“I have never been more proud to be a Meredith alumna. There are no better people to have holding the other end of the rope than my Meredith Angels.” – Sue Hammons Cook, ’70
Imagine you are hanging on the edge of a cliff, your life in your hands as you grasp the rocky edge in hopes of not falling. Then someone comes and hands you a rope. A friend, someone you know will endure the pain of the rope burning through their hands as they pull you up. You grab the rope and hold on tightly, knowing they have the other end.
The Class of 1970 have always been close to each other, staying connected however they could through the years. Classmates are there for each other during wonderful moments in their lives and to give each other encouragement when needed. In 2011, the class started a tradition that “holds” them together even more.
In 2010, as the Class of 1970 was celebrating their 40th reunion, Sue Hammons Cook’s husband, Rodney Cook, was going into heart failure and needed a new heart. During that weekend she expressed concerns about her husband’s health to her classmates and leaned on them for support.
During the time they waited on the transplant, Rodney Cook and his son, Travis Cook, heard Sylvia Hatchell, UNC women’s basketball coach, tell her “rope story” at a Rams Club event. She told her team to imagine they were hanging on the edge of a cliff and the only thing between each of them and dropping was someone holding the other end of the rope and pulling them to safety. She asked her 2010-11 team to hold the rope for each other during their difficult season.
Leaving that event Rodney Cook asked his son to “hold the other end of his rope” as doctors tried to find him a new heart. Ten months later a new heart was found. When Duke University Hospital informed him they had a match, Travis Cook found a rope for them to hold together.
After seeing the impact the rope had on her son and husband, Cook sent another classmate, Janet Morris Belvin, a rope when her grandson, Camden, was diagnosed with a heart condition. She sent it with dozens of extra tags for people to write notes on and ribbons to attach to the rope. Belvin had been a loyal and supportive classmate and Cook wanted to do something to give her hope as well.
Belvin’s grandson was in the hospital for the first two months of his life. The rope sent by the Cooks hung above his bed with tags hanging from it that contained messages from classmates and others. Camden had a final surgery to repair his heart, but unfortunately it was not successful and he passed away. It was an extremely difficult time for Belvin, but she says the Class of 1970 helped her through it. She can’t imagine another class this far removed from their graduation being this close to one another.
“There was a lot of prayer for Camden. To know our class has strong friendships that have lasted so long is amazing. We are holding on to each other’s ropes. I definitely felt like I was not alone,” said Belvin.
Later when other classmates found out about the rope, they discussed adopting the concept for their class. Now when the Class of 1970 learns that a fellow classmate is going through a difficult time they mail a letter with the “rope story” and a rope with words of encouragement to tell them “we are holding on to the other end of your rope.” The goal is to show their classmate they will not let go and are not alone during their difficult situation.
Cindy Griffith McEnery and classmate, Peggy Timmerman Carter, took it one step further and had a North Carolina artist, Sally Nooney, design a tile to give to classmates. Nooney hears each classmates’ story before she designs the tile, so it is unique to that individual.
“Each time, she gets tears in her eyes as we describe the classmate we are honoring,” says McEnery. “We consider her a member of our team in every sense of the word.”
A tile now accompanies the rope and has been given to four classmates so far, each of them having different circumstances. The tile gives them a long lasting, beautiful visual to represent their classmates’ love and concern during that time.
“My classmates wanted somehow to give me a virtual hug from a distance. When they sent the tile months after Camden passed away, I was reduced to tears because of the depth of their love,” said Belvin. “My tile is in my kitchen window where it greets me every day. I look at it and I see the faces of all my friends and feel their hugs all over again.”
The classmates are now looking toward their 50 year reunion in 2020 and the impact their class gift can have for future Meredith students and alumnae. The class is thinking of a place of reflection on campus for people to visit. The tile concept could be made prominent in the design.
“I have never been more proud to be a Meredith alumna,” said Cook. “There are no better people to have holding the other end of the rope than my Meredith Angels.”
Classmates who are interested in helping fund the 50 year reunion project or have questions, please contact Erin Cleghorn at firstname.lastname@example.org or (919) 760-8060.