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A Thanksgiving Tribute. Hanada Carbone and her Carissa.

POSTED November 26, 2015
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

TORRINGTON: Carissa (CC) Carbone backed away from the pulpit as she gathered herself.

Carbone had started to talk about her mother, Hanada Carbone, who had lost her courageous battle with cancer earlier in the week, and when she started talking specifically about the remarkable women who shaped her into the remarkable young lady that she has become, she had to choke back the emotions for just a moment.

Then, in true CC form, the Torrington High School junior took a breath and stepped back to the microphone where she finished a eulogy that certainly had her mom smiling down on her from a place where the cancer that had haunted her for five years was no longer a factor.

This is a story of a mother and daughter whose bond ran deep and created something in the short 16-years they had together that will last a lifetime for the one still with us.

Hanada Carbone, to all who knew or came in contact with her, was someone you would not easily forget.

I ran into her one afternoon in the back parking lot of Torrington High School, by the softball field, where she had been watching her daughter play for the Raiders.

Hanada got my attention as I walked by towards my car and asked me if I was a scout for a college. She said she had been contacted by many folks or organizations that offered to put together a video package on her daughter to be sent to colleges or universities.

Some of these places are okay, many, not so much.

In the case of Carissa (who is an All-NVL volleyball player and pretty darn good infielder in softball), they had thrown some ridiculous numbers in the $10,000 dollar range for a package that asked the parent, of all people to gather the videos and send it on to them.

I advised her not to work with any of those kind of folks, much less expensive alternatives (Market Edge Writers for one) exist and can do the work for a fraction of the cost.

Besides, the way CC Carbone is developing as a volleyball force in the area, those places of higher education that need a standout volleyball player will be coming to look at her and already have.

During that conversation, Hanada told me about her cancer, but just briefly. She wanted all the focus to be on her daughter, something she did throughout her long battle with Multiple Myeloma.

The original news came suddenly and hit like a ton of bricks.

“She (Hanada) got the diagnosis in January of 2011,” Torrington mayor and former sister-in-law, Elinor Carbone said, “Multiple Myeloma is not curable. They can get it into remission or they can get the numbers low and try to keep them low. Most prognosis is anywhere from five to 10 years.”

It’s never easy, fighting the beast that is cancer and Multiple Myeloma is relentless.

“The first year was a bitter battle against this disease,” Carbone said, “Not only had there been significant damage to some of the bones in her spine but also in the bones in her legs, her arms and her skull. So she was doing radiation and chemo. In the early fall of 2011 she had to do a Stem Cell transplant.”

What became abundantly clear from the start of this battle was that Hanada was not going to allow any of the focus to be on her, rather it be only on her daughter.

“Carissa’s studies were the most important thing in her mother’s life,” Carbone said, “No matter how sick she was, through the chemo, through the radiation and the surgeries, the first question Hanada would ask her daughter when she came to the hospital was, ‘Did you bring your backpack and did you do your homework?”

It was always all about Carissa and in the absolute best way.

“Her health (Hanada’s) was always secondary to making sure her daughter was being successful at school,” Carbone said.

In regards to her own sickness and how it affected her daughter, the remarkable nature of this loving women goes even deeper.

“As sick as she was,” Carbone said, “She did not want to burden anyone with her illness. So she would downplay this all the time. When she was at Yale New Haven for two and a half weeks, in the hospital, people would ask if they could come down she would say, no, no. I’m fine.”

At times the topic of telling CC more about what was going on would come up but at no time did Hanada want to affect how her daughter was doing in school or enjoying her sports.

“She (Hanada) protected CC from this right until the very end, “Carbone said.

If her daughter could sum up her mom in one word, that word was extraordinary.

“My mom wanted me to focus on my school work and my sports,” CC Carbone said, “She didn’t want any of us to worry about her.”

Her mother’s strength is something that permeates through any conversation you have with anyone about Hanada Carbone.

From her eulogy. “My mom was an extraordinary human being,” CC Carbone said, “Many people have told me that she was strong. It was impossible not to notice it.”

As CC stood first in the receiving line at her mom’s wake on Friday night, the strength transferred from mother to daughter was unmistakable.

Even after she had lost her battle, Hanada managed to give one more gift, this one from a passion she had for the longest time.

“One of Hanada’s biggest joys,” Elinor Carbone said, “Was taking pictures and she’s one of these people who, even with the digital age, she loved developed photo’s. She loved to see the prints. She would go to these games with her camera and take pictures of all the athletes.”

Hanada Carbone had been in a nursing home for three months and never returned home before she passed so when the family had to go to her house to collect things for her funeral, what did they find?

“There on her dining room table,” Carbone said, “Where these photographs with the name of the student paper clipped to them. She wanted to make sure these pictures got to the girls or the family members. It was Hanada.”

The final paragraph of an amazingly thoughtful eulogy summed up how this junior in high school, who is far beyond her 16 years on this earth, felt about one extraordinary individual who brought her into this world.

“So mom,” CC said in closing, “I will miss your heartwarming laugh, your beautiful smile, our late nights, our long drives, our study sessions, our dinner dates, your cooking, your warm hugs, your attempted lessons to teach me Arabic, your belly-dancing, you in the stands for my games, the amazing photo’s you took, your helping hand and your beautiful soul. Mom, you will be missed. I love you and we all love you.”

Well said CC, well said. Your mom just had to grab some tissues from her night stand in Heaven, as did the rest of us.

Carissa Carbone is certainly on course to make her mark in two sports at Torrington High School. Her skills on the court in volleyball make you shake your head at times, she’s that good.

Volleyball may end up being the sport of choice but whatever this young lady does will be done well and with the blessing of one special lady who will be watching over her.

For more from Timothy W. Gaffney click here