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Monday, May 5, 2014

Remembering Barb Burg

For days I've struggled to find the words to capture the immense feeling of loss at the death of my extraordinary sister-in-law, Barb. Barb has already been eulogized as amazing, awe-inspiring, a force of nature. Her accomplishments ~ only partially listed in her obituary ~ are staggering.
     But even as I listened to words of praise and read the list of her achievements (every word of which was true), even as I sat among the hundreds who came to honor Barb and support her family, my own grief remained tight-fisted inside me.The Barb I knew wore a different cloak.
     The Barb I knew was the growing-up-in-Woodstock Barb, the daughter-of-a-country-doctor Barb, the Barb who grew up the only girl among four brothers. The stories she shared sparkled with wit, but had little of the glitz and glamor of her professional life.
  Barb was the younger sister of my husband. When I first met her, I was intimidated by her success, by her self-confidence her bossiness. Bossy Barb was my private nickname for her as she told me where to sit at social gatherings, and what to eat at ritzy restaurants. Don't you think Barb is a touch bossy, I'd ask my husband. He'd shake his head. That's just Barb being Barb, he'd say.
     As the years went by, I came to appreciate and genuinely love Barb being Barb. Happily, I realized that Barb appreciated and loved me too. Oh, you're a writer, someone once said at a Westchester party. Did Barb help you get published? From behind me, I heard Barb's response, No, she did it all by herself! I couldn't help but hear the pride in her voice. Lot's of people say they are going to write a book, she said later, but you actually did it.
     Barb and I came from different ends of the personality spectrum, but we shared the same fulcrum. Both of us believed in an individual's power to overcome adversity. Both of us believed in following one's heart and surrounding ourselves with people who loved and supported us. Both of us believed in being truthful and finding joy in simple things. 
  Cancer challenges the belief that every sad story is a stepping stone to something better. But even in this saddest of stories, Barb was never  dying from cancer. From the initial moment of her diagnosis until her last days, Barb fought with courage and grace. She continued to work, to succeed, to accomplish, to love, and to live
  My grief is deep and personal and spills out in quiet recollections of  Woodstock stories and Westchester memories. But I owe it to Barb to continue on the path, to overcome my sadness, to follow my heart, to always be truthful, and to find joy in the simple things.
  Barb's dying has taught me ~ has taught all of us who love her ~ how to live. This may be her greatest achievement of all.