May Day 2006

Dear Carol,

It is with great pleasure that I award you the 2006 WENDY BENTON MAY DAY AWARD FOR FORGOTTEN KINDNESS, which our friend Dianne Stevens started giving several years ago. Since I was the surprised recipient of this unexpected award last year, it is my privilege to give it to "an important person in my life who may not realize their importance."

Our friendship has been a long one, thanks to La Leche League, the Childbirth and Parent Education Association, the brain injury support group meetings, making and stringing cranes together, being neighbors and of course, our delightful breakfast group. In all these associations and activities, you have always been totally your authentic self.

That "essential self" can be described in many ways. Firstly, because you are such a reflective person, you have made choices as to how you wish to live and interact with others. You have chosen to be humble, kind, thoughtful, generous, forgiving, joyous, loving, loyal, caring and interested in all that life has to offer. And because you are human, when you feel that you have occasionally fallen short of these goals, you use your boundless creativity to find ways to realign your actions with your decisions regarding how you want to be in the world.

So many people have benefited over the years from your choices and your efforts to make the world a better place. When you faced the devastating loss of a child, you started Bereaved Parents, when you had questions about breastfeeding, you started Le Leche League, and as you parented and wanted to share and find information, you started the Childbirth and Parent Education Association.

After your divorce, you bravely went alone to begin a new life out East, only to become a survivor of brain injury and all that "the brain thing" entails. After giving away most of your belongings, you showed your "true grit" and started another new life back in Madison as you learned to cope with the limitations that your brain injury presented. Although I'm sure there were moments when you wanted to give up, you didn't, and instead, took care of others to support yourself. And of course, because of your experiences with brain injury, you wanted to help and educate others by starting the brain injury support group with Jim and Pat.

You have shared your life with Dave and have given him so much, as he has given you. To supplement your income, you didn't hesitate to find work delivering heavy phone books or working with the elderly and confused to allow them to live at home. And when you faced cancer, you learned all that you could and then went through your difficult treatments and regular checkups with courage and optimism. And when the treatments were completed, you educated your physicians on how they might make the experience better for those women who would follow you. Similarly, when you were advised to reduce your cholesterol numbers, you did your research and then gently educated your physicians on a better way.

There seems to be a pattern here: Life happens. Learn from the experience. Try to make the same experience less difficult for others by educating yourself and others who are facing similar circumstances. Teach what you know and seek experts who can add their expertise. Teach the experts what they need to know. Share a cup of tea with a friend and listen to every story no matter how long or how often it is told. Stand quietly by their side to give and receive courage. Think of creative ways to get around the challenge at hand or at least make it meaningful and not senseless. Live life to the fullest and appreciate its goodness.

As I have observed these things throughout our friendship, I have marveled at your strength, joy and courage. You have been my role model, and I know that you have made my life better just by knowing you. I will never forget your reassurances, kindnesses and love. They have meant the world to me as we shared an eclair at La Brioche, an afternoon of leisurely conversation while stringing cranes, tasting your wonderful cooking, receiving yours and Dave's loving care of a deeply cut finger and many, many more times of laughter together.

On behalf of Wendy, Dianne, and all the recipients who will follow you, I gratefully and proudly thank you for being you.

From your loving friend,