[Excerpted from Singing Meadow]
After ten joyous years at Singing Meadow, our sky fell in. Last summer we were shocked to learn that Barry had metastasized cancer. Most cruelly, his only apparent symptom was a tumour pressing on his upper spine, which swiftly lead to a creeping paralysis, much like that experienced by ALS sufferers.
Hastily our family was challenged to put together a plan which included having Barry home from hospital for November and December. Fumbling to work with our diminished life, it seemed that the only remaining thing we knew for sure was that only love could save us.
As more and more of him was taken away, Barry never failed in courage, reaching out whenever he could. Through this brief, agonizing journey, we felt utterly surrounded by love from family, friends, neighbours, the people of Westport, the superb big support team that came together to help make home care possible, and eventually, for his last week in Kingston General, the magnificent doctors, residents and nurses there.
When he contracted pneumonia, with cancer-compromised lungs and extensive paralysis, his big heart simply couldn’t defeat it. After a tough week, he slipped away easily into a stormy night. He begged me not to leave him, and it comforts me to say that I never did.
Since then I have been comforted by the messages from many who tell me that Barry’s life mattered, that he made a difference in their lives and that he will not be forgotten. For example:
“I can’t tell you how sorry I am for all of us—we’ve lost a great human being.”
“Please let Peri know that I am sorry for her loss … and that Barry lives in the hearts he touched through his magical nature outings.“
“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” ― William Arthur Ward.
“Barry inspired generations of students…. That is a life well lived and he lives on in their dreams and aspirations.” Mike Yee
Most of all I am heartened by the inspiration of our profound love for each other, which is everywhere here at Singing Meadow.
My task now, in the midst of unspeakable grief, my gift to my beloved life partner is to learn to turn away from the shadows. While I am still given the astonishing gift of life, I want to face into the sun. Barry, and the ravens, and the feathery pine trees would expect no less of me.