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May 27, 2009

Stop The Clocks Because Barbara Has Left The Building

I was gut-kicked in the heart May 26th at 2:21 p.m., slapped up side my spirit, and my eyes exploded with tears as the voice on the other end of the telephone line said, "Barbara has died." In that moment the clocks stopped and all of the mirrors went black to mark her flight from the planet. At 2:21p.m. May 26th the axis of the world tilted and I held on tightly so I wouldn't be lost in a vast and dark sadness.

I was busy getting ready to go to my Jazzercise class. The phone rang and I grabbed it as I continued to pull on my socks. I didn't recognize the voice that said "may I speak to Patricia?' I replied that I was her and he continued "this is Shaun and my brother Eric asked that I call and tell you that our mother, Barbara, died". Rarely am I at a loss for words, speechless and stunned simultaneously. But I was, and still am, as I write this impromptu posting. I stammered "what happened?" He responded "we don't know... it was a heart attack or stroke". Tears welled up in my eyes and poured into my heart. I repeated again "what happened?" as though I hadn't heard him the first time, followed by when is the funeral, where will it be, how is Eric? "I don't know, I don't know, I don't know, and he is okay" was his calm and dispassionate reply. I could hear, sense and feel his uneasiness as I fought to gain my composure. I hadn't seen or spoken to Shaun since his father Gary's funeral six or seven years ago. I remember telling him know how much I loved his mother and how much she meant to me, I had just talked to her she was so happy. I stopped myself to catch my breath and to pat my emotions in place. There was silence on the other end of the line. He said," I think she is going to be cremated and Grandmother might have a memorial or something." It wasn't what he said that saddened me, but how he said it that clued me that our call was done. I mumbled please call me and let me know as soon as you find out if and when there will be a service. He said he would and I thanked him, and before I could say anything else, the phone went dead. The only link I had to what would happen to one of my dearest and oldest friends was gone. I immediately called the number back but only a recorded message greeted me. The finality of the call symbolized for me in that moment that Barbara was gone. It seemed like for such a wonderful woman there should have been more fanfare, more weeping more, more, more. Barbara or Barbarella as I called her had left the planet.

Barbara and I met as young women/girls and mothers in Anchorage Alaska in 1978. We were kindred spirits shopping, partying and experimenting and experiencing all the dos and don'ts of life. There was nothing we wouldn't try and rarely did we try to talk one another out of our colored shenanigans. Throughout the years we grew up separated by various moves across the country. We reconnected thirteen years ago when I moved to Texas. The heartfelt love we shared that eluded time deepened even though we were totally different people on diverse paths. The wonderful thing about friendship I learned from Barbara is that judgment is only a word and it never interfered with our love for one another. I accepted her and treasured who she was in my life. She made it better and she gave me the opportunity to practice unconditional love. Over the years, especially after her husband Gary's death from brain cancer, Barbarella's life spiraled into depression and a grief that never lifted. During those years my home became her sanctuary. Ever major holiday she would show up at my door laden with gifts, delicious food, movies, flowers and anything else she could afford to bring and share. Her joy was giving to me and my joy was her generosity that taught me how to give more in my own life. In her brokenness she helped me to be whole. I suppose that is why I am so saddened by her death. Not that she is gone in the physical body, but that I could never reach that part of her soul that was so wounded that she didn't treat herself as well as she did me.

As I look back over the past three months my intuition alerted me that something was wrong. We had planned to share Valentine and Easter together as usual. She didn't show up and her phone was disconnected again. I wrote her a letter and a week later she called me from a phone booth and told me things were getting better and she would see me on her birthday. As May 9th grew closer I hadn't heard from her and still had no way to contact her. I decided to sent her birthday box filled with wonderful, delicious multiple goodies. I knew she would be surprised but I wanted her to know how very much she meant to me. I can still hear her voice as she giggled into the phone and thanked me over and over for thinking of her and for being her one and only friend. Her joy was my joy and I was so grateful I hadn't forgotten her birthday. She shared that her life was changing. She sounded better then she had since her rock Gary had died those many years before. We gossiped and laughed about a new (younger) guy she had met, her 26 pound weight loss, and how much better she was beginning to feel. I hadn't heard such joy from her in many years. We ended by repeating how much we loved one another and that we would see each other soon. When I hung up I shared with my husband how happy she sounded and how happy I was for her. All of the years of misery, self recriminations and abuse she had heaped on herself during the years after Gary's death seemed to have finally been let go. I thought about her all that day and smiled that she had finally seemed to take her life back.

I still don't know how my friend died and maybe I never will. I have to remind myself that it's not important. What is important is that she lived. Her spirit of generosity and unconditional love for me will forever be part of who I am. Her goodness and light live in me. That is the blessing I can wrap around myself when I think of her. Today, though, I am going back to my bed and I am going to lay down with my grief, but not before I say to you, nothing or no one is forever. Whoever you love, and wherever they are, take a moment and tell them how much you love them. It could be the last time.

Two Poems for Barbara:


by Margaret Shepard

When I finally hang these clothes of flesh to dry

When my tracks have faded in the sand

When my clear voice becomes a whisper then silent

When my warm touch has grown cold as ice

When the rhythm of my heart become a tireless echo

When my name has meant all that my heart has contained

And my laughter and tears blend into one as a hearty memory

You won't cry

You will only weep tears of joy

You will only weep at a life full of loving, laughter, fear, work and joy

You won't cry!!

Poem by Mary Frye

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you wake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there, I did not die!

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