The Courage, Grace and Loving Friendship of Carla Meyers

There is no magic formula for friendship. The bond that unites friends is as mysterious as it is certain.

If you press me to say why I loved him, I can say no more than because he was he, and I was I.
Michel de Montaigne

True friends imprint their essences on each other’s souls. Even as your tears and laughter recede into the swirling mists of memories lost, the heart holds dear every unspoken expression of love that passed between you.

When you meet your friend on the roadside or in the market place, let the spirit in you move your lips and direct your tongue.
Let the voice within your voice speak to the ear of his ear;
For his soul will keep the truth of your heart as the taste of the wine is remembered
When the colour is forgotten and the vessel is no more.

Kahlil Gibran

Cyn Bolsta, Carla Meyers and Sandy Bolsta enjoying one of their frequent outings

Carla Meyers, my mother’s very best friend, passed away on Thursday, February 18, 2010 after a five-year struggle with ovarian cancer. Carla, who had just turned fifty-seven the month before, leaves behind her loving and attentive  husband, Greg, and two gifted college-age children, Elissa and Andy.

Carla, my mom Sandy and my sister Cyn shared many wonderful memories together over the past twenty years. My mom feels grateful and blessed that she was able to stay with Carla and Greg for three weeks last month caring for them both as Carla’s condition worsened and Greg was recovering from hip surgery.

In a testament to Carla’s boundless courage and endless grace in accepting and facing the inevitable, Cyn wrote the following lovely tribute to Carla.

Being Carla’s friend over the years has been a joy and a privilage, but it’s the way she lived her life since her diagnosis that has re-taught me a lesson I should have learned a long time ago. I had just graduated high school, and my reward was a trip to California to visit relatives. One cousin had invited me to join his family on a camping trip in Yosemite, and I was pretty gung ho.

A couple of miles into the hike, and I was less so. My new hiking boots were rubbing my ankles raw with each passing step, and the cousins, tired of my slow pace, moved up the trail without me. I was hot, I was hurting, I was lightheaded from the altitude, and I was alone. I was hiking on a path though an open meadow, thinking how truly horrible my life was.

And that’s when I saw the bear.

It was some yards away, at the treeline, and in that instant, all those other problems disappeared, and my whole world was me and the bear. I froze, and after what seemed like much longer than it must have been, the bear turned and lumbered back into the forest. I should have learned the lesson that day, that until you see the bear, life isn’t really so bad after all. But I was eighteen, self-involved and had a whole lot more to learn.

Carla saw the bear more than five years ago, and unlike me, she looked it straight in the eye and told it to back off. And this being Carla Meyers, the bear did—not back into the forest, but only to the tree line so it could match her step for step on her path. Imagine what that must be like;  waking every day and facing your own mortality. Even with the bear in constant view, Carla continued to live her life and find the joy, through surgery after surgery, through one invasive procedure after another, year after year after year. But time and tide and bears wait for no one, not even an extraordinary woman like Carla Meyers.

I know there’s still a bear out there with my name on it, and when the time comes I can only hope I face it with half of her will and grace and humor. But until then, Carla has taught me to focus on the bliss and not the blisters.

Click here to view all my posts about dealing courageously with cancer.


Phil is the author of Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World, a comprehensive guide to living a spiritual life. Who will benefit from reading it?

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8 Responses to “The Courage, Grace and Loving Friendship of Carla Meyers”

  1. ArrVee Says:

    what is interesting is what has driven her to fight back all those years. Maybe one is forced to ponder one’s mission in life, and then to make the most of one’s remaining time towards its fulfillment. Maybe the bear did not catch up with her, but when she was ready, she stopped to meet the bear.

    like Robert Frost put it:

    ” … The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep.”

    May she rest in peace.

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    I believe she did stop to meet the bear, ArrVee, when it was time to do so. But she held it at bay very bravely until then.

  3. Kate Says:

    Love Cyn’s tribute to Carla. Also, that you, ArrVee, quoted Robert Frost. My mother, who is another courageous survivor, has quoted that part of Frost’s poem to me as long as I can remember.

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thanks for contributing, Kate. I appreciate it.

  5. Greg Says:

    Thanks for the kind words. Carla and I have greatly valued. the friendship of your whole family. I’ll never forget the caring……

  6. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you so much, Greg. Your eulogy for Carla was so beautiful and so heartfelt. What a blessing it was to share your life with her. Our lives are better for having known her and I will be forever grateful for the friendship and love that Carla brought to my mom’s life.

  7. Ellen Besso Says:

    Phil: A very lovely tribute, thank you. I am now supporting a friend whose young adult daughter is living her last hours. The mother herself has a terminal diagnosis.

    There is a very beautiful poem by John O’Donohue, former Irish priest, philosopher & mystic & one of my special mentors. I feel you & your family will appreciate the poem very much. It’s about passing on:

    Also I wrote a blog about John today (we were very fortunate to take a workshop with him). I wanted to let people know there will be a PBS Special about him soon.

    Warm wishes
    Ellen Besso

  8. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you, Ellen. I am very sorry to hear about your friend and her daughter. I can’t imagine anything more difficult than watching your child suffer like that.

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