Carol Voecks was one of those people that slips into your life so quietly that when they slip out again you barely notice. At least for a while. Their unassuming nature makes a statement in your life that is permanent.
I met her at an LWML function what seems like a hundred years ago and she was interested in Biomedical Ethics and a presentation that I had made. This was probably in the 80’s. I had started writing and talking about Bioethics and the handicapped after a presentation I attended in San Francisco that was sponsored by U.C. Berkeley. Much of it was theoretical at that time but many of the things that we talked about in fertility issues, death panels, using the human genome for birth control and the vulnerability of the handicapped and the aged to governments and politicians that want to provide everyone with “health care” are coming frightening true or have already happened. This led to my doing presentations at St. Francis hospital in Hawaii which at that time was pioneering work in pastoral care and bioethics across cultural lines. Carol would phase in an out of my life as I wrote articles for the ND District supplement of the Lutheran Witness on bioethics and as she worked for caring for her husband who had been diagnosed with MS. Although I an still interested in medical ethics I have stopped the intensive writing and work that I did before. The lawyers got involved like they do in everything else and it stopped being fun and I feel like theologians and philosophers lost the ability to inform and set the agendas when the lawyers glommed on. It is hard to make a theological point when a lawyer is in the room talking about insurance and finances. Carol and others like her lived with the ethical questions everyday. She would drift back into my life with questions about care and needs, utility and altruism and the famous “what would Jesus do”.
She was so quiet that when she spoke you had to listen and she usually had something very important to say. She drifted into my life again when we sought volunteers to come to the State Developmental Center (now the Life Skills and Transition Center – see post for October 24) to do Bible studies. She was a very good teacher, kind and empathetic but we did have to remind her to “speak up” on occasion. We had great discussions too. I remember one of the discussions was about the fact that we can all become handicapped (and in all likelihood will) at some point in our lives. The fact that our care and love for handicapped folks at every level is a chance to be what God calls us to be was always in the discussion. Little did Carol or I know that she would soon be afflicted with a handicapping situation herself. My last conversation with her was about fear and hope and the love of God that passes understanding just like the question of suffering is beyond understanding. Then she slipped out of my life until Sunday evening when I read her obituary.
Carol passed on October 24 at her home. She slipped out again and this time for good until we meet again in life everlasting. Her faith in the ultimate mercy of God in Christ was what kept her going through trial and tribulation. I want to go to her funeral. I can’t because on the day of her service I am doing a service for one of her former students at the center. If I could ask her I am sure she would tell me that she would prefer I took care of the person at the center rather than come to her funeral. She was like that.
Funeral services will be held Tuesday, October 29, 2013, at 2:00 p.m. at the Our Savior Lutheran Church, Cavalier, ND. Visitation will be held Monday, October 28th from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Askew Funeral Home, Cavalier, ND.