Wednesday, April 02, 2014

In Loving Memory of Lori Esther Hedgpeth Carhart

February 25, 1970 – February 18, 2014

I possess, according to my late wife, a trait she termed as Carhart Confidence. I don’t suppose it was a compliment. Lori was shy and reserved. She did not like to draw attention to herself. I, on the other hand, don’t have a problem standing out. Indeed, one of our favorite lines was Jim Carrey’s zinger from the end of the film Bruce Almighty: “Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.” And so today I invoke said confidence to stand before you and say a few things about my wife, Lori. I trust that she will be rolling her eyes somewhere in the great beyond.

In the late spring of 2002, thanks to the conspiratorial ways of Lori’s dad and my sister, Lori and I began talking long distance between California and Colorado where I was living at the time. She had the sweetest voice and was almost shy. But she was also very smart and had her own ideas about things. That summer I flew back to California to visit my family and boy did my arms hurt.

I took a day to meet Lori and go out to lunch with her. Lunch turned into a movie and dinner. I remember thinking that night that, if she made an effort to drive me to the airport the next day, surely she was interested. I was relieved to discover that she not only picked me up, but she also took me to a little park where we could stroll hand-in-hand and chat before she dropped me at the airport. Before I got on my plane, I endeavored to kiss her into her soul. I didn’t want her to forget me in my absence. I told her, “You’re making me not want to leave.” And it was true.

A few weeks later, Lori visited me in Colorado. By Thanksgiving, we were engaged. Lori was a first grade teacher when we met and she intended to finish out the school year before we were to be married. Over spring break 2003, Lori and her parents brought all of her belongings out to the small home I had rented for us in Colorado. On August 2, 2003 we tied the knot. Barely a month later, Melody was growing inside of her mommy.

At the time, Lori’s dad had said something to the effect that he thought maybe we should have waited a bit to have a baby. But Lori had always wanted to have children and we were already in our thirties. In many ways, we were making up for lost time. That was probably for the best. For how were we to know we would only have ten years together?

Indeed, we were schooled early into our marriage about the brevity of our time here on earth. My dad passed away roughly two years after we got married. And Lori’s dad left us a mere six months later. Had we waited, neither of them would have got to hold Melody. And, although she doesn’t really remember them, Melody would not have go to meet them either.

Lori was almost mule-headed when she set her sights on something. To her, having a family was synonymous with owning a house. And what started as viewing model homes as no-money fun quickly became a campaign and Lori was leading the charge. I remember waking up one Sunday morning to find the bed empty. I stumbled into the front of our rental house and there she was at the dining room table, pencil in-hand. “I figured out how we can get that one that we liked yesterday,” she said as she showed me the paper. “We should go back over there today.” And so, even before Melody was born, we had purchased our first home in Colorado Springs, only a few short minutes from my job.

Lori’s pregnancy with Melody was difficult, to say the least. She was plagued with high blood pressure that the doctors had a very hard time getting under control. Ultimately, the doctors told Lori to have the baby early. Basically, they gave up. On April 19, two months before her due date, Melody started her habit of getting up early that continues to this day. Even that was difficult, resulting in Melody in the NICU in one hospital and Lori in the ICU in another hospital and me darting between the two locations, trying to keep two females happy, which we all know is pretty much an impossible task. The entire experience made such a negative impact on Lori that she wished to never darken the door of a hospital or doctor’s office again.

From the start, Melody was the center of Lori’s world and this would be true for the rest of Lori’s life. Over the course of a series of moves, first from Colorado to California and then all around the Long Beach area, ultimately landing us downtown, Lori made Melody the primary focus of our family. Especially after we lost our second daughter mid-pregnancy, focusing on Melody was the only way Lori could move on. There were other miscarriages following, each breaking Lori’s heart all the more. And each time, she redoubled her focus on the systematic and ever-increasing spoiling of Melody. Indeed, even when shopping on a shoestring, she would inevitability find the cutest stuffed animal in the store. And she would say to me, “Daddy, we only have one little girl,” which can be translated as, “we should buy this for Melody even though we just bought one almost identical to it for her yesterday.” And this was how an entire top bunk was transformed into a plush zoo.

