Friendship is something I’ve always found difficult to achieve. Not that I cannot be a good friend, but that I have a hard time trusting others and letting others share my world. Having survived severe childhood trauma, I struggled with getting close to anyone. Then one evening I met Barbara June.
I had begun going to a twelve-step program for those who love alcoholics, and one evening we had a new member. She was articulate and brave, but I could tell she was in struggling. I invited her to go to a local pizza parlor after the meeting, and found I was right. She was feeling the need to die by suicide. After we talked for several hours we parted, and I was fearful she would not survive the night.
A few days later I received a phone call, it was Barbara June. She wanted to thank me for helping her that night in the pizza parlor and wanted to know if I would like to go shopping. I had no money, but I wanted to hang-out with Barb, so I said yes. It wasn’t long before we became close friends and confidantes.
Barb lived in a small-town half an hour from my home. This was in a decade before the popularity of cell phones, and she had no phone. So, she would go on top of a dam that was located near her apartment and use the pay phone to call me. She would dial my number and then lock the phone receiver in with her in her. We would talk for hours.
We began hanging with each other regularly every weekend spending most of our time just driving out in the country. We lived in an area which harbored a large Amish population and loved looking at their horses and talking about their simple lifestyle. One afternoon we noticed a plume of smoke in the distance and decided to go and see if we could find out what was burning.
As we drove along, we looked up at the smoke to navigate and soon found ourselves on a deeply rutted, dirt road. Suddenly we came upon a scene that shook both of us to our core. A corn field was on fire and was being whipped by the wind towards a large country home whose residents were fleeing as we drove up.
I was driving my old station wagon and it suddenly occurred to me that the flames were heading straight for us at a break-taking pace. I threw the car in reverse and whipped it around to rush away from the fire pushing the old car as hard as it would go. We had just managed to get away before the flames leaped the road caught the house on fire.
Barbara June and I had many adventures and cried many tears together in our twenty-seven-year friendship. However, in November of 2013 Barb called to tell me she had developed Leukemia from taking a medication she was prescribed to combat the regrowth of breast cancer.
I felt a deep sense of dread in my chest knowing that the survival rate for adults, unlike children, is very low. Barb entered a hospital for treatment in a distant city where I could not go and see her. However, I sent her a letter daily to give her encouragement. She fought for her life for many months and was finally allowed to return home in mid-2014.
Barbara June was a very private person, and although I knew Barb was still very ill, she neglected to tell me that she had been sent home to die. The hospital knew they had done all they could to help her. They had given her permission to return home because Barb insisted she needed to be with her beloved greyhounds and to sleep her final days in her own bed.
In March 2015 just when the spring flowers were making their way out of the chilly soil, I received the news that to this day haunts me. My best-friend had died alone in her sleep, just as she wanted.
My best-friend Barbara June was no more.
Barb’s memorial service was held in early summer with her close friends and co-workers in attendance. A violinist played lovely, lilting music as we spoke among ourselves of how much we had loved Barbara June and all the beauty she had brought into the world.
I didn’t cry that day, and I have not wept since her death. I find it very difficult to mourn with tears such a wonderful person who warmed the world with her caring. She had gone back to school to become a therapist, and left a legacy of joy behind her. Also, although the world is a colder place without her, Barb lives on in my soul.
Goodbye Barbara June. Goodbye my good friend.