Carol Serling, widow of Rod Serling, faithful defender and steward of his work, passed away on January 9, 2020, at age 91.
Many years ago, Carol told her daughters that she would like this poem to be read at the time of her death…
Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep
by Mary Elizabeth Frye
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.
My mom was a lady of steel who carried on bravely and alone for the next 45 years after losing my father. How did she do it? I have no idea because I couldn’t have done it and it is hard to imagine how she did. But, my mom did. Mom carried on for 4 1/2 decades. It is somewhat understandable, though because “guys” like my dad are not easily replaceable.
My mother assumed the matriarchal throne of loving, guiding and caring for a shattered family, shocked to the bone and tattered by grief and pre-mature loss and somehow kept it all intact. For awhile, anyway.
My mom was the wind beneath the wings of my father, just as she was that wind for me. She also had wings of her own. Sturdy, pretty wings…. that spread wide and strong and could lift her in flight when she needed.
Time will always remember the life and work of my dad, but may overlook, as history often does, the importance of the “woman behind the man.” My mom was not that. She was the woman next to her man, not behind… the one who supported my Dad when needed, propped him up when he was knocked down by early rejection and made my dad possible.
My mom was my friend and my guardian angel. She taught me life lessons, and nurtured me and helped me become a better person. She was the most wonderful mother anyone could ask for… as I have said, THE true matriarch of our family. She respected and protected my dad’s legacy and upheld it to the highest standards and let it blossom. My mother exuded radiance beyond words. There was an innocence to her that illuminated everything she did. She was strong and brilliant, and withstood so many of life’s hardships. She touched so many lives and for all that knew her — they became enriched by her friendship and love. I say to you, Mom — you go peacefully now… no more pain, no more hurt and anguish… no one can hurt you anymore… you can join dad now and hold his hand forever. He has been waiting for you. There will never be a day that memories of you won’t flow through my mind and I will miss your more than tongue can tell.
This is a quote from Margaret Sanger that I want to share with all of you. “The memories that are closest to my heart are the small gentle ones that have carried over from my childhood. They are not profound but they have stayed with me through life and when I am very old, they will still be near.”
Nicholas Parisi, author of Rod Serling: His Life, Work, and Imagination:
In the years following Rod Serling’s death, his widow Carol proved herself to be a fierce protector of her husband’s legacy, a dedicated keeper of the flame. She never remarried. Carolyn Kramer Serling died on January 9, 2020. She was 91 years old.
The vast majority of posthumous Serling productions have been remarkably high quality–and Mrs. Serling deserves tremendous credit for that. Her name graces several terrific volumes of original short stories inspired by The Twilight Zone. She was instrumental in the publication of Twilight Zone: The Magazine, of which I believe Rod would have been more proud than anything else that has carried the Twilight Zone name. Her efforts helped lead to excellent remakes of Rod’s “In the Presence of Mine Enemies” and “A Storm in Summer” (for which Rod received a posthumous Emmy nomination). Her discovery of Rod’s unproduced “Where the Dead Are” (which is better than you remember) led to the production of Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics. Despite being gone for more than 40 years, Rod Serling’s name is not only still relevant but legendary, with much thanks to the keeper of the flame.
Before all of this, Carolyn Kramer was Rod’s first reader and most important critic. He took her opinion seriously. And when, while they were both students at Antioch College, she suggested that he submit one of his radio scripts to the Dr. Christian contest, he took her advice. The result was a big prize and a gigantic boost to the young writer’s confidence. The rest, we can say, is history.
I never met Mrs. Serling. As soon as my book was published, I sent her a copy along with a letter explaining that I had never contacted her because the nature of my book didn’t necessitate such a conversation, and I didn’t want to bother her if it was unnecessary. The truth is, I was afraid of her. I was afraid that the fiercely protective keeper of the flame would be suspicious, and maybe discourage my work. I described my book as a love letter to Rod Serling, and said that I hoped that she would enjoy it. She responded immediately with a very gracious letter, thanking me for the “love letter” and saying she looked forward to reading it. I cherish that letter.
