"Everything is on its way to becoming something else."
-John Travolta, Phenomenon
Last night, a dearly beloved member of the Richmond Theatre Community left us as she continued her journey, becoming one with the light that makes up everything. Mary Sue Carroll had a long and difficult experience with cancer.
The tendency in these times is always to frame it in terms of 'winning' and 'losing' a 'Battle', but Mary Sue didn't see it that way. She bravely faced the inevitable truth which lies before all of us; She chose to investigate, to learn, what life was trying to say to her. She is so special, so warm, so incredibly, irrepresibly herself. Possesed of a childlike openness, and a firm belief in the miracle of being alive to every moment, Mary Sue Laughed, Cried, Lived, Loved, held on and then, when it was time, let go.
The last time I saw her was the night of the Dress Rehearsal for MSND at Agecroft Hall. I was at the Starbucks at Willow Lawn and running late (as usual) for my 5:30 call. I saw her sitting at an outside table with her caregiver and I immediately felt so blessed to see her. We hugged for a long time-- and we cried as she told me there were now seven tumors in her brain.
I tried to say something profound or sage-like, but there was nothing I could do or say. I stammered and couldn't look directly at her. But Mary Sue let me know that just being there was enough. She watched me with a mother's patient eyes. She said wordlessly that Just being myself--- in all my clumsy, goofy humanity-- in that moment with her, was enough. No need for answers.
The spectre of death was there, yes, but also the vibrance of life-- Burning brightly. In everything. Bouncing off of her and feeding her. In the birds hopping around the mall parking lot looking for food, in the sounds of conversations at the adjacent tables, kids in strollers, in the beautiful blue sky overhead. In her eyes. In our tears.
And then, improbably, in our uproarious, uncontrollable laughter.
I was an hour late for my call that day, but I thank whoever or whatever brought me to that moment-- to have a chance to be with her; For her to let me know that sometimes it is okay to not know. It is enough to be right here, right now, in this moment, to not fight the way things are. To see the beauty of what we are in our most open, unguarded self. To do that, and to be that, in the face of death, takes a deep courage of the heart. To face and accept the fear-- to dive into the heart of it with acceptance and wonder. What fearlessness. What beauty. What grace.
I have so much respect and admiration for my friend, Mary Sue Carroll. My heart is with her many friends, as well as her family.
Here is our last email exchange, just to preserve her strength and bravery for everyone to see.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, January 10, 2005 10:02 PM
Subject: Thinking of you!!
Robyn O'Neil sent word about the wave of experience you are riding on right now, and I just want you to know that you are in my prayers. I think it is incredibly brave of you to even consider trying to 'learn' from what you have characterized as your 'Tutor tumor...' Most people would simply close down and let fear rule the day. This is not to suggest that you aren't afraid at times, but I find your openness and curiosity incredibly inspiring. Keep looking and learning.
Every day, I recite the prayer of metta:
"May all living beings be happy.
May they live in safety and joy.
May all living beings, whether weak or strong,
tall, stout, average or short,
near or far,
seen or unseen,
Born or to be born:
May they all be happy.
May they have peace and the cause of peace.
May they have happinessand the cause of happiness.
May they be free from suffering and the root of suffering."
You are in that prayer. I love you, Mary Sue.
Please call if you need anything.
Here is her response:
What a wonderful prayer I am honored and delighted to be included. Prayers are powerful medicine and I thank you for sharing yours. It does mean a lot to me.
Things are going good. I just finished round two of Chemo and am halfway through the radiation. So far I have gained 12 pounds !! I have really been trying to pack on some weight as an insurance policy for the esophagal burnout the oncologist assures me will come in about another 10 days. At any rate I am working with a healer as well who is helping me clear my electromagnetic fields on a daily basis ... and I feel confident that standard side effects will be minimil (sp?)
So far no nausea at all, energy levels vary...I've developed a routine with the trips and the naps and can't believe it took something like this to give myself permission to take naps. A practice I highly recommend !
I am learning so much about myself and truly feel like I have been given an incredible gift from the universe. Besides I am collecting great material for a new one woman show... I couldn't make some of this stuff up the old truth is stranger than fiction or at least funnier
Us actors...we'll do anything for material.
Thank you again for your prayers. Please keep em' comin' and stay in touch.
Yours in Love and Light