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Carol Greig, 1943 – 2008

Lydia Banducci, is a long-time member of L’Arche and L’Arche Toronto. She is currently the Homes Coordinator for L’Arche Toronto and delivered this eulogy at Carol’s funeral which was held at St. Mary’s Queen of the World Church. Lydia lived with Carol at the Green House for many years.

Carol was – and is – a very significant person to me and many people and so there are many who could have been asked to share about her life! I am both privileged and humbled to be given the opportunity to speak.

My journey with Carol began in earnest in 1997 when I moved into Green House, and our lives have been woven together, in one way or another, ever since. What is there to say about a woman so small in stature but extra large in heart and spirit? There are countless Carol Greig stories, and the community has spent the last couple days recounting her many antics and tender moments shared together.

It is only now, as Carol joins her beloved father and all the Daybreak saints who have passed before us, that grace helps illuminate the deeper mystery of who Carol was, the gifts she had to share, and the ways she has been gift to us. I believe it has something to do with the pure, unconditional gift of love – the Love that God desires for each one of us – and how God uses someone, like Carol, for a very brief amount of time, as an instrument of that love.

Carol’s embrace was the compassionate embrace of the Father enfolding the Prodigal Son upon his return home. Many of us, at one time or another, have knelt in front of Carol in our deepest need, oftentimes unexpressed, and were ministered to with an all-encompassing, no-holds-barred, full body, “purple circle” hug. Indeed, a single Carol Greig hug was worth a million words.

Carol, in fact, was a woman of few words…a well placed “ho, ho, ho” here or there, a sing-along of one of her favorite tunes…yet she never asked a question, or demanded any assurances or explanations. Unlike most of us, Carol never questioned her state in life, her limitations, or her capacity for relationships. She knew she was loved and she trusted that this love was ever present. What a precious and priceless gift to be given. And, in return, she became an icon of this love for others, giving this gift most generously and freely.

Carol helped us all embrace our humility. Making her way into Dayspring on Friday night, Carol inevitably chose to sit front and center, gracefully “plopping” herself onto the floor, with her back to the celebrant. Well-timed sneezes summoned the asstistant, Kleenex in hand, to assist Carol in the wiping process…only to arrive a moment too late. I am convinced that this was the secret to her beautifully smooth skin and clear complexion!

I think of the line from St. Augustine, “Our hearts are made for Thee oh God and will not rest until they rest in Thee;” Carol exudes this truth. She was restless most of her life! Carol clocked many miles roaming the first floor of Green House and rearranging furniture. Although she had her favorite spot on the living room couch and passed time dozing off, most often she stood up and moved if someone dared sit next to her. Coming into the room could inevitably mean Carol leaving the room. She was a woman who commanded her own space while also delighting in the company of others.

Carol and I were alike in our stubbornness and single-minded focus. How she tried my patience, especially when it came to countless trips to the bathroom and my struggle to unlock that bathroom door! Female assistants could always be assured of a good workout when it was their turn to cook and Carol was hanging out in the living room with Peter or diligently shredding her magazines. And who can forget, on that rare occasion when the door was left ajar, the collection of items that inevitably wound up in the toilet?! Walt, the plumber, became a frequent visitor to our home.

It really was virtually impossible to stay mad at Carol; all it would take was that impish smile and glint in the eye, hands covering mouth and the mischievous giggle…and my heart would melt!

Bath-time was special with Carol. Many memories flow from an intimacy in which Carol yielded to gentle, respectful touch while clearly commanding dignity and respect. In the days when Carol was still able to enjoy her bath, her playful spirit was a force to be reckoned with – clothes would be stripped off in an instant and hurled across the bathroom floor, and a complete roster of “Carol Grieg’s greatest hits” could be heard (sometimes off key!) through the bathroom door and into the dining room.

The last couple years have not been easy for Carol and those who surrounded her. Anxiety, fear, and loss of eyesight and memory gradually stripped away even her most fundamental freedom – her ability to walk – and she was spending more and more time in bed. Her life became almost completely centered in Green House. Even our cherished Agape brunches at “Pickle Barrel” became impossible; so Kathy, Joe, Peggy, Helen and I chose instead to meet at Green House, enabling Carol to be with us.

Carol would not have wanted, nor did she allow herself, to move from her beloved home. For years the hope and reality was that Carol could remain at home. Her life was her home and her home was with her longtime housemates and companions – Dave, Bill, Peter, Jan, Carl and Bernadette – and the faithfulness over the years from close friends like Kathy, Joe and Rob. So many more of us have been shaped through living at the Green House, too many to begin to mention; some of whom have traveled a distance to be with the community today. We have been profoundly transformed by Carol and by those of us who will bear the daily reminders of her absence.

It was certainly evident to me how much Carol was loved, even in her most fragile state. I am touched by the witness of the present team who enabled Carol to live her life at home. Our deepest gratitude goes to you Tomek, Karina, Elizabeth, Gabriel, Chris; and to Cynthia, those in Leadership, the Day Program and Club members for your faithfulness and care.