Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Blogging Community in Mourning

Carol Fleming Al-Ajroush died yesterday, May 27, 2013, at the age of 53 after a valiant and hard fought five-year long battle with breast cancer.  Carol was known in cyber space as "American Bedu," the name of her popular and widely read blog pertaining to Saudi Arabia.


Even though we never actually met face to face, I counted Carol among my friends.  We shared a few bonds that had drawn us together.  We both married Saudi men, we both moved to Saudi Arabia when we were older, and we both wrote blogs about our lives here.  Over the past few years since I moved to KSA in 2007, Carol became my sounding board and confidante.  When I was going through my "disenchantment period" after the "honeymoon phase" of living here had worn off, I would run my ranting blog posts by Carol first before publishing them to get her valued opinion. We would talk on the phone and exchanged countless emails.  She was so much more diplomatic than I tend to be and always had good advice and words of encouragement and support. 

Amidst her life of illness, turmoil and loss during these past five years, Carol always remained upbeat and positive and never wavered in her mission to bridge the gap of understanding between Saudi culture and the West.  It was her fierce dedication to this mission that I believe may have extended her time here on earth, giving her life a sense of purpose and commitment. 

Carol grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania and worked for the CIA as a spy, under the guise of being an American diplomat.  By the time she met and fell in love with Abdullah Al-Ajroush, a Saudi diplomat, while on assignment in Pakistan, both of them were in their 40s and each had a previous marriage under their belts.  Carol and Abdullah had been married for just a few short blissful years when tragedy struck.  In 2008, within just a few months of each other, both Carol and Abdullah were diagnosed with cancer - he with a rare and very aggressive form of leukemia and she with breast cancer, a disease that had already claimed several of her family members.  In 2009 they both traveled to the USA to continue treatment for their diseases.  Unfortunately they had to be separated during this time because of their illnesses and went to different states to receive their course of treatment.


In February 2010, less than a year and a half after his initial diagnosis, Abdullah succumbed to his illness and Carol was heartbroken.  She never returned to Saudi Arabia.  She continued the fight for her life in North Carolina, close to her only child, son Jon and her two grandsons, becoming an outspoken advocate for finding the cure for cancer and sharing with her readers her journey of becoming a "breast cancer warrior wearing her pink full body armor."  She fought valiantly.

I was in awe of her positive and upbeat attitude and amazed at how quickly she answered emails.  Though at times she required help in fulfilling her daily commitment to blogging, Carol posted every day without fail, oftentimes preparing her posts in advance when she knew she would be out of commission from her exhaustive, energy-zapping treatment.  Her topics covered anything and everything having to do with Saudi Arabia and Islam.  Discussions were lively and often heated.

The American Bedu blog even spawned a marriage between two of her readers and commenters. 

Last summer when my own mother passed away, Carol found the strength to comfort me despite her own precarious health and offered me guidance on how to deal with my grief, as she had done with the loss of her husband.

Carol’s funeral arrangments are as follows:  Services will be held Tuesday, May 28, 2013, at James Funeral Home. The viewing will be at 11:00am, followed by the service at 12:00pm. In lieu of flowers, you may send a donation to Carol's favorite charity, The American Cancer Society, to continue the fight against breast cancer.
James Funeral Home - 10520 Arahova Dr., Huntsville, NC 28078 - Phone 704-584-9004

A casual gathering for all family and friends will be held following the memorial hosted by her dear friends, Ray and Robin. All are welcome at the reception after the service at on May 28th at 2pm at 20420 Island Forest Drive - Cornelius, NC 28031.

Carol will sorely be missed in the blogging community, by her family and her countless friends around the world.  I'd like to close this post with Carol's own words, written in an email to me about some life lessons and advice she wanted to impart, some wonderful words of wisdom from one of the most gracious, giving, and generous women I have ever known....

"First, it really is not worth the time and effort to sweat the small stuff....and believe me, it's pretty easy to discern the wheat from the chaff!
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Second, there is nothing more important than dearly loved family and friends.  We love each other warts and all!  (smile) 
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Remember to take the time and let the special people in your life know how much your care.  Make sure they know why they are special to you.  Do something spontaneous for them.  Hug them when they least expect it.  Always let them know how much you love them.
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Don't save words for tomorrow if you can say them today!
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Live each and every day to its fullest and most joyous!"
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Rest in peace, sweet Carol. 
 

