I had a long time friendship with Barbara Worful. She exited my life just recently, just as she would have wanted. She didn’t tell me she was leaving or even that her health status had changed.
No good byes. No shows of emotion. No advice to give or take. No forwarding address.
Whoever wrote her obituary summed up her life well. It would not surprise me at all to discover Barbara wrote it in advance. (Link at the end of this post)
While I had no opportunity to get her final thoughts on life, I have an abundance of memories. And in fact, Barbara would probably tell me there is no such thing as “final thoughts.”
I met Barbara in 1979 at the VA Medical Center where we both worked. She was the social worker and I was the Nurse Manager assigned to the newly being formed hospice unit.
We instantly became friends, not because we were alike, but because we both shared an ability to say what we thought … and to receive what the other had to say without being offended.
Barbara loved to dress well and was a bit concerned about my casual, baggy clothes, “frumpy” look. She tried for years to “dress” me, using every birthday and Christmas to give me gifts of clothes that I considered two sizes too small.
She always mandated that I try them on and told me how much she looked forward to seeing me wear them for our next outing. But even though she did not see them again, she never pushed it. She knew I was my own woman, but she never stopped trying.
Barbara was very concrete and yet very philosophical. She had been exposed to the formal church life, and she was repulsed by it.
She knew there was so much more to life than what was being crammed into limiting creeds or what she found to be narrow, judgmental views.
During the course of our friendship, my own spiritual journey changed markedly. When I would try to share my latest spiritual awakening, Barbara would roll her eyes and say, ‘You know I am not religious.” But she listened and tried not to make faces.
Barbara loved to walk … fast. Wherever we went in the early years, I had trouble keeping up with her. She told me, she loved the feel of the wind rushing past her body.
Once on a trip to Europe, she was walking rapidly down some stone steps and fell, injuring herself badly. The doctor even suggested she cancel the rest of the trip and go home.
She adamantly refused. Against all advice, she finished that trip, alternating between crutches and a cane. She was determined not to be defeated.
Barbara loved to travel. She was fearless. While I was a “cling to the side of the pool” type person, Barbara was all about exploring and seeing what else was out there.
Life was an adventure. She once told me, “If I died tomorrow, my only regret would be not seeing the places I have not seen yet.”
She took lots of pictures, put them in photograph albums, and treated us to stories about each place. It was our window on the world.
Christmas time was Barbara’s delight. She never lost the excitement and wonder of a child. We got together every year, had a meal and exchanged gifts.
Barbara decorated her house from top to bottom, often with fascinating ornaments from around the world.
She planned her menus in great detail, from appetizers to dessert and after dinner treats. Dressed in festive attire, she served everything with the flourish of a fine dining server.
While we struggled to find something that would delight Barbara, she never failed to find perfect and unique gifts for us.
She acknowledged she prepared all year for Christmas, and her stacks of catalogues proved it!
Not only did Barbara want to “dress me,” she was also bound and determined she was going to expand my tastes in food. I have been a very “selective” eater all my life. I never wanted anything beyond a few simple basics.
Barbara not only cooked, but she also made it her project to take my husband and me out to eat regularly. I both anticipated and dreaded seeing where we were going next.
When I turned up my nose, and she caught me just moving the food around on my plate, she would say, “Come on, Carolyn. Just three bites!” She said, “One bite won’t do it. You have to wade in a little further to get the full experience of anything in life.”
Barbara was single, meaning she never married one person. She said she had boy friends and got close to marriage a time or two, but just could not imagine being “tied down” with one person.
I asked her if she never felt lonely being alone. She said, “Oh I am never alone! I enjoy my own company and if I get tired of myself, I find someone I want to spend time with.”
Barbara had many friends, on all levels from casual to close. If you were her close friend, you were blessed. She was devoted, loyal and caring through all seasons.
In later years, Barbara had health challenges. She took on each one as a new adventure and was always positive.
Once when I saw her in the hospital after a serious surgery, I told her she looked good for someone who had just had surgery. She looked up through her grogginess and said, “Good. I’ll be a good looking corpse.”
Barbara fortunately lived to fight another day. She changed with each new challenge, finding new ways to have adventures. She dryly observed, “I liked my body so much better when it didn’t remind me it was there.”
I think now of the time Barbara and I attended a funeral service at the VA. The speaker gave an especially long eulogy, with dramatic repeating of the phrase, “So long, old friend.”
Barbara leaned over and whispered, “If I die first, don’t let anyone moan over me like that. Tell them I loved life, it was good and to get on with it themselves.”
Barbara, I had to say a little more than that. But you knew I would. And this time, I get the last word.
Godspeed on your next adventure. I’m betting it is better than any place you found on earth!