Embracing Impermanence

By Beverlye Fead   |   July 26, 2018
Although she has had her share of losses, 85-year-old Lillian Carson continues to believe “Happiness is a choice”

Lillian Carson has the kind of face that not only makes you smile but also makes you want to throw your arms around her. First of all, it is beautiful but it’s also a kind and loving face – and that’s why it’s no surprise she is the expert on grandmothering and how to love and guide your grandchild.

Lillian was born in New York to show-business parents. Her father pioneered musical shorts and was an orchestra leader at the Palace Theatre on Broadway, film producer, and head of the Music Department at Universal Pictures. Her mother was an actress on Broadway. Lillian was six years old when she, her brother, and parents moved to Toluca Lake, California 

I knew Lillian from L.A., when she was married to Don Gevirtz, who later became our ambassador to Fiji. We were all young marrieds with babies. She loved raising her kids, and considered it “a wonderful opportunity to introduce them to the world.” What a great way to feel and be able to express it. When she was 40 years old, she even took up equestrian training so she could show horses with her daughter.

The difference between Lillian and me was that Lillian kept going to school and getting more degrees, while I was just pushing my kids on swings in the park. She received her B.A. in Social Welfare, an M.S.W. (Master of Social Welfare), and a doctorate in Social Welfare (she also trained to be an actress), all the while raising three children. 

But she really loved psychotherapy. Along with having a private practice in West Los Angeles, she was able to study with her hero, child psychoanalyst Anna Freud, at her Hampsted Clinic in London. Lillian was director of the Los Angeles psychoanalyst Society Clinic and consultant to the Santa Monica Child Development Center and UCLA Child Development Center. Believe me when I tell you, this is only a handful of things she did of importance during those years.

After 14 years, she and Don divorced, and she became a single mom. She then married Ralph Carson, a successful entrepreneur (Carson-Roberts Advertising) founder of the Entrepreneur program at USC. Unfortunately, due to his untimely death, they only had five short but happy years together. “That taught me it’s so important to be In the moment,” she says. 

Then came the books.

As she became a grandparent, she began writing. First there was The Essential Grandparent: A Guide to Making a Difference, a best seller in 1996 and reprinted in 1999. Then came award-winning The Essential Grandparent’s Guide to Divorce: Making a Difference in the Family. As if that was not enough, she became the spokeswomen for Hasbro Toys, McDonald’s (Mc Grand Mom), and a columnist for Grand magazine. During this time, she appeared as an expert on many TV shows, including as a grandparent expert on the O.J. Simpson case. She toured the country speaking.

She was a busy lady.

She wasn’t too busy, however, to find love one more time. She fell in love and married Sam Hurst, dean emeritus of The School Of Architecture and fine Arts at USC. They were happily married and lived in Santa Barbara for 30 years until he passed away in 2015. “Happiness is a choice,” she says, and though she has had her share of losses, she walks that walk.

Lillian has always kept busy and is at work, now, on a new book about our heritage and culture. ”It’s important and empowering to know where you came from,” she says emphatically. She stays involved and enjoys the love of her own six grandchildren, as well of that of her three children, her daughter Susan, a professor and poet, daughter Carrie, a psychologist, and her son, Steve, an investment banker. “Keep moving and create a purpose in life,” she stresses, and at 85, she is an excellent example of just that. 

When I ask her advice about aging, she leaves me with two thoughts, both of which she lives day in and day out: “Being around young people is healthy for us. It beefs up our immune system.”

And: “Embracing impermanence enhances life, as it creates a greater appreciation of today.”


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