay is absolutely disgraceful.

In July of 2009, Judy was diagnosed with the same type of breast cancer I have, invasive ductal carcinoma (mine was also lobular), lymph node negative. At the time, I ached for Judy. I implored every Seafarer girl on earth to send Judy a note or e-mail of encouragement. All the while, I was still mentally composing my unwritten, 23-year-overdue letter. Even then, I didn’t get around to writing her, not even a brief postcard or e-mail.

Ironic, isn’t it? I fancy myself a “writer,” yet I seemed unable to muster the gumption to write such an important letter, to a person so significant in my life. You see, I have so much more to tell Judy besides, “Thank you for your time and effort recommending me to so-and-so. I was thrilled to be offered the position, and I’m confident your reference was exceedingly influential in my success.” It always seemed such a daunting task; how could I possibly articulate clearly all that she has meant to me? After way too much ado, I will write the letter today.

Dearest Judy,

Thank you for the reams of reference letters you wrote on my behalf over the past 23 years. Every job I have ever had, I owe, at least in part, to your countless, generous recommendations. I have always appreciated you more than you will ever know, so please forgive me for failing to tell you so.

I am indebted to you for a great deal of who and what I am. You taught me by your example and instruction. My good fortune regarding job acquisitions can be credited to your letters of recommendation, but my success as a valued, effective employee and as a compassionate person is also a reflection of your influence.

  • By providing encouragement, positive feedback, and genuine concern, you showed me that I was important to you and that you had faith in my abilities; you helped me develop confidence in my gifts and talents, in my contributions to others and to organizations.
  • By giving me responsibilities that I feared, you gave me confidence in myself and in my ability to tackle challenges.
  • You maintained high expectations for me which helped me go beyond mediocre and pursue infinite possibilities.
  • You motivated me to do my very best, even when no one was watching, perhaps especially when no one was watching; lasting reward is not found in accolades or praise from others.
  • By confronting me honestly and with love, you taught me that confrontation doesn’t necessarily mean conflict, and it always means improvement and growth.
  • Regarding a particular poor choice in 1989, I learned from your serious, yet gentle, confrontation that I had been a judgmental, impertinent, arrogant Christian, alienating others about whom I cared deeply.
  • Before “win-win” was a cliché or routine corporate lingo, you taught me that solutions to problems can (should) benefit everyone, that for anyone truly to be a winner, everyone involved must win.
  • You taught me to pick up litter, even if it’s not my own because, as a citizen of this planet, it’s the right thing to do.
  • By always, always, always demonstrating an optimistic outlook and attitude, you taught me that I may not be able to control my circumstances, but I can always, always, always control my mind-set and responses. For example, trash became “paper rattlesnakes,” and rain became “liquid sunshine.”
  • By instilling the wisdom of “firm but kind,” you taught me what it means to be a good parent.
  • You taught me how to encourage and build others up and why such things are valuable.
  • By making a difference in the lives of so many people, as well as in mine, you taught me that I can make a difference too.

This is the short list. I think of you often, as your impact went far beyond these few recollections. You have now bravely walked ahead of me on the miserable path of breast cancer. I’m sorry either of us has had to contend with this beast at all. But if it created the necessary incentive and opportunity for me to tell you what I wish I had told you years ago, I’m thankful.

You are a blessing and an inspiration to me and to so many people. You can’t possibly know the significant impression you’ve had on others. I love you, Judy. I’m so thankful God put you in my life.


Now, the rest of you, tell your Judy, whoever she (or he) may be, how much you appreciate her influence in your life and why she’s special. And do not begin like I did, even if it has been 23 years or more. Emily Post, in Etiquette (which, you’d never know by my indigent manners, I not only own, but have a signed early edition), states, “HOW NOT TO BEGIN: “I have been meaning to write you for a long time but haven’t had a minute to spare.”


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ann Davant Crehore
    Oct 20, 2010 @ 22:40:26

    Your Judy is my Judy too! John, Mary Carlisle and I enjoyed having lunch with Judy on Saturday after touring NC State. It was wonderful to see her again! Judy, John and I shared wonderful stories about Camp Seafarer/Sea Gull and she told Mary Carlisle how she watched John and I fall in love in the summer of 1984. Even though many years have passed she is the same amazing, positive, loving woman I looked up to as a counselor when she was Director of Camp Seafarer. There are thousands of Judy fans out there who are blessed to have her as friend and role model. Thank you Judy!


  2. Lisa
    Oct 21, 2010 @ 07:01:45

    You are blessed….what an inspiration for all of us is Judy. And you, too, Carolyn, that old adage is always true: “It’s never too late.”


  3. Cindy Finley
    Oct 21, 2010 @ 10:46:57

    Oh, Carolyn, I think you wrote it for each of us, but I am convicted that I need to write my own. That growth opportunity in 1989 was painful, but what a blessing. How I needed her wisdom alongside my zealousness! I love you, my friend!


  4. Trackback: Even Homecoming Queens get breast cancer! « Strong & Courageous

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: