Carolyn Gwilliam
Carolyn Gwilliam
  • February 16, 1942 - October 17, 2016
  • Denton, Utah

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Carolyn Gwilliam, age seventy-four, third child and youngest daughter of Alice Lefler Gwilliam and James Llewellyn Gwilliam:

Her mother, Alice, left her first, then her father, Jim, her only sister Alice Mae next and just a year and a half ago her younger brother Bob. Grandparents were gone long ago; aunts and uncles all gone. Only brothers, Jim and Steve remain.

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." 1 Corinthians 13:11King James Version (KJV)

And so began Paul's apostolic admonition to those in ancient Corinth and continuing in our day as, "Just grow up!" and/or its synonymous "Act your age!"

And so ought we all.

But an all-wise, all-knowing and all-loving God seems to have set apart a small subset among us whose divine commission is to neither grow up nor to act their age.

And such a one was Carolyn Gwilliam, whose eight year old spirit quietly and quickly slipped out of her seventy-four year old body to join her mother and father in "really big houses" maybe mansions, that she often dreamed about in almost always happy dreams.

She cherished the memories of her sister Alice Mae and her brother Bob and her Aunt Mary and Uncle Joe Brunyer and her maternal grandmother, Mary Alice Turnbow Lefler, for whom she seemed to have adoration that none of us old enough to remember Grandma Lefler understood.

And what a reception this group might have provided for her, except that she would have been far more anxious to know what had become of "Trailer" and "Blackie" and "Whitey" and "Pyewacket" and "Frankie" and the myriad of other cats that she had loved and tended and whose genealogies she would recite to anyone patient enough to listen. Oh, and Jasper, her only dog.

Monday, October 17th 2016 about 4 PM, paramedics answered a 911 call to Denton Rehabilitation Center, loaded Carolyn onto a gurney to take her to Emergency at Presbyterian Hospital and then were required to wait until someone could go back to her room and get her "babies" to ride with her to the hospital. Carolyn had made other trips to the hospital and had left her babies sleeping in their beds. But Monday they had to come with her.

Carolyn lived a "Ground Hog Day", the movie, sort of life. Every day and every memory was very much like the one before and the one after. Every other morning she took a shower. Every morning, she would come downstairs to eat her breakfast, a bowl of cereal always and sometimes a dish of fruit. Every morning she would go upstairs and brush her teeth and start her day. In the last years, three babies had to be cared for, their blankets removed, folded and set aside, their "bed Jackets" and pajamas exchanged for outfits appropriate to the day and the season. Each of the three, Joey, her first baby, that she bought herself years ago, Mae Alice and Betsy who came on separate, subsequent Christmases would be placed in their own chair near her feet and then one by one would sit in her lap for nursing from their communal bottle and long and involved conversations in which Carolyn would be voice for each.

She never forgot nor lost track of her priorities, but had to be reminded constantly of ours.

Born February 16, 1942 in Park City, Utah, she grew up living much as a young child would live -in her parents' home. Two excursions into public school as a child were not very successful. Another, as a teenager in a groundbreaking special needs school, was a positive experience, from which she remembered schoolmates, teacher and lessons for most of the balance of her life. A job change for her father and a move for the family would end her formal education.

Carolyn loved her family, but was both frightened by and did not fit well with people. Many family, especially grand nephews and grand nieces, neighbors and temporary caregivers, mostly one on one, made up her sociality. But her life preference was much as a recluse surrounded by dozens and dozens and dozens of plush stuffed animals and a TV.

When she was 49, her mother lost in deep dementia and her father not far behind, Carolyn would be gathered up by her sister, Alice Mae, and taken from Utah to Southern California to live with her. "Sis" would access the Twentieth Century world of helps and associations for those like Carolyn. And for her it was a brave new world.

Every day she made a peanut butter sandwich and packed it in a lunch box, walked to the front curb and watched until her OFHI bus came and picked her up and took her to her "work". And work it was, surrounded by dozens of familiar spirits, she strung beads and picked up screws or small nails or safety pins or buttons and put them in little plastic bags and dozens of other simple tasks of life and made friends and chose best friends and had "boy friends" and got paid and bought candy and coke.

Living with Alice Mae and her husband Don would be short lived, however, as Carolyn would remind us hundreds and hundreds of times, "my sister Alice Mae died on me and I had to come live with you!"

Carolyn spent the next 22 years of her life in Texas growing old ungraciously. Twice she would live with her brother James and sister-in-law Judy (never Jim, only my childhood name James would ever pass her lips). There would be workshops as in California - Possibilities in Denton and Newstart in Arlington, both wonderful adventures in Carolyn's eyes. Eight years in a group home, "Arlington