Monday, August 10, 2015

Loss and Bereavement - Tribute to Camille Vega-Willard

I recently heard my beloved friend, Camille Vega-Willard, passed away. Her husband Michael Willard wrote to let me know that Camille had passed away on August 4th and that he was "flying with her physical remains and sisters to let her join her mother and father in the family plot in Luquillo, Puerto Rico." Michael added, "Request good memories and positive energy to help her on her journey." As we age, it is inevitable that we will experience loss.

Here follow my good memories and thoughts about my dear beloved friend Camille.

I recall Camille fondly, nursing a bottle of fine and inexpensive red wine with her wit and intelligent banter, listening to her pontificate on a variety of subjects, listening to her short whispered insights and stories. Her lust for life and her love for Michael were evident in every word. She was fun to listen to too. She could discuss any subject with clarity and sensitivity. Camille knew how to use satire in her talk. She was very precise and short winded. Listening to her made me laugh and made me think. Camilla made me feel special, like my ramblings mattered.

I remember when we were at Columbia University together. I had a young child and Camille was very friendly. Camille convinced me to take a class on film with her. One day, my young son Joey, 7 years old at the time had no school and I had my movie class. The class was packed and Camille led me to in front of the front row of seats and we lay down to watch Fassbinder. Joey loved movies too. He ended with his head on Camille’s shoulder with her arm around him. After this, Joey loved Camille too. When I texted him that she’d passed, he came down and we commiserated several hours remembering Camille.  

I remember when Camille would do one-third the amount of work I did for a class and she’d pull an A and I’d pull a B or B+. She gave me her paper to study, telling me to say less and focus more. All of our professors loved her too. One came to weekly family dinners and it seemed like roles switched when his marriage was on the rocks and Camilla acted like his therapist.

I recall when she told me she’d met Michael. I asked how they got together. She told me that she’d been planning to go to Mexico to study a Gypsy community there and Michael protested that they’d just only met; he didn’t want her to go. Camille said she presented her solution: “Marry me and go with me to Mexico.” He did and they’d had a big adventure in Mexico.

Camilla was honest and forthright. You knew you could depend on her not to bullshit you. If you wanted the truth of what she thought, she’d give it to you straight. She wasn’t beyond offering coddling when needed either. Plus she was simply and deliciously beautiful, inside and out. Whoever knew Camille knew Camilla could make you feel special. Camille never tried hard to look sexy or pretty, she didn’t have to. She naturally had the most beautiful hair, the greatest skin, and she had va-va –voom!

Camille had many special talents. She made you feel like every utterance, every incantation, every word, was only meant for you and that your every utterance was just as meaningful. I remember how impressed I was when Camilla began exploring her more creative side with photography. Up till now I’d only seen her intellectual side. She even began producing her own photos in a dark room she designed and made with Michael’s help. Her photos were stories that began to develop into complex tales. She became very adept and I imagined her work in galleries. They were good, tasteful, and artsy.

I will achingly miss her. What I will hold dear in my memory is that Camille is a bright light who shined upon us in this world. I was blessed to have been included in part of her life.