Carol Mitchell-Leon was one of the first people I met, back in 1985, when I became a member of the company of actors at the original Academy Theatre on Peachtree Street in Atlanta. Actually, she was still Carol Mitchell at that moment, as she had not yet become close with, and gotten married to, the incredibly talented Kenny Leon(That marriage ended in 1998).
Carol would beam that soon-to-be-famous-smile every day that I was fortunate enough to see her. She was always helpful, from pointing me in the correct direction for great food, to offering her help when I was working as an apprentice with Academy.
And although I knew her through the Academy Theatre, I would, over the course of the next nearly 24 years, see her in countless plays, and watch her on-screen. And I would marvel.I marveled at her ability to completely inhabit a role; Carol dove into the roles she was cast into, with the gusto of an Olympic athlete.
Never afraid of challenges, a few of her roles have included characters such as a cruel mother, a dysfunctional one-half of a scary married couple, and even one of the Delaney sisters in the real-life eldery duo's play based on their best-selling book, "The Delaney Sisters: Having Our Say."
Even with all the attention(well-deserved) she received, Carol remained always, flawlessly, grateful. She lived and breathed, gratefulness.
A few nights ago, a "Bon Voyage" party was held for Carol, at Atlanta's 7 Stages' Theatre. And although I'm certain it would be the kind of upbeat, fitting tribute("Let's celebrate her life")that Carol would have preferred, I could not bear to attend, because although I appreciated her skills as an actress, and was always deeply moved by her performances, I regretted--sorrowfully, unenduringly regretted--not becoming closer with her. Not staying-in-touch the way one should, when one is so moved by someone, so special.
And so, on Monday night, I sat at home, rifling through a few trinkets--ticket stubs of plays she performed in, running my hands over programs where her name appears,and making a conscious effort, not to cry.
I recalled how, when I learned she was ill, (my understanding is that she suffered an infection. A 1990 kidney transplant had served her well, but it seems nothing lasts forever),I kept thinking she'd recover quickly, be up and around, and back to doing what she did--performing--so well. I heard she'd regained consciousness, and even spoke.
While she was in the hospital, I knelt in front of candles in Catholic church, and said the rosary for her.I wanted to see Carol Mitchell-Leon, and I selfishly wanted to see her where I best knew her--onstage, thrilling everyone, including me, with her deliberate, nuanced performances.
Carol, I wish I'd had the chance, and made the time, to get to know you as a dear friend. But please know you are a mentor--an acting-mentor, and now, a spiritual-mentor, to me. God Bless You and Yours.
Peace in your journey, beautiful girl, towards home.
To see a list of film and television projects Carol participated in, you may reach her IMDB page at the following address: