Alan Sloan

Eulogy for Barbara Although I had known Barbara as the wife of my dearest friend, Denny, for many years, it wasn’t until after Denny died that Barbara and I established our own close friendship. I often visited Barbara at her Tupper Grove home, where she and Denny had lived for many years. I think we both found it comforting to talk, sharing stories about Denny and their life together. Barbara had loved Denny dearly and grieved his death. Initially, I was a little shy of Barbara. She appeared to have exceedingly high expectations of other people, and often voiced her disappointment in what people said or did or did not do. I was worried that it wouldn’t be long before I would end up as just another person who had let her down. But, happily, that didn’t happen. As I grew to know and understand Barbara better, I realized that her critical perspective was rooted in sensitivity and sharp intelligence. She had integrity, and was pained by any action that smacked of opportunism, social injustice or insensitivity. She suffered a great deal with the tendency to judge herself and others harshly, but the intention behind that aspect of her was not heartless. In fact, Barbara was big-hearted. She loved people who displayed openness, honesty, humour, bravery and humility. Beyond the spiky protective wall, Barbara was a truly warm, kind and engaging friend. She was genuinely interested in what I was doing, what challenges I was facing, and how I was facing them. She had an incredible memory for detail and would often ask me about something or someone that had slipped from my own memory. Barbara was well-read, and often recommended books for me to read, which I sometimes did. She had a rich inner-life, which she shared easily and generously with her friends. Her generosity also included philanthropy, giving considerable amounts of money to individuals whom were facing adversity, as well as organizations that embodied her principles. In the years that I knew Barbara, I had never seen her more happy than when she was working on the transcription of the recordings of Trungpa Rinpoche’s talks from the Vajradhatu Seminaries. Her literary skills and eye for detail coupled with her love for Rinpoche brought meaning to her life. She was truly sad when that project came to an end. As Barbara’s age and frailty impacted her mobility, she moved from her three-level home on Tupper Grove to a ground level apartment on Tower Road. Having been an avid gardener, she found it difficult to no longer have access to a garden. In its place, she watched the changing seasons through her patio doors, taking delight in the elegant beauty of a Japanese Maple just outside her terrace. Her life simplified, scaled down, to just a few pieces of art, a few photos of the Vidyadhara, and photos of Denny and Matthew. Her personal library also shrank as she began to prioritize what she wanted to read. When Barbara could no longer easily walk or stand, she moved to a room at Parkland, on the 2nd floor, for people requiring care. Bedridden, she spent most days looking out of her windows at the sky, listening to Leonard Cohen albums, and rereading a handful of books that she loved. Barbara’s passion for Leonard Cohen was vast and deep. Shortly before she died, she was reading his biography, appreciating his life and struggles and the art that grew out of insight and suffering. As her short-term memory faded, her long-term memory grew more vivid and immediate. One of her favourite stories was when she and George, her first husband, were vacationing in Greece and met a young Leonard Cohen there. This memory had great significance for her. My visits to Barbara every week or two generally followed the same sequence. Barbara would start by telling me what was wrong with her life at Parkland. My job was to listen. Once that was out of the way, Barbara would ask me about my life and listened closely to what I shared. She loved seeing photos of my family, my dog and my garden. Then, I would attempt to share a joke or two from the past, at which she always laughed heartily. I loved Barbara’s laughter. It was wide open and full. Her whole body shook when she laughed and her eye’s closed and teared up. I think her favourites were Jewish jokes, one’s that poked fun at guilt-tripping. For example, “How many Jewish grandmothers does it take to screw in a light bulb? None. It’s okay, I’ll sit in the dark. You go ahead, go have fun without me. I’ll be fine.” Whenever Barbara asked for my advice on some issue, and I would give it, she would follow with, “Yes, but…” telling me why my suggestion was not possible for her to follow. With a laugh, she called herself, “The Queen of Yes, But.” She really did have a sense of humour about herself. Barbara’s close friends eased her suffering at Parkland. Her love and appreciation for them was central to her well-being. Liz Roper, Deborah Luscomb, Collen Logan, Rita Armbruster, Shari Price, and Mark Szpakowski provided a circle of care for Barbara, helping to ease the long, lonely hours of being by herself. I think the thing that I will miss most about Barbara is her smile. She never failed to cheer me up because, inspite of her preoccupations and complaints, she was, actually, a beautiful, joyous human being. Yes, spiky on the outside, but truly loving on the inside. I miss her. Alan Sloan August 3, 2021