Rest In Peace, Mrs. Serling, and thank you.
Tony Albarella, Editor/Author of As Timeless As Infinity: The Twilight Zone Scripts of Rod Serling:
Carol Serling’s legacy as a staunch promoter and protector of her husband’s work is well known; her tenacity in that role was obvious and the results of her dedication are demonstrable. Rather than amplify that aspect of her legacy, I’d like to mark Carol’s passing by sharing a few cursory, more intimate memories I have, quick glimpses that only scratch the surface of the life of this remarkable person. I can only lay claim to having known Carol in a peripheral way and for a relatively short period of her time with us, but even that limited experience gifted me with insight into who she was and why she should be remembered.
While I had communicated sporadically with Carol by phone and email prior to working with her on the book series As Timeless as Infinity: The Complete Twilight Zone Scripts of Rod Serling (ATAI), I first met her in the summer of 2002, when my family and I paid a visit to Carol’s summer home on Cayuga Lake in Interlaken, NY. I was impressed at the time with how warmly we were received. As editor of the ATAI project, I did spend some time “talking shop” with Carol and swapping material, but I, my wife, and my two young daughters were received as friends, and Carol spent the majority of the day entertaining us.
From then on, the visit to the lake house became an annual event, highly anticipated by my family and continuing well beyond the completion of the 11-year ATAI production odyssey. My girls were only toddlers when we first starting visiting, and Carol took to them immediately. I distinctly remember that during one visit, as the kids splashed around the water’s edge with Carol watching from the deck, her face held a look of such pleasure mixed with melancholy that I realized her own memories of her young girls down at the lake were surely being stirred.
Often our Interlaken pilgrimages would be capped by a boat ride, enjoying relaxing conversation with good friends Jodi Serling and her husband, “Captain Mike,” or laughing as the kids wiped out while water tubing off the boat. I occasionally offered to take our hosts to a restaurant downtown to save them the trouble of repeatedly entertaining us, but Carol would never accept, preferring instead to remain by the lake and enjoy simple lunches of salads, hamburgers, and hot dogs that we cooked outside on the BBQ grill. It was obvious that despite her exposure to it, the pretentiousness of the Hollywood set never took root in Carol. She was wise, of course, in making the lake house our home base; her family and mine always spent our annual visit relaxing without distractions in the living room or out on the deck, swapping stories, watching eagles nest in the trees, enjoying a meal and the lake and the simple act of catching up with friends.
Some years, our visits were enlivened with the company of other guests, such as Carol’s warm and friendly sister Didi, the board members of the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation, or a visit from Rod’s brother Bob and his wife Patty. On more than one occasion the unpredictable Ithaca weather restricted us to indoor activities, which often included the placement of pieces in whatever puzzle Carol was working on at the time. She loved her puzzles, and hooked us on this simple but social family activity. Over the years, Carol was always eager to hear the updates in our lives, and as a practiced mom she expertly engaged the girls in conversation. Whether indulging the disjointed rant of a 7-year-old or drawing out a politely quiet teenager, she knew how to make my children feel comfortable and welcome at every stage of their lives.
Carol and I did, of course, get together in other places; we attended Serling conferences and other activities in Ithaca, and several events or engagements in Binghamton. One glorious weekend was spent celebrating the 50th Anniversary of The Twilight Zone in Ithaca and Binghamton with various events, including a live television broadcast of two reenacted Serling scripts at TV station WSKG, attended by the whole Serling family and many friends from the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation. But I’ll always associate Carol with all those years of summer visits to the lake house. I know my family will still visit with Jodi and Michael and greatly enjoy those outings, but without Carol in attendance, the dynamic will never be quite the same again.
Carol Serling is remembered for her many roles in public life: the wife and life partner to famed writer Rod Serling; the hub of the Serling family in the wake of Rod’s untimely passing; the guardian and chief curator of Rod’s body of work; a patron of the arts; a dedicated volunteer. These roles do define and honor her. But her greatest legacy, I feel, lies in the people she touched and the lives she improved in her most natural, non-public, multifaceted role: that of simply being Carol Serling.