Today, a vast community of friends, family and colleagues received some heart-wrenching news: Carolyn Zambrello’s battle with cancer ended before anyone could possibly be ready.
I worked with Carolyn at Racepoint Group, where she also happened to sit across from me. In addition to being an absolutely stellar PR practitioner, she was also a beloved friend, sister, daughter, fiancé, mentor, and so much more. I can’t speak for her family – or even the rest of the RPG community (aside from the heavy silence that dominated the office for the majority of the day) – but I do know that no one was ready for this. Carolyn had been out for several weeks due to illness, surgeries, etc., but every week the topic of discussion would always be when she was coming back, never if she was coming back. She was a fighter, and we had always heard that she was looking forward to coming back to work, and we were eager to see her again. When we heard the news, we never saw it coming: not Carolyn, it can’t be Carolyn. She’s coming back soon. Even now, it hasn’t fully hit me.
I met Carolyn on my first day: we were on an account together, and she and another colleague took me to lunch. It didn’t take long for me to realize that she was not only scathingly hilarious, but also damned good at her job. She was also the bravest, most down-to-earth person I’ve ever met. Even though she had been diagnosed with cancer during the summer of 2010 and I began working at Racepoint in the fall, I didn’t realize until a few months later that she even had cancer. She never used it as a crutch or let it get her down emotionally. Instead, she simply lived life to the fullest and refused to sweat the small stuff.
Everyone has their flaws, but I truly found none in Carolyn. She brought out everyone’s best side – and had an uncanny ability to make me laugh to the point of crying (where she would then point out I was crying, and I would proceed to laugh/cry even harder). Anyone who has ever had the privilege to meet her must smile when they think of her, as she has greatly impacted everyone she’s encountered in the most positive of ways. At the risk of sounding cliché (and do you really think I’d care, at this point?), she was pure inspiration. I was thrilled when I found out I got to shift cubicles to sit across from her. She was a role model to me in how she performed at work, in how she never bullshit anybody, and how she was never afraid to live the dream. I looked up to her as my mentor, whether she knew it or not.
When my grandfather passed away a couple years ago, I received a prayer card that I don’t carry with me often enough. However, the sayings are some comfort, and whenever I read them, I’ll now be thinking of two angels:
Grieve not… Nor speak of me with tears… But laugh and talk of me as though I were there beside you. I loved you so… ‘Twas Heaven here with you
To Those I Love And Those Who Love Me
When I am gone, release me, let me go – I have so many things to see and do. You mustn’t tie yourself to me with tears, be happy that we had so many years. I give you my love. You can only guess how much you gave me in happiness. I thank you for the love you each have shown; but now it’s time I traveled on alone. So grieve a while if grieve you must then let your grief be comforted by trust, it’s only for a while that we must part so bless the memories within your heart, I won’t be far away, for life goes on so if you need me, call and I will come. Though you can’t see or touch me, I’ll be near – and if you listen with your heart you’ll hear all of my love around you soft and clear. And then, when you must come this way alone, I’ll greet you with a smile, and say “Welcome Home.”
While it hurts now, Carolyn, I’m sure one day the smiles will outnumber the tears when we think of you (how can they not, with your hilarious stories about farts?). May you rest in peace – until we meet again.