Her closest friends were there, and they, too, cried for Caroline. A number of them had been with her just days before, on Super Bowl Sunday, both to watch the game and to celebrate the 36th birthday of one of their own. These were friends who had met in high school or college, and 15, 20 years later were still close, most of them now married, and with children of their own.
It was mayhem in that house that day. Children seemingly everywhere, all young, the oldest almost 7, and the youngest but two weeks old. That was Caroline's new daughter, (Caroline) Greer. There were smiles and there was laughter, with children chasing children, parents chasing children, and occasionally, a child chasing a grandparent. It was glorious cacophony, and yet, in that house, some knew the story and were worried.
Now they were all in that church, praying for her soul, praying for her children, still trying to make sense of the tragedy -- crushed. Caroline's husband, Justin, steeled himself to deliver the heart-wrenching eulogy, while his oldest son, Brock, just 6 years old, stood by his side for strength.
The parents of Caroline's friends were there, and they cried as well. Some hadn't known her condition. One had taken her aside at that Super Bowl party to tell her that her baby was about the loveliest child he'd ever seen, and then remarking on Caroline's own beauty, he said she, too, looked radiant. That man's wife was more perceptive. She knew the story, and she was concerned. She had found Caroline gaunt and tired, no matter how much she smiled. "Take care of yourself," she advised Caroline. You need your rest. You have a new baby to feed.
Caroline's three children were at the church. At 6, Brock was old enough to be given the news but too young to understand it, so his father offered an explanation surely crafted with the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit. Justin told his boy that the firemen had gone upstairs and found his Mom talking to God. God was asking her to go with Him to heaven, and she needed to do His bidding. She asked God if she might still be able to send her love to her children. God replied that she could always talk to her children. "Your mother is still here," Brock's father explained to his little boy. "You just can't see her."
Brock will remember his mother. Cullen, aged 2, will know of her. Beautiful little Greer will learn she is alive only because of Caroline's faith. The children were too young to cry for their mother, so their aunts and uncles and grandparents cried for them instead.
Caroline was a devout Catholic, one of eight children, natural and adopted. Four sisters joined Justin as eulogists. One recalled that one week after delivering little Greer, Caroline had attended a niece's 4-year-old birthday party but left early because, she explained, she needed to get to mass. Her sister insisted that surely Caroline would be excused from her obligation given her circumstances. Caroline admitted she was tired, but would not hear of it. "I get anxious when I don't go, and when I go, it sets my week," she replied. Her friends said she could be found on any Sunday in the front row of Blessed Sacrament with her children at her side.
No one knew better than her husband Justin exactly how tired she really was, and no one was more anxious. He knew she suffered from HELLP syndrome, an obscure but potentially deadly disease for pregnant women. He knew she'd been told by her doctors that another child might kill her. Twice before, she'd suffered emergency C-sections. They feared her body might not withstand a third pregnancy. But this was a woman who loved children, and even more, loved her faith. "If God grants me a child, I will bear that child." It was as simple as that. She rejected the advice. She became pregnant. The childbirth was almost catastrophic. It almost killed her.
Caroline left the hospital with her lovely baby but was not well. Three weeks later, she collapsed. Caroline was 32. One friend said of her, "She was the best of us all." The angels cried for Caroline, and then they took her home.