I open this morning's newspaper and see it: the obituary of a girl younger than I. Dead after a long battle with multiple sclerosis.
All of medical science preaches that mutiple sclerosis does not kill us. Right? We may become disabled because of complications that are directly a result of MS, but our disease is not a killer.
But, there is is...Barbara dead at 55.
I realize with an increasing horror that I knew her. She was the bubbly greeter at the area MS Self-Help/Support group meetings that my mother I attend when I was initially diagnosed. Barbara, obviously younger than I, a mother of small children at the time, was on fire with enthusiasm. I really do not believe she was denial; she simply wanted to know more and she needed to share with others newly diagnosed. But, Barbara had had time to partially accept her destiny and wanted t present a positive front.
As a newborn MS Warrior, her urgent need to reassure and envelope me into the fold was over whelming to the point that I knew I unintentionally pushed her away. She scared me.
She also intrigued me. How could a person with this horrible disease be so upbeat? Why did she want me to be upbeat as well? Couldn't she see that I was frightened beyond words? No, I didn't want to get together for coffee, but thanks for asking. Thank you, but I really do not think I can do a play date with our children (mine was only six months old!) any time soon. (I couldn't even hold my son without fear of dropping him.)
As I attempted to emulate Barbara's welcoming spirit, I silently screamed for her to shut up, go away, leave me alone. At that time I did not understand her cries of and for friendship. She needed me as much, if not more, than I needed her.
Barbara was the youngest member of this odd assortment of Warriors. Chronologically she had difficulty relating to Tina in the wheelchair, Roger with his double-fisted canes, and blind Tom in the corner. She was still walking unassisted and exuberant in her quest to remain whole for her babies. She had taken it upon herself to be the MS welcome wagon for the less mobile facilitator of the group. Because she needed to be needed. She needed to be useful. Barbara needed to be whole again.
I get it now.
That very individual whose spirit initially frighten me away from that group was setting the stage for my own attitude toward this ridiculous disease. In my heart I know that was right and I was so, so very ungrateful at the time. I really believe that Barbara knew that and she forgave me.
Because, she got it, too. And it was her plan to live life to the very fullest, head on with a smile and a welcome. I wish I could let Barbara's family know that she touched me and I truly believe that the fear she ignited in me was the best medicine that any physician could prescribe.
I do not know the particulars of Barbara's life or what she has dealt with in the fifteen years since our first and only meeting. And I really want to believe that she did not die of MS, but rather because of symptoms of it. But, we are also told that we cannot die of a broken heart. And I do not believe that.
Rest in peace, Barbara. Heaven received a special
warrior this week.