As we collectively grieve the death of faculty member Gail Carney, we continue our series of personal stories and anecdotes to share glimpses into the impact she made on her colleagues and friends.
What I treasure most about Gail is there was something solid in her you could lean against and find rest in. She exemplified what it meant to be a caring alpha in so many ways from her shielding, matchmaking, collecting, and how she continues to bridge to this day. She didn’t shy away from hard conversations, offered unique perspectives on topics and issues, and didn’t fail to lead, even when it came time to helping us let go of her. As I reflect and try to find words to describe who Gail was, I feel the smallness of these letters in relation to her strength, courage, and magnitude as a person.
Gail left so much of herself behind. Her writing and teachings still live on, preserved in perpetuity on the Neufeld virtual campus. I also hold onto memories of shared times including afternoons of theoretical conversations, exchanging information on new books, doing pottery with my kids, and laughing about all that was absurd in our lives.
While Gail visited me one day, my four-year-old started circling us like a shark, conveying her need to be the centre of my attention. I tried to engage my daughter’s interest in colouring, but she took the piece of paper, crumpled it up, and threw it. I sat my daughter on my lap, but she proceeded to sit on the floor. On and on my daughter’s resistance went, with Gail quietly taking note. At one point I just stopped and asked my daughter if she was going to continue to do the opposite of everything I suggested. My daughter burst into a big grin and said, “Yes!”
I can still hear the roar of Gail’s laughter, and mine shortly after, as my daughter’s counterwill was on display and celebrated. It was this counterwill instinct that I felt most akin to Gail with and it was the unspoken ease with which we gave each other permission to have our own minds that I will dearly miss. It is her voice in my head sometimes in remembering her proclamation that, “The problem with alpha caretakers is you don’t say ‘no’ enough and you ought to remember to do this more often!”
Gail was a formidable woman, is truly irreplaceable, and exemplifies to the core what it means to be “one of a kind.”
Editor’s Note: A scholarship fund has been established in Gail’s memory. For more tributes to Gail, links to some of her art and her writings, and information about the Gail Eleanor Carney Scholarship Fund, please visit our Gail Remembered page.