30 comments:

  1. Susie, Thank you for this beautiful eulogy to Carol.I also never met her in person but it was her blog that helped to broaden my world and give me some needed perspective on a part of the world I had never seen. With my eldest in the Navy I desperately wanted to know more about where he would be serving.
    After finding American Bedu, your blog and many others I came to realize that people are just people no matter where we live. Carol shared her life with us; an exciting wonderful journey and love story.
    In a way it made my own troubles seem trivial and more bearable. I wanted Carol and Abdullah to post they were cured,but as we know that wasn't to be.
    I know today they are together with God and smiling down on us all........

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    1. Thanks, Always - It's good to hear from you. Carol's contribution would be impossible to measure. Her legacy has such far-reaching effects that we will never know. Hugs to you.

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  2. Thank you for writing this very nice tribute to her. I think her blog is and has been invaluable to Westerners trying to understand Saudi Arabia. I appreciate you taking the time to honor her. She performed a very valuable service with the American Bedu blog. Her vision for the blog itself was huge.

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    1. Hi Karen - I don't know how Carol managed to post every day, but it seemed to keep her going. I know there were times when we would both feel like taking a break from blogging - and I actually did, but I don't think she ever did. We both found it difficult at times coming up with topics to post about, but somehow she did it. She was an amazing woman.

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  3. This is a very nice tribute for the wonderful friend you lost. I am sorry no having known Carol through her blog but will get a look at it. I am sure her wisdom will shine through and will teach me lessons that she would have loved the world to learn. I am deeply sorry for your loss!

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    1. Hi Nadege - Yes, please do look over her blog. It will take you quite a while to read the entire thing, but you will learn so much about Saudi Arabia and Carol's love for it.

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  4. That is sad. May Carol now rest in peace.
    You were lucky to have one another in blog world, Susie.

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    1. Hi Dina - Thank you, my friend. I have made so many wonderful friends through blogging, including you. Hugs.

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  5. Susie, this is a Lovely tribute to your dear friend Carol. She was a very special person. Special people come and go in our lives. Some people can come into your life for such a brief time but have a dramatic impact in our life. Many of my hard lessons have been by such friends. I often am amazed at the people I meet and the lessons I can learn from them. I admire people like Carol who embrace life and give love and make a difference as she did. She will be missed by many. Her fight has not been in vain, as she has touched so many lives that she wouldn't even have been aware of.

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    1. Hi Saudi Arabia - Thanks so much for your comment. I feel the same way as what you have expressed. Thanks.

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  6. i am interested in saudi arabia. call me paranoid, but what are the chances of
    1. 2 diplomats
    2. getting cancer around the same time,
    3. both cancers being fatal
    4. dying around the same time

    sounds like they were poisoned to me

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    1. Hi Average Joe - On the surface, it does seem rather coincidental that both Carol and Abdullah contracted cancer at the same time. But their cancers were different, and Abdullah's disease progressed much more rapidly than Carol's. She also lived another three years longer than him. I admit, the odds of this happening to both of them are small, but life can be like this. I guess conspiracy theories abound in this day and age and your theory is possible.

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    2. Sadly, I thought the same thing.

      I'm sorry.

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  7. I'm so glad you worte this tribute to Carol, Susie, and I understand how much she must have meant to you in a way nobody else could. You had much in common and as a true diplomat, she must have offered you good support and wise advice. I'm only sorry I didn't "discover" her earlier as I would have loved to communicate with her. Anyway, I have been touched by her blog. Now I've re-discovered yours too, which was the initial reason I got involved with the Facebook site. God bless you, Susie and may you be strengthened this summer! Katherine Seedell

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    1. Hi Katherine - Thank you. There is so much to be learned by reading Carol's blog. It is a wealth of information and debate. Carol's words and contributions will live on for many years to come.

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  8. A fitting tribute for a remarkable woman. I began reading American Bedu two years ago and valued the balanced portrayal of a much-misunderstood culture. It's a wonderful body of work that I'm sure will be referenced for many years to come.

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    1. Hi Aisha - I agree - her body of work will prove to be a valuable source of information for all time. And her spirit will live on through her posts.

