Merigian Studios


Carol Light

Carol Light

Many years ago, a delightful, vibrant woman asked for my help. She owned an Elvis memorabilia store located across the street from Graceland. She had been there for fifteen or twenty years. She was tired. She had several ailments, none of which were severe nor disabling. After a few weeks, she recovered her vibrancy and visited the Stone Institute once annually thereafter.

Elvis Presley was bigger than life. Memphis is on the map internationally due to Graceland and Elvis Presley. The Regional Medical Center at Memphis has the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center, even though Elvis died of a heart attack (I know, I reviewed his autopsy). There are hundreds of thousands of people devoted to celebrating Elvis. During death week, members of fan clubs from all over the world gather to honor Elvis. Many of those members were not born when Elvis was alive. I attended the midnight candlelight vigil many years ago. It was an electric experience to participate with tens of thousands of people in front of the gates of Graceland. Fans shared music, poetry and narrative stories related to Elvis and his impacts on their lives.

The Elvis Presley estate is said to be worth more now than it was when Elvis was alive. Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. handles all aspects of marketing and promoting all things Elvis. Mr. Jack Soden is the Chief Executive Officer and President of this company. He is aggressive at protecting all things Elvis and his image since it is the company’s primary source of income. Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. licenses anything with an Elvis image on it or his name attached to it. If I were to sculpt a likeness of Elvis, I am sure Mr. Soden or one of his associates would prevent me from capitalizing on it unless they had a piece of the deal after they approved the artwork. Mr. Soden has made several requests of the City of Memphis to beautify the boulevard in front of Graceland, suggesting it will benefit the City economically and well as emotionally. I hope the City did not fall for his psychological ploys.

Several years ago, Carol came to the office in a panic. She was more than upset; she was mortified. Mr. Soden and his people bought the strip building that housed her store. Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. was canceling her lease and demanding that she cease selling any Elvis Presley memorabilia, or they would file suit against her in court. As I recall, Carol was devastated. She had spent her entire adult life connecting with fans all over the world. Her business was thriving, and Carol stayed in accord with demands placed on her by Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. before their purchase of the strip center. Anxiety and panic started to manifest to the degree that she could not function well. Carol had no plan B or C. She thought she would retire one day, thinking her store would bring enough revenue to meet the financial needs of her and her husband. Everything she created was taken away from her. Not because she was doing anything illegal or illegitimate, she was a victim of eminent domain. The powerful have very little respect for the innocent. I realized that Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. was not a compassionate community organization. Every business in the strip center was kicked out; they changed lives for the worse without warning. Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. had no regard for those who helped to build Graceland as a destination. Those small business owners marketed their activities and encouraged tourists and Memphians alike to visit. They were as much the history of Graceland as Graceland itself.

As she left her Elvis store, she decided to open a gift shop in Bartlett. It was not a success. She did not have the Mojo for a gift shop; she loved Elvis. Ultimately her marriage failed due to financial hardships. She lost everything with one exception, her lovely daughter who had matured to have a successful career and beautiful marriage. Carol traveled to Memphis when she was a single mom looking for work. She opened the Elvis store on a lark, and it was very successful. Despite her retail success, the family was Carol’s mantra. Her daughter was her jewel.

There is a debate about the effects psycho-social stress has on the body, especially when the burden precedes the onset of cancer. I do not doubt that the loss of Caorle’s store contributed significantly to her melanoma, invigorated by Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. callous greed. When I saw her in the office in the fall of 2017, she had the melanoma removed from her skin with clean margins. She said, “they got it all.”

Last week, Carol’s daughter told me that her mother had died six weeks ago after a battle with metastatic melanoma. Her mother had a stroke in December 2017, which turned out to be a tumor in her brain. She underwent brain surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, only to realize that our human remedies for her inhumane disease were inadequate. She died quietly at home under hospice care.

Carol Light was a great name for her. Carol is Light in all its forms. She could brighten up a room with her smile. Her kindness and sincere compassion for life made her a successful businesswoman, but more important, a great mother and grandmother. She never spoke ill of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. even though they started the steep decline of her emotional and physical being by canceling her lease on moment’s notice and removing her from her store. Closing her retail business was a psycho-social trauma that could have been avoided if an administrator in Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. cared about Carol. I am confident Carol would have been a great ambassador for Graceland if they had offered her an opportunity to work for them in retail.

Carol was courageous. Hope filled her heart. She was optimistic. She was Spiritual. She never gave up on anything. In the end, when she realized the disease was going to take her life, she said, “Let’s go home. I’m tired.”

Good Night Carol. We’ll miss you. Dream bigger. No one will take your dreams away from now on. No one.


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