Thursday, July 26, 2007

Carola L. Gough : April 17th, 1911 - July 25th, 2007 : Her Legacy Will Live Forever

My great grandmother Carola L. Gough passed away yesterday at age 96 + 3 months and 1 week. She lived every single second of those years and days and gave 100% of herself to others. I am forever indebted to her life example.

Our family will be creating The Carola L. Gough Foundation for Art & Science Education. This organization will be dedicated to preserving her artwork, letters, journals, photographs, and films and furthering her legacy in the world. It will focus on educating young people about art and science.

Learn more about Carola and her wonderful paintings at

Once there, please take a few moments to sign Carola's guestbook page in remembrance of her. Just click the "Guestbook" link in the menu on the page. Instructions are included for how to log in and sign the guestbook.
The rest of this post contains a note and letter from me, Carola's eldest great-grandchild, me, and the maintainer of

Carola L. Gough

Daughter, Friend, Artist, Mother, Volunteer, Grandmother, Great-Grandmother, Mentor, Great-Great-Grandmother
April 17th 1911 - July 25th 2007
May her life and example continue to live within us and inspire us all

Carola Gough passed away on Wednesday July 25th, 2007, passing on to her surviving descendants an astonishing legacy of love and commitment. The photographs of her paintings and newspaper appearances contained on this web site are just the beginning of what will be made available in the coming years. Carola and her husband Gene of 65 years kept meticulous records of their world travels, including hundreds of letters, thousands of photographs, and hours of film. The Gough family is currently working to digitize all this material as per Carola's wishes in order to preserve their legacy. Their body of work communicates their wholehearted embrace of life in hopes that they can continue to inspire not only their descendants, but also their friends and families as well.

In order to further the appreciation of her artwork and express to young people the beauty and potential of life in this world, we will create The Carola L. Gough Foundation for Arts & Sciences. This organization will strive to bring art and science education and appreciation to young people in person and through the web.

Letter to Carola Gough From her Eldest Great-Grandchild, Joshua Gough

Listen to Josh reading this letter aloud here:
Note from Josh:
I've known of my great-grandmother Carola and her husband Gene for my whole life, as I state in this letter to her, but I did not really get to know her in depth until I moved to Atlanta and my grandfather and grandmother started flying her down to spend many Christmas holidays with us.
It was during this time, from age 17 to age 28, that I got to know her and learned about her paintings,  her notecards, her illustrations, her teaching art in Africa, and, ultimately, her volunteer work with children at age 90.
Not only did Carola and her husband lead full lives, they kept record of their lives in writing, photography, video, and in paintings and have left all of this to us to preserve and propagate.
When I visited Carola during her time in hospice care the week prior to when she passed away on July 25th, 2007. On the last day before I came home, I went to see her with her son Kerry. Confined to her bed now, with no ability to swallow and thus very little ability to mouth words correctly, she made an extra effort to converse with me in those minutes before I left for Atlanta.
I told her I was going back to Atlanta the next day. She asked me how. I told her I was flying on US Airways. She asked if I was driving back to Matt & Christine's house. I said yes, and she that is good that I have a place to stay. She told me to call her when I got back to Atlanta to let her know that I had made it home safely. I told her I would.
I leaned closer to her and told her what I wanted her to know more than anything, "Spending time with you, seeing your artwork, understanding how you have lived your life, and seeing your example of volunteering with children in your 90's has made me believe that I can achieve any good and noble purpose I set out to accomplish."
These next words from her I will always, always, always remember.
With 96 years, 3 months, and 1 week of life worth of life experience and wisdom, she raised her head from the pillow, squeezed my hand and mouthed her last instructive words to me, "You can!"
And so, I will.
I turned toward the door, said good night to Kerry, said good night to Carola and told her I loved her. She said, "I love you too, and drive carefully."
I told her I would, said good night one last time, then left for my car. Both of us knew it was the last time we would see each other. She is my mother's father's mother. Four generations. We witnessed this presence of four generations earlier in the week when we were together with her with her eldest son Gene, Kerry, her daughter Linda, Gene's son Kevin, my uncle, and me. Life gives us no time to take any of this for granted. Not one second.
Earlier, before I left, she told Kerry and me some of her fond wishes.
She said, "I would like to make dinner for us all so that we can sit down and eat together."
Later she said, "I want to say thank you to all my children and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren for coming to visit me. You know, if this thing works itself out, I'm going to send out an announcement to all of you and we'll have a big celebration together".
We know that she knew that would not likely happen, but she has made her announcement.
Her wish is for us all to sit down at the table to dine and to celebrate our lives, together.
"Whatever life has to throw at you, run to meet it head on" -- Carola L. Gough, April 17th 1911 - July 25th 2007

