Cecilia Carboni, an artist and a free spirit who lived her life uniquely her way, died after an 18-month battle with colon cancer last month. She was 32.
There was something special about Cecilia. Everyone knew it, but few could put their finger on it.
For some, it was her intellect. For others, her morbid curiosity. But for those who got to know her in the offices, lounges and classrooms of NEIU we knew there was a energy inside her that was impossible to ignore.
Like many at NEIU, she was one of the first in her family to attend college. And like many at this school, she came to the university a child of another country, a unique square of the fabric that makes NEIU one of the most diverse universities in the nation.
But that’s far from what made her unique. What made her special was her zeal for life, for culture, for experiences, for art and for her quest to build a masterpiece. Whether it was a well-written story in the pages of the Independent circa 2003 or a work of art in the pages of her notebook, she brought beauty into the world.
Born in Argentina in 1984, Cecilia moved to the United States with her parents, who later gave birth to her brother Rodolfo, the star in her eyes.
Her intensity toward her work could only be rivaled by that of a surgeon. Beautiful and dark, her art was intentional – and she strived for perfection. She inspired others to do the same in their own work through her encouragement, stimulating their creativity for taking photos, writing words or chasing dreams.
She was a blithe spirit who was fun to be around, in part because she was known for the elaborate – like the time she dressed as a wooden doll for Halloween, made memorable by the intricate thin brown lines she drew on her skin. A living masterpiece, she acted like she was hard as wood. But inside, she was full of creativity and loved pouring her passion into the people and projects around her.
When she wasn’t giving herself into this newspaper – she was its creative soul which earned her numerous awards – she was making art for fun. She served as a staff member of the Independent from 2003 to 2007.
It was that same morbid curiosity that made her battle with cancer both ironic and inspiring. After her diagnosis in the fall of 2015, she chronicled her journey fighting for her life on her blog Bowels of Madness, http://bowelsofmadness.blogspot.com. She wrote fearlessly about the pain, depression, and the reality that cancer would take her life. But she also called b.s. on fear that incapacitates us all, and fought to give others facing Stage 4 cancer a voice.
Ceci rarely shied away from talking about the hard truths of life, willing to bare her soul to the genuinely interested. She was once a columnist in these pages, writing the “Voice of the Campus” column fighting for social justice. At the same time, she was going to war with epilepsy, both afraid of the random chaotic episodes and determined to confront them.
She had a look in her eyes that was impossible to mistake. She’d peer over her rimmed glasses like she could see into someone’s soul.
Turns out she could see what was special in each of us.
If she saw a spark in someone, she’d fan it to help the light grow. She brought that passion to everything she did, and that defined who she was.
Energy can never be destroyed, it can only be converted. Her energy, which was always ever eternal, will live on – as it will with all of us.
Contributed by Andrea Zelinski who covers state government for the Houston Chronicle. She served as Editor-in-Chief of the Independent from 2002-2005, which were among the most magical years of her life.