Saturday, February 6, 2010
The Remarkable Carla Zilbersmith
I will confess. I adore Carla Zilbersmith. She is not only a brilliant writer and the one time possessor of the voice of angels but she is also, and I say this in no small way, the most honest and courageous human being I have ever known. Carla is facing and dealing with Lou Gehrig's disease that has stripped her of the ability to move and speak to a great degree. She is facing her death in a manner that leaves one deeply moved and changed. I saw Carla yesterday for the first time in 2 years although I have attempted to maintain a connection with her since she became ill, either through emails or her blog. I admit to being frightened and staying away out of that fear and I am not proud of that. But yesterday I finally did what my heart told me to do and I went to visit her, to show her a plaque that will hang in the college theatre honoring her and the students who receive a yearly scholarship named after her. It was a wise choice because it was a real choice, borne out of love and deep respect. And, frankly, it was propelled by the simple fact of deeply missing her presence in my life. It is Carla's presence that has always had an amazing effect on everyone. A few people didn't "get" Carla; they read her and her jokes too literally. Carla was always about irony, at least when she was being a shitkicker. That feisty, funny and wise person is alive and well in Carla. I saw that yesterday; but there is something else there now: a deep and compassionate humility for those she loves and the very world we all live in. Carla has few enemies but there are people in her life, one in particular, who has been extraordinarily destructive and mean-spirited. I suppose one could say this person is "troubled"; I think sociopathic is more like it. That person will get their comeuppance one day; the cruel and selfish nature of this person will bring about their own inevitable destruction. I have NO doubt about that. Carla, on the other hand, lives in a beautiful home of bright color with young people, some former students, as her caretakers and wise and beautiful old friends who rush to her whenever she is in need. And her father, Jack, a beautiful man of great strength, is by her side at all times, helping her cope and taking the love that emanates from Carla's extraordinary smile and heart and giving her love in every look and touch. I have not even mentioned Carla's deepest and most profound joy, her son Maclen. Carla says it best in the songs she wrote and delivers in her last remarkable CD. I have been honored to know this woman. I knew when I met her 18 years ago that she would have a profound impact on me and she has. Few people have had such an impact in such a way and I asked myself after I left her home yesterday, why? I think it is because Carla always tells the truth; she always knew when to call someone out on their bullshit and she did not have to do it with language. One penetrating gaze from Carla could rock and shake up your world and guess what? It still does. I know Carla is going to leave us soon although if there was something, anything I could do, to change this outcome, I truly would do it. She is an important person and her legacy is truth. Never let anyone tell you differently. Carla's life and the things she has done with it, the people she has helped grow and grow up (me included) will NEVER forget her and will make certain others know her name. This is how legends begin. It is how people really do live on. I confess. I adore Carla Zilbersmith.