Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Nobody has had the heart to say it on their blog yet, so I will. Carla died.

She died peacefully, surrounded by people she loved, who loved her dearly, having been able to say good-bye to so many old and new friends. She died knowing that she made a huge difference in the lives of so many people, including mine. She died having done everything she could do on her "bucket" list (hate that term, but whatever.) She tied up as many loose ends and finished as much business as she could. No one could have used 47 years on this beautiful planet better.

She died way too soon, and she died of a disease that will be curable, or at least much more treatable five years from now, in part due to her efforts raising funds and consciousness to fight ALS.

I don't know why it had to be this way; I don't know why she's not here anymore, and frankly I have a hard time believing it. Even though I was one of the lucky ones that got to say a personal good-bye to her on Friday, May 14th, her last day of being fully awake before she slipped into a coma. She had a great time that day. Her beloved Maclen was by her side, and her caregivers, and good friends came and went. The house was full of love and light--and tears, as well, but plenty of laughter.

She set the bar very very high for living and dying with grace and purpose.

And I still can't quite wrap my head around it. And I still want to talk with her about the Anna Deavere Smith play I just finished reading, "House Arrest", and I want to tell her about my trip to Massachusetts where I taught with other SUN writers at Rowe and had an amazing time, and I want to brag to her about my nephews and nieces who are turning into such interesting and wonderful people, and roll my eyes with her that in my absence Christopher heard six (yes, you read that correctly six) abandoned feral kittens mewing piteously in the tall grass in our yard and felt moved to take them in.

(Their mother is True Dee, the barely-adolescent sister of Trixie who got knocked up the same time Trixie and her other sister My Sharona did. C managed to get Trixie and Sharona aborted and spayed, but True Dee would not be captured and gave birth and then abandoned the babies because she's just too young to know what to do with them.)

They take formula from a tiny bottle. They weigh 300 grams each and sleep in a pile all together--a kitty pudle of black and gray and white arms and legs and six tiny heads. They are gaining in strength and awakeness hourly and all are bent on survival and sucking down as much formula as they can. They all seem to be girls so far as we can make out, although who knows, maybe some of them are boys whose boy parts just aren't big enough to be apparent.

Anyway, we are now officially kitty grand-parents, and C is off to buy a heating pad for them, while I prepare to post photos on Facebook and Craigs List.

I could tell her about that and show her my lightly scratched hands and kitty-pee-stained new pants and she would get a laugh out of it. And even though she's not here, I do tell her, whever she is.


laurie b said...

alison, i am so sorry. i know how much carla meant to you. i am sure you will think of her every day and make her proud with all you do and write. there are no words that ease the pain in times like these and thank goodness - we should feel the pain for such a significant loss! take care of yourself - eat, rest and grieve. and know that you are in my heart and thoughts....

Brent Winter said...

I'm very sorry to hear about Carla's death, Alison. You've written movingly about her shining spirit and her struggles with ALS, so I know that you're feeling this loss deeply. I saw that your blog has a link to Carla's blog, so I went there and read Carla's last post, which was truly beautiful. I hope that you find peace as you live through these days of grief and healing.

Anonymous said...

Allison, I empathize with your loss of your friend.

I wonder if you can direct your readers to where one might find out about Carla's funeral. I know you aren't an official spokeperson.

I read, somewhere, that the funeral would be June 5th. Is that accurate? Where? When?

Or ignore my request if that is right for you.

Carla's life was beautifully shared online and no one, of course, has any responsibility to keep Carla's online family of friends informed. .. . sometimes people put up a webpage as a memorial, a space for people to log on and mourn together by resminiscing about the deceased.

I emphasize that no one has any responsibility to create such a public vehicle for mourning Carla . . . but it seems like it might fit given how Carla publicly died. .. there is no right or wrong. . . I didn't meet Carla, I 'just' love her from the blog. ..

Kathy said...

Alison, thank you so much for this post. I have been thinking of Carla and checking her blog, and yours, for news of her passing. My heart goes out to you, and to Carla's family and other loved ones, of which there are many, I know. -- Kathy in Colorado

Colleen said...


I'm so sorry that your friend, Carla, has left this earth. My dear grandfather died from this horrible disease and I hope along with you that it will be cured in our lifetime.

Peace on earth, another life in heaven.

Alison said...

Thanks, everyone. I appreciate your comments and your sympathy very much.

There is a memorial planned for Carla, but it's just for friends and family. I won't post details of it here, and it should only be attended by those who were invited. I'm sorry, it's not because of any lack of love, but only because of limitations due to space.

I am sure that there will be other ways to mourn Carla in community with her large and loving and wonderful public in the future: when the documentary Leave Them Laughing is showed, or at varous fundraisers to fight ALS.

A donation to fight ALS, or to the scholarship fund which Joanna Folino set up at Los Medeanos College in Carla's honor would be a great way to honor Carla's memory.

Carla herself would say--she did say, more than once-- that the best gesture you could make would be to go out and LIVE an incredible life for yourself. And be kind to others along the way.

Thanks so much, you guys,


Alison said...

Oh, and another place to donate money in Carla's honor would be to the film Leave Them Laughing. They still need some funds to finish the final cut. And then go and buy yourself some Gerbera daisies.

Anonymous said...

i am so very sad about carla. i found her via your blog. i found you via a class i took at the Writer's Salon. so thank you for bring carla into my life - it has changed me for the better. and thank you for the valuable things about writig poetry that i learned from you. hope to see you again, sometime.

Anonymous said...

Carla also has a scholarship named for her at the College of Marin.
So that is 3 places to honor her:

1. Leave Them Laughing

2. The Carla Zilbersmith Performing Arts Scholarship Fund at Los Medanos College

Specify the specific scholarship please

3.The Carla Zilbersmith Drama Scholarship Fund through the College of Marin Foundation, P.O. Box 446, Kentfield 94914.

bdaul said...


I am one of those people that learned to love Carla without ever meeting her although I did go to her last gig at Yoshi's. I have appreciated your Carla stories here as well as Carla's Blog. She was and is truly a light in the lives she has touched and the lives of the people THOSE people know.
Thanks for being there with Carla. --bill