Lori also cherished the arts and her worship of God. And she dedicated herself to proving that the former could be used to serve the latter. And so when we stepped down from leading worship at various churches, we started Launch Pad: A band and ministry that was about God without being about church and churchiness. Musically, we were influenced by everything that had ever influenced any one in the band and yet we sounded like none of our influences because we weren’t trying to sound like anyone but ourselves. We structured ourselves almost like a jam band so Lori could have the sonic canvas required for her voice to soar in absolute freedom. It was true that our band wasn’t for everyone, both onstage and beyond the stage. We cycled through drummers as if we were actually Spinal Tap. And not everyone “got it.” But that didn’t stop Lori. As usual, once she set her mind to something, she intended to see it through.

And so was born the monthly Blackfriars Theatre gatherings in our home where we would play the typical Launch Pad set. People could worship, dance, rock out or whatever their heart desired. And afterwards, we would do an open mic session (or three) with guitars and vocals. Usually backed up by Launch Pad’s rhythm section, people would mess around with their favorite songs or even original material. It was a great way to connect and to show artistic support. I believe this was the direction we were meant to go in.

However, the realization of this vision was cut tragically short. On the morning of February 6, 2014, just five days after what would become Lori’s final house concert, Melody’s mommy informed me that she thought she had pinched a nerve in her foot during the previous morning’s run. In reality, only 19 days before her 44th birthday, she had suffered a devastating stroke, the ultimate effects of which we would not know for many days. Twelve days later, my sweet Lori was no longer with us on this earth. Just as I had not wanted to leave her at the airport, I’m convinced that she would not have wanted to leave Melody and me behind.

But the choice wasn’t hers.

In the end, I believe Lori knew something was wrong with her. She had lost sensation and mobility in her right leg and it was creeping into her right arm. She begged me not to send her to the hospital, but to pray for her instead. As I finished praying, the two of us on our couch in the house that we had worked so hard to restore, her head lay upon my shoulder and my head rested against hers. I said to her the simplest of words, “I love you, Lori.” There was no hesitation in her reply, “I love you too.”

That was the last coherent conversation we had.

Lori always wanted to have a lot of children. But we were only ever able to have Melody. But in the life beyond, Lori is now the mommy of our other daughter, Lyric, as well as three other miscarried children. Now she can finally be the mommy she always wanted to be.

Naturally, there was much more to our life together than what I’ve outlined here. If you make it to the reception, you can view many pictures, each one worth a thousand un-uttered words. And I haven’t even got into the dog! There were so many things Lori still wanted to do. She longed to go to Ireland and Scotland. She looked forward to celebrating the 100th birthday of our Craftsman home that we’ve been restoring for the past six years. I’m sure she would not have passed up another chance to roll her eyes at me for some perceived infraction of etiquette. I know she wanted to continue to sing and play and worship with the band. Most of all, I know she wanted to see Melody grow up, go to college, get married and have children of her own.

And perhaps she can still witness these things from where she is. I don’t know. If so, I’m sure she’ll roll her eyes at me more than a few times in the years to come. But seriously, she’s left me with some pretty big shoes to fill. And I wear a thirteen, folks. She was the best possible mommy to Melody and she will be utterly missed by both of us and by everyone who ever met her. All I can do is promise to take the baton and finish the race the best I know how.

If I could say one final thing to Lori, it would be this: “You have been the best mommy. I did my best to love you and to protect you. Now I have to be the best daddy and love and protect Melody. Your daughter loves you and we will never forget you. And we will do our best to not disappoint you.”

And to Lori’s and my colleagues, friends and family who have gathered here today, I thank you for your time and support. I only wish to leave you with this final parting thought:

Life is a short, wonderful, devastating adventure. Live it well. Protect it. Feel everything. Listen deeply. Forgive often, even if not asked. And love with all your heart. There just isn't time to do anything less.

- Paul M. Carhart, Lori's husband

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