WAXAHACHIE — In a recorded legacy full of adventure and travel, one local grandmother turned her son's requests for personal history into her first published book, “A Letter to My Son: Our Lives in the Middle East.”
“I didn’t set out to write a book,” admitted Carol Corpany, author of the book. “We had lived 15 years in Egypt, Lebanon, and in that part of the world, and our son was young, and he said, ‘Mom, someday I’m not going to remember the stories or the experiences,’ because we went through some dangerous times.”
“And he said, ‘Sit down and write these on paper for me, so I’ll remember.’ So that’s how this book got started - it was letters to my son in order for him to know more about his and our lives in the years he was too young to remember,” she confirmed.
Born in 1931, the book encompasses Corpany’s history throughout her early years of farm life in Minnesota to receiving a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Texas, and her rollercoaster calling of being a “culture crossing” missionary with her husband.
“We were sent by a church but we were not preachers. My husband had degrees in education and administration I was an RN [Registered Nurse]. So we found plenty of things to do,” Corpany chuckled. “To me, we had an interesting life. We lived in an Arab culture as Americans and me as a woman, but we had a lot of interesting years that we enjoyed out there.”
Married in 1956 to the late B.W. Corpany, the couple launched their missionary career to Egypt in 1964, where they were put in charge of an orphanage in Assiut, Egypt.
“We were ready to become a part of the orphanage staff,” Corpany recalled their assignment. “We were quite unprepared to be the administrators of the entire operations. Suddenly we were leaders of an orphanage with more than a thousand children with very little in resources, a small staff, aging facilities and a foreign people who didn’t understand us and we certainly did not understand them.”
“However, God gave us, and them, patience and we grew to love the children, the Egyptian people, and were able to do our work there for several years,” she added.
Through the book’s pages is a story that unfolds the experiences the Corpany’s had during their 15 years in the most volatile area in the world, including the Six Day War between Israel and Egypt.
“We could no longer live in Egypt because of the political situation, and Russia had a big influence at that time, so we were sent to Beirut, Lebanon,” Corpany remembered the season.
“We lived there for four years, and during that time, I taught nursing at the American University that’s there, and every day I went to class I felt like I was at the UN. There were several nationalities, religions, and what have you. It was a challenge, but I loved it,” she included.
Corpany goes on to say that it became nearly impossible to live in such dangerous areas that she and Mr. Corpany moved back to the United States a few years later.
“My husband was hired for an organization that raised funds for projects in India after we moved back. So he would go every year on a working trip, and I went to go see what his life was involved in,” Corpany explained her trips to India. “I was sent back after he passed away in 1991 from pancreatic cancer.”
“After his death, I was sent out for the dedication of his projects that he had been involved in,” she articulated going in her husband’s place.
“For one of the dedications was a cardiac, ICU type of place that our mission group had built in a private hospital, and Mother Teresa was still there at that time in India. She came to meet me because she appreciated what my husband had contributed that helped so many of them,” Corpany recalled the Catholic Church saint and missionary.
“Because of the children she had taken in through her organization, they all got free care at our organization’s hospital. So she came, and that was special. I remember telling her because I’m short, I said, ‘I think you’re the only adult I’ve ever met that’s shorter than I am,” she chuckled at the memory. “She’s a very humble person and took my hands and blessed me that day.”
Now at 86-years-old, Corpany is a first-time author of a 160-page letter-biography, debuting her work last Thursday, June 29.
“Some of my friends here knew some of the same people I did, and they said, ‘This should be made more than just a bunch of papers put in a folder kind of thing,” Corpany told of taking her friend’s advice.
With well over 60 people in attendance, friends, family, and neighbors surrounded Corpany during her book signing. However, one face was missing from the crowd.
“My son died about seven years ago in Waxahachie in a car accident,” Corpany solemnly recollected the tragic moment.
Though the books fruition had yet to be revealed to the original inspirer, Corpany’s written memories of the past are something her son’s grandchildren will forever look forward to.
“When the kids come over, they say, ‘Tell us a story of our daddy.’ So I signed a book for each of them and said, ‘This will help you remember some things,’” Corpany told of their father’s heritage.
Through a life filled with everything from the adventure of camping in the Sahara Desert to education, and discipleship of hundreds of orphans, Corpany’s advice that’s written throughout her book rings truer than ever before.
“I think it tells a story and gives out information about people that found life more valuable than just surviving. If we would’ve stayed in the states, my husband would’ve ended up being a principal of a school or something, and I would’ve probably been whatever else, but there’s more to living than just surviving,” Corpany recognized.
“The world is getting smaller and our only hope to get along and to understand others is to know other people from other cultures,” she added.
And as this grandma continues to live extraordinarily, Corpany is grateful for her community’s support of her first book, deeming it as a “lifetime success.”
“I know most of my neighbors, and a lot of them came today. The community has given wonderful support. They’re the kind of people that if I needed anything, I could call on them. It’s a wonderful place to live,” Corpany finished.
To receive a copy of Corpany’s book, “A Letter to My Son: Our Lives in the Middle East,” email Stephen Foster at email@example.com.
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer