Remembering Barb

Dear Diary…

You would not believe the wonderful, meaningful friends I have recently had the pleasure of making. Have you ever run into anyone who could meet you at your exactly your level (and let’s be honest here, probably above your level you suspect, but not quite so far that you can’t hold your own with them) who reflects back a part (a large part, in fact) of yourself that is unseen to everyone else and quite possibly you have forgotten about yourself?

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve come in contact with plenty of smart people. Smart and confident people, smart and manipulative people, smart and arrogant people. But it is a rare thing to find the smart and sensitive ones. Those are the ones that are so delightful to me. Those are the ones I’m truly amazed I have found – as if something in the universe sets these treasures upon my path for me to pick up and cherish.

One such friend long ago told me sometimes we meet people just like this for a reason. They cross our paths sometimes so briefly but something transcendental occurs in those moments that we will never forget.

I have this intuition about people – and oddly enough it works through the internet too. Perhaps even more so, because I’m attuned to a specific frequency (figuratively, of course) that only some people can transmit and receive. But I think, for me, that’s my favorite avenue of communication – because I’m really a writer at heart. I’ve always been a writer, even during the days I did not write anything at all.

I would weave these stories about the events in my life in my head…a constant life-long story, rich in details, with extreme highs and extreme lows (no, trust me, I’m not bi-polar, I’ve deduced that long ago, much as my family would have me believe otherwise), the common motif through it all – love.

This is one of my most treasured stories:

When I sat beside my friend and colleague Barb as she was losing the battle against cancer in the hospital, I held her hand and told her I loved her…and she replied…”yeah, well…you know”. I know she loved me too, even though she could not say the words. She was an odd bird, a very gifted individual with an sharp mind and even sharper tongue and she loved to challenge the status quo (which didn’t go over so well with the average employer). And if you knew her, you either immediately loved her, or you loathed her, there was never any in-between. She never even told her mother until two weeks before she died that she was dying (never told her when she went through chemo for breast cancer 10 years before either). We at the lab all knew of course, but she barely shared her real feelings and her real internal life with anyone but me (having been kicked in the gut by people in life too many times). She didn’t want to let anyone know she was afraid to die. But I knew the truth.

When I went home that night after visiting her for the last time, I knew she didn’t have long and it was probably the last time I would see her alive (I was right). I cried with everything I had in me. I cried for the loss of REAL connection she had with people (her mother, her ex-husband, most everyone except a very select few), I cried for the fort she built around herself, keeping others at bay with her sharp tongue. I cried because ultimately she was alone in the world, dying with no one to love, really love with all her heart and restore all that was taken from her.

I cried with all my heart and soul that night and never thought it would end (I ended up using a glass of wine to make it stop hurting so much). I knew I was losing someone special in my life. Since then I’ve dreamt a few times of her. I wonder to this day if she knows when I do. I’d like to think so.

After she died, it was her wishes that those close to her were able to take what they wanted from her home. It was in lieu of a real will, but it was overseen by another friend and colleague of ours. As I looked through her home, I was struck at what caught her fancy. Books in every nook and cranny. I chose to keep her copies of the Torah and the Satanic Verses – in case you were wondering she was a practicing Lutheran – and a copy of a book on The Trail of Tears as well as her Harry Potter books (which my oldest daughter has read the first three already). She also had stuffed bears, and crafts of many kinds, and half started projects. She also had an piece of embroidery with this phrase that caught my eye:

To love something is to give it room to grow

It’s in my home now, awaiting me to mount it into something more fitting than what it was in.

Shortly before her wake, my friend/mentor/father-figure Dan and I went back to her home and walked around. We spoke of how quirky Barb was, how funny she tried to be at times, how acerbic was her demeanor. At last we noted how she surrounded herself with things she loved, with little reminders that even though she was grossly mistreated in her life, she still desperately clung to the idea that love is all that matters. At least, that’s what we wanted to conclude. Perhaps that was just our sentimentality creeping in, but that’s how we decided we were going to remember her by.

***

All this to say…if you have any special connections to anyone in your life – cherish them. If you don’t, cultivate them. Dispense with subterfuge. Love with all your heart and mind and soul – even your friends. Do you risk rejection? Absolutely. Is it worth the risk? Unequivocally. I would not live my life any other way.

***
An addendum

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This entry was posted in my stories, On friendship, paying it forward. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Remembering Barb

  1. Papa T says:

    Amen.

  2. Jennaviere says:

    I am woefully without clever comment tonight, but I wanted you to know I really liked this.

  3. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Jennaviere – thank you. Sometimes clever comment is not necessary, just knowing it touched you in some way is enough!

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