Barbara Wold has left us. Political activist, blogger, progressive thinker, and, the smartest woman I have ever known. Ever. Many of you will remember her as Barbwire here at Daily Kos. I will remember her as a dedicated, hard as nails, advocate of all things fair and logical. She was the little voice inside many heads; the party, game players, politicians and special interest groups. She did her best to keep them honest. I was lucky enough to become her friend. I loved her very much.
I met her through Daily Kos so I thought it only appropriate I say goodbye to her, here.
Before Barb left us, I asked Barb and MaryEllen if I could write about what they had gone through this past several months. Both of them agreed. I asked MaryEllen to write about how they met. She tells this part best.
When did Barb and I meet and how? We met in Methuen, Massachusetts at a labor day party. We had mutual friends, lovers of lovers. We met at the exact right time to begin our journey together. It was September 3, 1989. I had finished all my schooling and sat for the architectural exam. After years of hearing about this woman who was from New Mexico, who was trying to take back the girl friend of my best friend, I finally met Barb at the right time.
Barb always said she had a vision that she would meet a girlfriend in Boston. Somebody with a sailboat, gray hair and money. I had two of the three, eventually. She had lived there only for two weeks when we met. I said I would be happy to show her around. That was the beginning.
I have an image burned in my mind of Barb sitting on the floor with a pretty kitty named Martha. She was petting Martha kitty while we talked. I remember the talk was about spiritual matters. I liked her. I liked her vibe. I liked her gentleness and playfulness with the kitty. I liked her huge scars on her legs. I wanted to know more about her.
That was 23 years ago.
The Economics of Dealing with Cancer
Several months ago Barb was diagnosed with colon cancer. During visits to Barb and MaryEllen they spoke frankly about their life together and the difficult decisions that they would be facing in the immediate future. MaryEllen lost her job in late 2010 and hasn't been able to find anything since. This economy is hard on everyone. It is particularly cruel to those who are terminally ill. Barb and MaryEllen were no exception to the harshness that has become an American reality. I listened to both of them talk about the diagnosis and what paths to take. Barb and MaryEllen had to discuss the economics of cancer. How much would chemotherapy cost them? When would their insurance coverage run out? Could they afford to get the treatment needed for her horrible disease? How would MaryEllen actively look for jobs, travel for interviews and still care for Barb?
They handled these gut wrenching discussions with grace. They ultimately made their decisions. As a bystander to them, I was horrified that these discussions had to be had. I realized that if I were diagnosed with a life threatening illness I would be having the same discussions with my loved ones. Someone could have kicked me in the chest and it wouldn't have hurt as much as listening to them debate needed care.
The In Between
Barb decided to proceed with chemotherapy. I realized photographs of Barb and MaryEllen together were necessary. For many reasons. With camera in hand I photographed Barb smiling, kissing MaryEllen and being silly. I think she had fun being the center of a not-so-professional photo shoot. The photographs were beautiful. Their smiles. The way they looked at each other. Love.
Barb could talk about any subject. Our visits turned into wonderful discourses of incredible topics. The passion she carried in her soul would change her facial expressions as she spoke of things that excited her, delighted her or just plain old pissed her off.
During one visit she told me that she hated the table cloth on the table that sat next to her day bed. She wanted to look at something different. I told her I would bring her a table cloth. But things got in the way, I became distracted and I forgot to bring her the table cloth. A regret I will always have.
She tolerated her first round of chemotherapy well. Unfortunately, she needed emergency surgery for an obstruction. She required hospitalization. This is when chemotherapy stopped for Barb.
Barb got weaker. She could no longer use her right arm due to the pain. Despite the horrific pain, she could still move from her day bed to her table. On the table was her lamp, her glasses, her iPad, her crossword puzzles, little figurines that carried special meanings, and, her cigarettes. She spent time at that table. Reading. Writing what she could. Commenting on social networks posts. Looking at viral photographs.
I last saw Barb on Friday, the 16th. MaryEllen had mentioned they were craving some Clementines. I picked some up and went over. Barb was sitting at her table. She smiled up at me with her head in her hand. She looked at peace. I didn't stay long. I wish I would have told her, again, that I loved her. Out loud. In person. I think the last time I told her was via MaryEllen during a late night online chat. More regrets.
This past Sunday I missed a call from MaryEllen. I called her back and was told Barb had died.
MaryEllen had gone to her neighbor's house. She was gone not more than ten minutes. In that window, Barb left. Personally, I think she planned it that way. She left so that MaryEllen wouldn't think she could have stopped her. She left without MaryEllen having to see her body change as she left.
Barb left on her own terms. I am convinced of it. That was so like Barb.
I got to kiss her goodbye and tell her that I loved her before she was taken from her home. For that I am grateful.
On Unconditional Love
Barb and MaryEllen were partners in every sense of the word. They lived together, loved together and cared together. Their relationship could have been the model for all intimate relationships. MaryEllen is full of grace. She cared for her lover, her best friend and journey traveler as I've never witnessed before.
Barb's blue flannel shirt is hanging on the chair she sat in for so many years. That chair will never be filled again. By anyone.
Barb's written memories are here.
I will miss you, Barb Wold. So very much.