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.