Saturday, April 28, 2012
Heart Like An Elephant
Cory Marder loved the world more than anyone I've ever met.
I adore this picture. Look at her, out in Africa, in the presence of the elephants she so dearly loved, the breeze tousling her hair and unbridled happiness flowing from her smile. This lady personified optimism, and had the disposition of the sun -- bright, cheerful, warm, kind, funny, nourishing and filled with delight. If you didn't smile around Cory then it was a clear indication that you were in need of the sort of psychological care that only a specialist can provide. If you didn't love Cory, then your capacity to love was broken.
I knew her through her husband, my best friend Larry. He took me under his wing when I was a kid publishing a magazine about comics and provided my graduate education in the field when I managed his table at Comic-Con in San Diego. Cory would swoop in on the weekend, some years organizing a dinner, others just making sure Larry was in good shape and on his way home in one piece from the exhausting proceedings. My favorite Cory moment from when I worked at Larry's table is when, on a Sunday afternoon, the president of DC Comics walked over to say hi as a cordial formality, and in the same spirit said if there's anything he can do to be helpful to say so. Without missing a beat, Cory spoke up and said that there was a light in their booth that was shining directly in our eyes and if he could move it that would be great. Paul, the president, looked confuzzled. Larry & I had to stifle our laughter. When he explained to Cory that was the president of a major division of a major corporation being nice to a peer she was unmoved -- "He said if he could be helpful he would -- that would be helpful, sweetie! You said that light was giving you guys a headache."
Cory passed away earlier today after a long battle with cancer. Even in this combat with the most barbaric of diseases, Cory was a happy warrior. Over the years I got to know her well, and was always moved by her inimitable and unique spirit. Last year, when I was fucked up from a painful break-up and confused by life, she and I spent a long day talking about our lives, about confusion, and about the future. She spoke candidly about her illness, but never with any sense of self-pity, or anger -- only in a matter of fact way. She was more concerned about me, offering not just comfort, but sincere understanding. True care.
There are so many Cory stories. She touched thousands of people, but every one of us felt like she was only there for us. For me.
Cory radiated compassion and endless curiosity. She worked in travel, and got to see every continent. She had a tendency to be going to places where war was just about to break out, and that led me to joke that she must be part of the CIA, and when I did she would laugh but would never confirm or deny it. Certainly she was tough enough for the job. But I'm not sure a CIA fixer going out to Egypt on the brink of revolution could be so ecstatic about meeting elephants, nursing lions, or talking to penguins. My favorite Cory conversations were when she was just back from some faraway place and couldn't wait to tell me every minute detail about some strange wildlife she came to know. She loved every animal, including "us chickens," as she would frequently say.
My heart goes out to Larry. I know he's prepared, but Jesus Christ, I can't imagine how hard this is.
And Cory, well, I'm sure she's prepared as well.
She was curiosity in human form, who loved every sensation, every flavor, every creature, every smell, every sight. She loved all of it, even the painful parts. Cory truly inspires me in how I engage with the world, and her attitude is something I aspire to. That aspiration, in fact, is reflected in every post I make on this humble little blog. Cory underscores my conviction that we don't have to do anything -- we get to do everything.
Thank you, Cory. You are a vision and I am privileged that you touched my life.
"Requiescat in pace/That's all she wrote" -- Warren Zevon