Lobster with Barbara

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Lobster with Barbara

The first time I met Barbara Lorie, I was knee deep in mud and many years of someone else’s trash; meds, mattresses, bottles and cans.  I was cleaning up around the tar paper shack that would soon become my home of 20 years.

She took one look at me and told Lyle that I was a Princess.  So, we didn’t get along very well for awhile.

Barbara was a force to be reckoned with and she met Lyle and our roommate, Jenna at a Thomas Berry workshop.  Barbara lived in Pittsboro and was thinking of starting an intentional community.  There was talk of the intentional community being right where I was cleaning up the most nasty crap from the former owners.

I don’t know when I fell in love with her, but it was a slow build.  I wasn’t used to someone who spoke her mind and was so opinionated. I do know that when she spoke, people listened.  After we came home from the hospital with Zafer, she sent the word out in the community that this young couple needed food and the food kept coming.  Some people we had never met.  We finally had to say that we were capable of cooking and the lasagnas stopped coming.

Less than two years later, when Arlo surprised us and the delivery didn’t go that well, my uterus and other organs ruptured.  I was bedridden for weeks with a catheter and a newborn.  Zafer was not happy about the situation and Lyle was juggling keeping it all together plus building us a pond because it was so damn hot in the house.

Barbara came over every day and cared for me and Arlo.  She managed the guests and turned people away so I could rest.  She would have them drop their food and gifts and tell them to leave.  I have never felt so protected, even if I did want to see those people!  Barbara took me to the hospital for follow up procedures and would yell at the doctors and the nurses about the care I was getting.  They asked if she was my mother.  I said my mother would never speak like that!  Once again, I got excellent service.

Over the years, Barbara was a grandmother to the boys and girls, she taught Jessalyn to drive stick shift, she could keep up with Kaitlin, she certainly taught all the kids the alphabet of curse words.  Barbara and Uncle Mark were incredibly close and for her 80th birthday party Mark and I broke into her house and stole her photo albums and pictures off the walls to make a movie about her.  Doug and Yvonne kept her away for an entire day so we could scan everything.

Barbara would even go visit Lyle’s parents in Canada. The contrast was big.  But they all had a love and respect of one another.  Her intellect and political knowledge could not be beat.

One year she gave me a huge stack of papers to take to the beach.  It was her memoirs.  I thought there is no way I was going to read through them.  I couldn’t put it down.  Her memoirs were wild and a page turner.  Barbara has lived an incredible life of adventure, love and pain.

Another year, Barbara’s spirit was down.  Her body was not delivering.  She wanted to go.  One thing on her bucket list was to go to Mattamuskeet to see the migration one more time.  We made a date to go down and stay in a B&B.  Her stories can keep you spellbound for hours.  We dropped in on my friend, Alisa and met her family and husband Chris.  Alisa joined us the next day at the lake to see the birds and we learned about her hunch that her husband had ALS.  Well, Barbara said on the way home, we must get that family to Chatham County to help her and to see Chris out.  And that is what happened.  A very long story on it’s own.

When Zafer died, it was like she lost her own blood.  She is one of the few people that I could fall apart with.  I remember one day when the autopsy report was emailed to me and I had to read about the tag on Zafer’s beautiful toe.  I read about every part of his body externally and internally and I drove straight to Barbara’s and freaked the hell out on her.  She could handle it and she could listen fully.

Barbara would adamantly give advice.  After listening to my drama du jour, she would say:  Go check yourself into a mental institution right now.  And she would give me the number to call.  And she was always right.  I never did check in, but I should have.

She told me when my skirts were too short, when I hadn’t handled something well, when I was not taking care of myself, and she also gave me tons of praise.  She told me how I was changing the world with my work at Abundance.  She encouraged me and sometimes gave me that extra bit of courage to keep going.

One day Barbara called me so excited.  She had just read “Proof of Heaven; a neurosurgeon’s near death experience”.  She said I MUST read it right now.  In her 90 some years this really spoke to her and she knew that she would see Zafer soon and this was just a transition.  It made her so happy and therefore it made me so happy about her seeing Zafer on the other side.  We laughed about the two of them having lattes together as soon as she got there.  That phone call and the fact that this 90 year old believed this got me through some tough months of grieving.

As Barbara’s body started giving out, we would come up with foods that she wanted.  I wanted to be able to make her whatever she wanted.  The first exotic dish she asked for was duck.  It took me months to get a minute to bake her a duck and the night I scheduled it, Doug had to take her to the hospital.  I thought, shit…I have to get her this duck before she dies.  Well, she didn’t want just any duck, she wanted the Asian market duck where they have it precooked and cut it for you.  So, I went and got the second duck and we had a successful dinner party last fall.
I realized it wasn’t about her having the duck, she wanted me to have that crazy experience of the Asian market.

Standing rib roast was the next dish.  Tony was in town and I went and bought a 4 rib standing rib roast.  It was bigger than a fat baby.  She didn’t trust me with that, so she ended up cooking it and we had another amazing dinner party.

A few weeks ago as she weakened, I came by and she was sleeping.  She opened her eyes and told me my dress was too short.  I asked her what dish she wanted next and she said “lobster”.

It has been refreshing to talk bluntly with her about death and what she wants.  She built this community to see her out.  And we are.  Her legacy is Blue Heron and the sweet community that is giving her 24/7 care right now.  So many people are helping Doug and Yvonne:  Davo, Stacye, Elaine, Sally, Jean, Sue and the list goes on.  Barbara has vision and she created this.  She is a woman that knows what she wants.

I know that soon she’ll be somewhere really fun, being extravagant, with Zafer and Mark and all the other soul families.

And tonight let us eat duck, again.

About tamischwerin

I run a non-profit (Abundance NC) that builds community resilience including health of the earth, our bodies and our spirits. I also am active in creating an Eco-Industrial Park community in Pittsboro NC.

9 responses »

  1. Tami, this is absolutely beautiful. It perfectly captures the incredible woman we’re so blessed to know and call “friend”. From her prolific use of savory language to her adventures as a young woman and beyond. If only we could all live as honestly and as present as she has. Perhaps that lesson will be her greatest gift.

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  2. And here I thought I was the only one who had parents that Barbara went and visited! What a beautiful recollection of who Barbara has been to you and your family. Thank you Tami.

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  3. This is a “fabulous” tribute to a “fabulous” woman and friend. Brought tears to my eyes. I am far away right now and it’s difficult not being there as part of her care team and witnessing her move on. I so appreciate all the tributes and memories I’m reading from folks like you. Thank you Tami, so well said.

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  4. You were lucky she stumbled into your life. It was as it should be for you and her. Writing this while the tears are falling. There will be a family party in heaven. It was an honor to meet you. Lori

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  5. Hi Tami, from the West Coast, I thank you for this clear and vital account of your time with Barbara. If I were an eagle, I would have flown there by now to help you all as she rides out. You are right, the community of Blue Heron is her dream come true. I am very grateful for my times with Barbara, she was always most encouraging and generous with me in every way. I credit Barbara with awakening my awareness about white privilege and my complicitness in that – I attended NCCU because of talking with her. May you be filled with that joy of knowing she and your family over on the other side will of course be laughing it up and sending YOU joy from there. Much love to you, brave woman of the beautiful smile. Barbara Janeway

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