Do you have a friend so trustworthy that you can safely share anything with them? Fortunately for me, Barbara showed up in my life in 1968 and filled the bill.
When I met her, Barbara and her daughter worked in the church nursery caring for children so parents could attend worship. About three years later, she approached and said, “I would like to be friends with you.” We built a friendship that has lasted for forty-seven years.
Barbara appears in my memoir in 1999, late in the book.
“I couldn’t wait to tell Marvel and Barbara about the miracle.” Page 256 of A Long Awakening to Grace
It was somewhere around 2:30 a.m. and she was in Portland, Oregon facing similar circumstances to those I faced. I couldn’t wait until a decent hour to connect with her. She was grateful I called and wanted to hear every detail.
Even though she appears late in my book, Barbara was my constant companion throughout much of the story. She was the best kind of friend a person filled with shame about the circumstances in her life could hope for … a true angel. With her I didn’t need to hide. I could reveal all. Perhaps that is because she carried shame, too, so she understood.
A story that didn’t make it into the memoir illustrates the nature of Barbara’s friendship. She was open and willing to grow with me, a quality I highly value.
Our family had moved from Middletown to Dayton in late 1981, so Barbara and I met halfway for dinner regularly. We both held grievances against our husbands and part of our dinnertime conversation involved raking them over the coals.
Then, as I recount in the memoir chapter titled “Finding a Better Way,” in 1984 I entered a Living in Process training program where I learned about family roles and codependence and began working a twelve-step program of recovery for family members of alcoholics/addicts.
At one of our 1985 dinner meetings, Barbara began as usual going over her grievances. I squirmed for a bit and then said, “Barbara, I can’t do this anymore. I’ve learned that I’m a codependent and I’m going to twelve-step meetings to recover from it.”
She said, “Tell me more.”
After I explained to her what I had learned about myself and codependence, she said, “I’m a codependent, too. I’m going to start going to meetings, too.” Two years later she entered the Living in Process training.
Barbara learned not to harbor grievances. As passionate as she was in communicating the importance of our friendship, she could be equally as vehement about calling me on the carpet when I unintentionally did something that hurt her or when she thought I was wrong. I’m sure her husband can relate. Thankfully, her expressions of love far outweighed her confrontations. In fact, no one has shown their love for me as much as Barbara has.
Despite my discomfort at being confronted, I valued Barbara’s honesty and knowing where I stood with her. She cherished our friendship too much to cut me off or keep her distance. I could, but won’t in this post, write a whole essay about how much that means to me in a relationship. It is a major component of my ability to trust someone wholeheartedly, and I find it a rare attribute.
An extraordinary woman, Barbara obtained her bachelor’s degree after rearing two children. A major corporation in Middletown hired her to be their communications director. Unemployment was high in our country in 1982 and she developed a program in her corporation to help those who were laid off. Her program received national attention and she was invited to the White House to accept an award for it from President Reagan.
Later she obtained a master’s in Creation Spirituality and developed a practice as a Reiki practitioner. I could go on and on about her remarkable accomplishments.
Barbara and her husband moved to Portland, Oregon about three years ago. Their move and her illness have robbed us of much of what we enjoyed for many years. I miss her everyday.
She would have been so happy for me with the publication of A Long Awakening to Grace and it is a huge loss for me not to be able to celebrate this milestone with her. There will always be a special place in my heart for Barbara.