Make connections while you can, as soon as you can

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It has happened again.

In one day's messages, I received news of the passing of a friend I hadn't seen in some time, and the passing of someone who was to be the subject of a story for a future issue of the paper.

I waited too late to re-connect with one, and too late to connect for the first time with the other.

The friend was an artist and also my "ex-cousin-in-law-by-marriage," a term I made up years ago. Caroll Williams was married to George, who is one of my former husband's cousins. Though I knew his mother, Marguerite, and his brother Tom, I had never met George while I was married to his cousin.

After we divorced and I moved in 1984 to Hilton Head, where Marguerite happened to live, she and I maintained a nice friendship until her passing some years later.

I met Caroll and George at my current husband's first art exhibit opening on the island, in early 1997. When George heard I was a writer, he said "My mother was a writer - she used to write the social column for The Island Packet."

I soon realized he was talking about Marguerite, and I blurted, "Oh my gosh! You are my ex-cousin-in-law!" Then I had to explain that I was John's first wife.

After that, we would often see George and Caroll at arts functions, gallery openings and the like. Caroll began exhibiting her own art, and I loved her work. She excelled in creating unusual assemblages of cast-off, recycled and found objects. She could make magic out of the weirdest collection of "stuff" - chair backs, an old rake, yardsticks, wire baskets, discarded signs - you name it.

In July 2011, this newspaper ran an article about her show, along with artist Donna Varner, at the Art League of Hilton Head gallery. Caroll and Donna appeared on the cover of our arts section. She was tickled about that.

At some point, I was pleased to be able to acquire a nice piece of her work.

Those gallery functions got larger and larger, with more and more people with whom to chat. I don't remember when I started missing George and Caroll. I know it was after he decided not to run for re-election to Hilton Head Town Council. I figured they were traveling.

I asked a couple of folks who knew her, and they hadn't seen her either.

I didn't follow up. I should have.

Caroll died Jan. 27, and I will attend her memorial service this week.

The other person was William Whalley, the man who built the famous Harbour Town Lighthouse. I was told he passed gently in his sleep Jan. 30.

I had an opportunity and I didn't make the most of it. I knew when I first heard about him that he was elderly. An email with the story idea has remained in my "Later" file since last May. An email last week informed me of his passing.

I didn't follow up. I should have.

What stories he could have told and I could have shared. So many questions popped into my head when I first heard he might be available to talk to me. Why an octagon? Why red and white stripes? Why so many steps?

We always hear we shouldn't wait to tell our loved ones what they mean to us. The same goes for casual friends and acquaintances. Pick up the phone, send an email, text or letter. Have a conversation that might be life-changing - or at the very least make for good memories or a good story for telling.

Don't put it off. Make time now for connections and reconnections.

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