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  9. Andrea, from FloridaMay 29, 2013, 12:00:00 AM

    Hi Susie,
    Thanks so much for your wonderful tribute to Carol. Shortly after finding Carol's blog (about 2 and a half years ago), I became facebook friends with Carol. I found out that Carol had a neice living close to me here in Orlando. I also became friends with her neice. Last month I finally had the opportunity to meet Carol in person when she came to visit her neice over Easter weekend (you may remember I posted a picture on your Susie of Arabia facebook page). Carol was very kind, and I discovered that we had two very important things in common: a love for Arab culture, and a love for animals! I was very lucky to see her on two seperate occasions when she was in Orlando. She was also very open about her cancer battle, and I admired her very much for her fight. She was very kind to invite my boyfriend and I to visit her. I was shocked to learn that her cancer had progressed so rapidly, I feel lucky to have met such an amazing person.

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    1. Hi Andrea - I'm so glad you got to meet Carol. I loved seeing the photo of the two of you. There is no doubt that she was a very special person.

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  10. What a sweet post! I was looking at that picture of Carol and Abdullah, and can't believe both of them are gone. :(

    Thanks for sharing this.

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    1. Hi Susanne - It really is hard to conceive that both Carol and Abdullah are now gone. They were both larger than life. Thanks for your comment.

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  11. Dear Susie
    So sorry that you have lost such a good friend may she rest in peace

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  12. Hi Susie,

    Thank you for your many informative and balanced articles!

    I'm an American Muslim woman living in Saudi Arabia. I do enjoy living here, even though it's so different from the States. I've found blogs like yours to be helpful in living in this amazing country. I did want to ask you a favor, a blog post request, if you ever find yourself up to it.

    I used to work at a Ladies Training Center in the Eastern Province that was equal parts Saudi & Expat. I enjoyed the actual work there, but found the politics to be almost unbearable. Having worked for many years in the US I though I knew all there was to know about how to carry myself in the workplace, but I at my Center I felt like I was the awkward kid in high school again! Those Saudi woman were really something else with a take no prisoners kind of attitude. I was so relieved at not having to deal with Saudi women again (and I'm not even into politics, but am actually very shy.) The thing is, these women deal with family, relatives and friends so often from such a young age that behaving politically is ingrained in them. I don't expect them to change, but I need to learn how to deal with them, because I'm going back to work!

    I'm starting in August and am EXTREMELY NERVOUS about the politics. I wanted to ask if you could somehow elicit and publish reasonable, balanced advice for expat women on how to handle working with Saudi women. I'm not interested in Saudi bashing or venting, but really just want practical advice. I've talked to many other expat women (including the ones at my former job, many of whom were reduced to tears) and have found that they have been looking for the same thing.

    Thanks and hope my post wasn't too long.

    Sarah

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    1. Hi Sarah - I wish you the best of luck with your new job. Thanks for commenting.

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  13. I too enjoyed Carol's articles and insight and the generosity of spirit she displayed in her articles. May Allah have mercy on her. Ameen.

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  14. Hi Susi,

    Thanks for this lovely tribute to Carol. I appreciate you sharing her email.

    I found both of your blogs around the same time as I was interested in the Middle East. I am now finishing up an English Language Fellowship in Bahrain. I hope I have done a bit too to bridge the gap but both of your blogs have helped me as I decided to come here and adjusted to the new culture..

    Currently I am working on getting people to read for pleasure as well as read more to their children. I have been giving presentations on reading for pleasure at the National Library that have been very well attended. I will be donating as many books as I can to the library before I leave the country.

    Please take care of yourself and thank you for your blog.

    Annie

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  15. I am so heartbroken. I pray that she rests in peace. Ameen.
    We used her blog and her site teachsaudi.com when we`re moving to Saudi. The articles there are very informative. As a matter of fact, we found our jobs on her site. :-(

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    1. Warda & Bill - I do not believe that is Carol's website that you are talking about.

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  16. Hmm, the articles were written by her until someone named Expatguru took over. Maybe she was contributing. Either way, I`m very saddened by her passing. I wish her family and those who loved her all the best. I found about you through her blog. I remember reading her interview with your son. I`ll miss reading her writing.

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  17. Oh no! :( I hadn't been to her blog in ages, but thought of her often hoping she was well. I didn't realize she passed. Her blog got me through coming to Saudi 5 years ago, and my first few years here. At least they're together now.

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