Just as it did to countless others, the news hit me like a ton of bricks.
One of my dear friends from our mutual hometown in Columbia, Tennessee, sent to me a text early Wednesday morning of September 13, 2023, with a snapshot of the Columbia Police Department’s Facebook post.
A lady named Carole Anne Coleman, with whom my friend and I had attended Columbia Central High School back in 1989-90, was now deceased… a victim “of a domestic incident,” according to the police report, which also made clear that an arrest warrant of a suspect had already been obtained, not to understate the tragedy.
Just that prior weekend, I had posted on FB some fun news about my daughter in New York, and I had distinctly remembered Carole Anne “liking” my post… which was sweet of her — and typical of her supportive kindness.
Truthfully, though, this type of only-occasional and virtual interaction was about the extent of my long-time friendship with Carole Anne, after some three decades…
I was a few years older than Carole Anne, so we had not graduated from CHS together. All we knew of each other’s lives was whatever either of us might share in an online update, although we each considered the other fondly from decades past, with our shared high school remembrances and a wide range of mutual friends.
Back in high school, Carole Anne was a stunner… and as I saw her, it seemed time had stood still and little had changed on that front over the years.
She possessed a face and a presence that literally could stop traffic on a dime and that undoubtedly resulted over the years in untold throngs of men accidentally walking into walls, door facings, and telephone polls, from their spellbound distraction of having encountered one nanosecond of her loveliness.
Hers was indeed a celebrated beauty, and rightly so.
What also was clear from her online postings and photos, though, was that, while Carole Anne desired happiness in her own life, she wanted nothing but the same happiness in the lives of others as well:
As such, her beauty extended vastly beyond the skin-deep variety.
Sitting last Wednesday in my own emotional quandary, wondering how this horrific fate could have befallen Carole Anne, I admittedly thumbed through her Facebook profile of past postings, trying to make sense of things through the lens of investigative curiosity.
What I found weren’t answers, though… just evidence-upon-evidence that Carole Anne wanted to project goodness and kindness onto the world, and I can only presume these qualities were things she valued and sought out as well – which only underscores, at least for me, the starkness of vicissitude here.
I’m reminded in this situation, too, of the plight of the beautiful girl.
I realize some folks roll their eyes at this suggestion, but let’s take the quote of the late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir (the first and only women to serve in that role) as an example.
Meir, who said that she did not consider herself to be “beautiful,” was quoted as having remarked of her own path to power:
“Not being beautiful was the true blessing. Not being beautiful forced me to develop my inner resources. The pretty girl has a handicap to overcome.”
While it’s clear to me that Carole Anne worked hard to develop her inner resources by seeking to promote ideals of goodness in herself and toward others, I’m struck by the realization that it has always been far too easy for people in our general society to make snap-assumptions about girls and women, based entirely on their appearance… very much including those who were and are considered utterly “beautiful,” at a Carole Anne Coleman-level…
…And, perhaps, about those girls and women, most of all, with a resulting load of false presumptions that these women can end up hauling with them as emotional baggage, throughout life…
…That everything was somehow easy for them — undeservedly so.
…That every advantage was just handed to them, for the taking.
…That whatever intellect might be offered from inside those pretty heads was fairly inconsequential, much less the sensitivity of their feelings resulting from unkind things said to or about them, with or without their knowledge.
…That their value and validation by society as human beings was largely predicated on how they looked at any given time, for the entirety of their lives.
…That nothing bad could ever really happen to them, beyond their control.
As I now carefully think about the precious life of Carole Anne – but also recognize that there is much of her life that I did not and do not presume to know – I simply pray for her family and for her undoubtedly countless friends who genuinely loved and cared about her, and other countless acquaintances who admired her.
I join others in the Maury County community and from our online community of CHS alumni, who have called for more awareness about issues that my friend tragically contended with, in all their complexities relative to how women in particular can feel utterly trapped by their unique circumstances, which no one can truly know unless they’re living those exact-same circumstances, 24/7/365, in real time – which, of course, is impossible.
As a general rule, any woman in any situation where her safety is even in any potential danger should be supported – and should be able to perceive that support herself – to take immediate action, without feelings of self-questioning or self-blame.
It also should be recognized that people who seek to provide this very type of support to a woman they care about who is in need might also face their own challenges in those attempts.
It’s important not to inadvertently mis-assign judgment against people of good intentions who have tried to help, just as it’s important never to blame the victim.
Several friends have recommended to me supporting Columbia-based Center of Hope as a charity that works hard in the community where Carole Anne lived, to help victims of domestic violence avert the worst-case-scenario. I plan to make a donation in Carole Anne’s memory, and I encourage others who might feel similarly called, to do so as well.
Godspeed, sweet Carole Anne.