Congo Family, by Carola L. Gough

Dear Great Grandma Carola,
I recently read in your journal that you gave to me what you always told me: whatever life hands you you run to meet it head on. I am sorry to hear about your stroke and I am hoping that you will recover from this soon. I am looking forward to coming to see you in August to complete my interview with you about your paintings.
The grace, patience, and attentiveness you have displayed in your life, your paintings, and your attitude toward embracing change is the most inspiring and invigorating force I have personally ever known. Always, always, always know that I have the utmost gratitude for the loving kindness, patience, and inspiration you have given me in my life. I could never even begin to repay you for this, and I know that is not what you want. You want me to extend that outward to others, and so that is what I'm trying to learn how to do in life. I try to do this through my writing and through my own actions and efforts.
Whenever I feel like I cannot accomplish something or as if I'm not making a difference, I remember you, your life, your words and what you have given all of us.
First, you had a vision of family and gave life to it, raising three children. Then you gave guidance, wisdom, affection, and attention to their children, your grandchildren. And, nearly thirty years ago now when I was born in 1977, your first great-grandchild, you saw, at age 66, another opportunity awaiting for you to someday calmly and patiently teach that little boy to run to meet life head on.
You did that in so many ways, implicitly in your paintings, explicitly in your actions through your phone calls, your cards and letters, gifts, and your time taken to read every word I have written to you or shown to you. You did it through example in 65 years of marriage. You and your husband did it by taking time to think of us and visit us. Presence is the world's most precious gift. And, time and time again, presence is what you gave, whether that came in person, or through the objects you made present with us.
You understand very well the effect of presence and actions upon the lives of your descendants. As a small child, even before I met you, I knew of you. A painting of yours, The Goughies , hung on the wall, depicting my mother Kathryn and her three siblings, Kelly, Kevin, and Kara. On the coffee table I saw a mysterious gift from far away lands, a carved jar from Zaire brought back from when you and your husband Gene lived there for three years. I thought to myself how exotic and far-removed from my kind of simple life you must have been! But, when I met you and got to know you, I realized that being "far-removed" was not part of your vocabulary. No, you have been fully present in every moment and in every meaningful way. Indeed, you have always been "closely-involved".
When I saw you volunteering with kids at age 90, I knew I could do it too at age 23, and so I have, and everyday the commitment I have to help ensure that the young people I know grow compassionate and committed to improving the lives of people around them, and thus themselves in the process, grows stronger. I think to myself about what I can help accomplish over the next 60 years of my own life if only I commit to the same principles that you have passed down to your family.
A few weeks ago you told me on the phone that you enjoy helping make some of the "little old ladies" around the assisted living home feel better about themselves. We should all  strive to have this same attitude in life!
I want to share with you a small passage I wrote a few months ago.

Practice attention, patience, and compassion to achieve success. Here are a few words on each of these.
Attention is more than a direction of the eyes, attuning of the ears, straightening of the spine, or a steadying of the hands or feet. Each of these forms the skeleton of attention, but its muscle is the brain. There is no Cartesian division between mind and body. The two are one. Direct your eyes, attune your ears, straighten your spine, steady your hands and feet and focus your brain on the task before you and expect success. With patience and compassion, success will follow.
Patience is not the ability to sit idly by, waiting for other people to come along and show you something new, but is instead the inability to refrain from joining with others to share something that is true; Once you begin to do this, there is no limit to what you can achieve, together, for the good of yourselves and others. Notice I said "begin to do" and not "learn how to do", because you can't learn without doing. You just do it, and understanding will follow.
Compassion is first the recognition of a physical or psychological struggle in others that you have seen, and perhaps overcome, in yourself. Second it is the inclination to join with them to be then their eyes, ears, hands and feet, or voice. Finally, it is the understanding that their struggle is as much your own as it is theirs for without their success and uplifting you also are stuck at an altitude far below that which you can soar.
Success is an accumulation. But, it is not solely the accumulation of physical objects and financial assets. These things are well and good when used for a noble purpose, but success is much more than this. It is the accumulation of memories of kind words and actions extended from you toward others and from others toward you. Layer upon layer of such memorable actions builds in you an infinite cushion into which to fall when you face setbacks. Knowing always that you can brighten somebody else's day with a kind word or a smile will be your secret to success. I guarantee it or your money back.

Attention, patience, compassion, and success. I learned a great deal about all of these by being around you and observing how you have conducted your life.
You also told me to get on the dance floor and dance. You should see me now taking salsa dance lessons. I'm just a rookie and not very good yet, but I will be. You've shown me, and all of us, that we can and will achieve whatever good and noble purpose we set out to accomplish.
I don't know how to live up to all you have achieved or how to love as thoroughly as you have loved, but nothing in this world can stop me from trying.
Great Grandma: you love, you are loved, and you are love. I know this for certain, and I am looking forward to seeing you better very soon.
Love always,
Your great grandson Josh
P.S. When teaching me to paint water colors a few years ago you told me,"You're the best thing that's happened to me, great-grandson". All I can say is that I have been the luckiest great-grandson in the world. You are always, always, always loved, and you are the greatest thing that's happened to me.

Guitarist, by Carola L. Gough

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