It’s the little details that get you. 

Carol Ivers of Fayette and her granddaughter Sarah Cholewinski of Brunswick. Submitted photo

It’s one thing to hear that a woman has been killed in yet another deadly crash on Route 4 in Turner. It’s sad, yes, but how many times have you heard this very same report over the years? The mind goes numb to it after all because there are fatal wrecks near every day and … well, you can’t cry over them all. 

But then you learn that the dead woman on Route 4 was a sweet 79-year-old woman who had been bringing Christmas gifts and baked goods to the people she loved with all her heart. You learn that her name was Carol Ivers and you learn all about the grieving family left behind. 

You see the pictures. In some of them, Ivers just looks sweet and happy as she poses with her granddaughter. In others, she sticks out her tongue and makes faces at the camera like a playful youngster. You see the pictures of Ivers smiling happily as she sits with her grandchildren and maybe she starts to remind you of your own mother, your grandmother or your favorite aunt. 

“My grandmother’s personality was magnetic,” Sarah Cholewinski of Brunswick said. “She wasn’t afraid to be silly or make a mess … she just wanted to make people smile. Her presence was like a warm hug, her laugh infectious. I miss her every day.”

You look at those photos, hear those stories and kind of wish you’d known the lady in life, but it’s too late now because while she was delivering Christmas loot to those she so adores, some guy reportedly street racing along Route 4 plowed right into her little Hyundai and killed her. 


For me it was the detail about the Christmas cookies that transformed this from just another Route 4 wreck to a deeply personal human tragedy. 

And it wasn’t just me. 

Emergency crews who responded to the crash found those undelivered Christmas goods scattered among the wreckage. Police had to keep those sad details in mind as they made the grim notifications to Ivers’ family. The average newspaper reader, indifferently reading about yet another crash on Route 4, suddenly perks up when he comes across that one little detail. 

“Aw, look at this,” he says across the breakfast table. “Says here that lady was delivering Christmas gifts to her family when it happened.” 

Details of the wreck only add a darker note to the sad tale. Ivers was killed, according to the police reports, because two men thought it was a fine idea to race at reportedly over 100 mph along one of the most dangerous stretches of road in the state. 

The fact that one of those men decided to flee from the carnage adds yet another layer of ghastliness. 


“Who does that?” the now-enraged newspaper reader implores his kitchen, banging a fist on the table. “It’s bad enough to hurt an old lady with such stupidity, but then you don’t even stop to help?” 

Carol Ivers of Fayette and her granddaughter Sarah Cholewinski of Brunswick. Submitted photo

One detail. That’s all it takes. One sentence about those undelivered Christmas cookies is enough to cast the crash in an infinitely more painful light. Now, instead of thinking of Ivers as “Victim no. 1” in a police report, you’ve got to ponder the loss of somebody’s beloved grandmother, great-grandmother, friend, sister and joy-filled holiday celebrant. 

One sentence and you get an idea of how cherished the lady was within her sprawling family.

“There’s a bunch of us, and she loved every second of it,” Cholewinski said. “She would have all of us over for sleepovers and have pillow fights. There’d be feathers from the pillows all over the place and she never cared. She just wanted us to have fun. Even the neighborhood kids would end up at her house.”

A few years ago, I read about a couple who had been killed when another driver veered into their lane on the dark back roads of Litchfield. I was reading rather indifferently — just another nasty crash on a Maine back road — when that one little detail changed everything. 

That couple, as it turned out, had been on their way to pick up their 9-year-old daughter Caitlyn, a red-headed, bespectacled lass who was at a friend’s house waiting for mom and pop to come get her. And with that detail, all at once I’m thinking about how somebody was going to have to go tell the girl that both of her parents were dead because some allegedly drunk driver had veered into their lane, smashing into the family truck and killing the two people young Caitlyn most loved and depended on. All at once, I’m thinking about how profoundly that poor kid’s life changed so quickly. 


For me, writing about fatal car wrecks, deadly fires, drownings, murders and other forms of human carnage is easiest when the news is fresh. When the news is first breaking, it’s only the big details that emerge and the big details are easy to manage because you’ve seen them all a thousand times before. 

But the little details must come forth eventually and the little details are where the human soul resides. Hear them and watch the needle on your emotional barometer shoot from zero to infinity in a flash. 

Two men have been arrested in connection to the crash that killed Carol Ivers on Route 4. I imagine that will provide some degree of closure to her grieving family — Ivers’ granddaughter wept tears of relief when she heard — but will it provide enough? It’s hard to envision a Christmas season in that family’s foreseeable future where the specter of those undelivered cookies isn’t hanging over them like a Charles Dickens ghost. 

Best we can do is hope upon hope that wherever she is now, Carol Ivers is happy and smiling as always, and in that afterworld realm that has got to be kinder than this one, somebody somewhere is getting the best Christmas cookies ever. 

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