Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. ~ From a headstone in Ireland
Many anniversaries invoke warm, tender memories but for those who knew and loved Barbara Burke, this anniversary is anything but. Today is the first anniversary of her passing and although I knew this day was drawing near, I am in disbelief. I cannot accept that you are gone, my dear friend, even one year later. Sometimes my mind tricks me into believing that you are still sitting at your computer, creating vibrant works of art, all with your big toe. But there is no one there to count down the days until my visit, as we always did. Where are you now?
I walk along the beach and feel you in the warmth of the sun, the cool breeze on my skin, the power in the surf, the grace of the soaring birds overhead. I see glimpses of your essence in others and wonder, is that you? Are you trying to communicate with us? Or is this what I do to comfort myself?
Some of the most intimate times we shared is when I read to you. The book “Anam Cara” by John O’Donahue was one of your favorites and the discussions we had after always touched me deeply. It was beautiful; it was moving; it is so damn tough to finish without you here. I can’t seem to pick it up and move on from where we ended. How ironic it is that John O’Donahue, Irish poet, priest, and philosopher died suddenly at age 53, just as you. Both of your voices were quieted much too soon.
An excerpt from his book “Benedictus”, a book of blessings written shortly before his death, seems fitting at this time:
‘May there be some beautiful surprise
Waiting for you inside death
Something you never knew or felt,
Which with one simple touch
Absolves you of all loneliness and loss,
As you quicken within the embrace
For which your soul was eternally made.
‘May your heart be speechless
At the sight of the truth
Of all your belief had hoped,
Your heart breathless
In the light and lightness
Where each and every thing
Is at last its true self
Within that serene belonging
That dwells beside us
On the other side
Of what we see.’
You always loved flowers, particularly your morning glories, which always remind me of my mother. When you sensed your time was drawing near and you were struggling with knowing when to let go, you captured some of these beauties at the end of their season, hanging on a vine by a thread, and developed a Power Point presentation which became an analogy for your life, when to let go. How our hearts ached and the tears flowed when we watched this.
Your grace and beauty live on through your artwork, music, photos, letters to family and friends and the countless memories we hold so dear. The grief that you felt at your illness and impending death we too experience. We will come to the acceptance as you did, although not very soon I fear. You touched us all so deeply Barbara and for me, you will always be my anam cara, my soul friend.
12 thoughts on “A Painful First”
Lu, my heart aches for you and your loss. Beautiful post today to remember a beautiful friend.
Dearest Lu, I iknew this day was approaching, but didn’t know what to say to you. Barb was blessed to have a friend as you have been and forever will be. Wherever she is, she knows how much you love her. God bless you, now and always.
Thanks Joan. I am very blessed to have had her in my life.
So very sorry for your loss. I can see her beauty through your words and feelings of her. Your blog brings her memory alive.
Thanks Nina. She is a beautiful spirit and I am a better person for having known her.
I know you feel blessed beyond words to have had Barb in your life. You should know that your post is a reminder to us all, how blessed we are to have you in ours. Thinking about you always.
Sonya, You just can’t know how much your comment means to me. I love you and look forward to spending some time together this summer.
May peace and love surround at this difficult time. May you know how much you are loved and cherished. May you know that Barbara is close by…always and will continue to share your happy moments and gently wipe away your tears. May your tender heart heal and give birth to many wonderful memories. Love you.
Les, Thank you so much for your beautiful words. Barb was a gift to me and I will always cherish the years I had her in my life. Love you too.
I think the searching and finding of beauty, wondering if it’s the lost love’s way of reaching out to us, is. It may be a way of coping, but the fact that we are lucky, blessed enough to ever be in the light cast by that level of love, to immerse in that depth of comfort and friendship means that we are better able to see what beauty lies around us, and the subtle daily reminders of that ARE that person’s gift to us.
Anniversaries suck. Especially the first. It’s a foreboding day, a way of getting sucked back into that acute place of breathless pain. And the first, even second, are also a time when we are waking up from that dark, tired, hopeless sad and realizing, Shit, it’s all true. I really feel for you. Know that next year is easier than this one, and the one after that is easier yet. Birthdays and anniversaries still come with monotonous regularity but that sharp dagger pain will recede. Then its a quiet sadness, and eventually, even some smiles and gratitude at having been there and survived, and having had the grace to find ourselves in the presence of that person at all.
Beautiful tribute, Lu.
So beautifully written Ashea. Thanks for your touching thoughts. Hope all is well with you and look forward to seeing you this summer.