Thursday, October 15, 2009

Full Circles

I met Barbara Robinette Moss at a reading by Jeannette Walls, the author of The Glass Castle. During the Q&A after the reading, Jeannette introduced Barb, who was sitting three rows ahead of me, also on the aisle. I loved Change Me into Zeus' Daughter and had gone to see Barb read in Minneapolis. After Jeannette's reading, I stepped up and spoke to Barb. We chatted for a moment, and I turned to go. "Wait," she called. "I'm moving to Kansas City in a couple months. Do you want to be my friend?"

That surprised me, but it surprised me even more two months later when she called and invited me to lunch. Fifteen minutes into our lunch, she was no longer a famous author, she was simply Barb, a funny, charming, brilliant woman who brought sunshine into every room she entered.

About three months before we met, Barb learned an illness for which she'd already had two major surgeries had returned. She faced the grim prognosis with quintessential Barb-ness. She simply didn't believe it. Instead, she pursued healing through Eastern medicine, nutritional healing, and spiritualism. She lived far beyond the doctor's expectations, a life filled with grace and courage and love and laughter.

Barbara danced. Lord, how that woman loved to scoot her boots. Very little made her happier than a dance floor and a cowboy who really knew how to two-step.

Poetry filled Barb. She had books of poetry in every room and thought no day was complete without reading from at least one.

Music followed her wherever she went. She played guitar and banjo and the iPod. (Technologically challenged, she needed help with the iPod at first. We picked one out together and I taught her to load music. She called the next day, crying, "I'll never be able to work this thing!" But she did.)

Jeannette Walls' new book, Half Broke Horses, was released two days before Barb's death. I stopped at B&N on the way home from the hospital and stayed up into the night to read the book before returning.

"PULL UP A CHAIR AND TELL ME EVERYTHING!" she scrawled in all caps. (She couldn't speak because she was on a ventilator then.)

I told her what I thought of the book. We talked about the story and about the cover, which refers to the book as a "true life novel." We talked about how to write true stories and how to make words sing and dance. Her last note to me was, "BRING IT TOMORROW. READ TO ME!"

We never talked again. By the time I got back the next day, Barb was unconscious, her life slipping away. Our friendship started and ended with Jeannette Walls. It was, in all ways, a very full circle.


Carrie Wilson Link said...

Beautiful, Jerri, and so, so sad. I am so sorry for your huge loss.

BONNIE K said...

Wow. How very sad.

Deb Shucka said...

I love that she knew without knowing you what a brilliant and wonderful friend you'd be. This is a beautiful tribute to her, to you and to your once-in-a-lifetime friendship. Love. said...

Wow. Jerri. I love her. What a beautiful tribute to a beatuiful friend.

I love that she just picked you out, "Will you be my friend?" Brilliant, she was.

Anonymous said...

And you read to her anyway, didn't you?

Thank you for sharing your beautiful friendship.

I'm so sorry for your loss.

-M in Vancouver, WA

Amber said...



Go Mama said...

Oh Jerri, I know she was a great friend. What a lovely tribute you wrote. Sending you love....

luckyzmom said...

I'm afraid I'm not able to be as strong as you.

Nancy said...

This is painfully beautiful..."how to make words sing and dance." You do it so well.