The story of Barbara.
During a recent trip to New York City, I stopped by my favorite jewelry shop at Chelsea Market, where one of the designers complimented me on the necklace I was wearing. I had taken it off so she could look at it, and she was admiring the detail on the delicate piece when she asked where I got it. That question prompted a beautiful memory of a celebratory graduation lunch with the person who gave the necklace to me: Barbara.
Barbara, whose life advice and anecdotes have often graced The Dairly Candy, has been a mentor, friend, and teacher since I was in grade school. As a kid, I struggled with reading comprehension and writing. Once a week, my parents had Barbara come over and work through grammar and reading exercises with me (fun aside: the home office we worked in has since been informally named the “Huntley Room,” a fact that she will have just been informed of upon reading this post). What was once a subject I detested became one of my favorites. I never met an English class I didn’t do well in throughout my years in school. Writing has always been a part of life and hopefully a part of my future as well. After I outgrew the weekly lessons with Barbara, she has continued to be a huge part of my most formative years through our constant e-mailing, graduation ceremonies (both high school and college), frequent lunches, (a drumming session too when I picked up one of her favorite hobbies for an afternoon!), and occasional letters.
After my most recent graduation, during lunch, Barbara gave me an antique hand-carved mother-of-pearl pendant she acquired from a Chinese gambling counter years before. With it was a message saying that she has, in a way, been “betting” on my successes and saving it to give to me at the perfect moment. And I’d be damned if I didn’t start weeping right then and there; it is the most thoughtful gift I have ever received. The very memory of its significance is touching in a way that still strikes me months after that I have decided to share the story here. The story of Barbara.
Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep
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 glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there; I did not die.
Now here’s a story: I was made aware of this poem through my good friend Barbara. Over a lush brunch spread at the Wayside Inn the past summer, between conversations on personal lives and, I don’t know, summer plans? My internship? The conversation somehow touched on ethics, from there, religion. Barbara told me she wasn’t exactly religious, but rather she was spiritual. She believed in non-harming—to self, to nature, and you see, there was actually a great poem her mother wrote in the latter’s younger years that reflects what Barbara was trying to say on that particular topic (I later begged her to send me the copy). If I remember correctly, the story went something like this: her mother penned her thoughts, motivated by a little friendly competition with a friend over who could write a better poem. Out came “My Cathedral,” and presuming that there was a fair judge of the contest etc. etc., Madelyn won.
The latest: dear old Dad turned a year older this weekend, opting for a quiet family lunch-dinner at an all-time favorite. And after a long week holed up in the office, I was excited to be able to spend the beautiful (cooler!) weekend outdoors, from an après-Sunday brunch stroll with a good friend around the gardens of America’s oldest inn—Longfellow’s Wayside— to strolling into some of Massachusetts’ blessedly historical neighborhoods for rich sweets and nostalgic treats.
"And when you explore, you get more imagination than you already had and when you get more imagination it makes you wanna go deeper in, so you can get more imagination and see beautifuller things. Like if it’s a path, it could be a path that leads you to a beach or something, and it could be beautiful."
"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid." Received a ‘Bon Voyage’ care package from a dear friend, Barbara, with necessities I hadn’t even thought to pack… i.e. Shout wipes? Band-Aids? She may or may not have foreseen my nonexistent luck with spills—RIP Macbook 1—and susceptibility to cuts and scrapes. And that’s what friends are for.