Part 11 The Long Goodbye

[link to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10]

There’s no easy way to face the untimely death of a loved one.

Barbara’s existence became somewhat pathetic towards the end, and for the most part she maintained a façade that projected “nothing is wrong.” Yet one time she did let her defenses down, and revealed her inner torment. “I don’t want to die!” she cried, through sobs and tears. All I could do was put my arm around her.

I felt like I witnessed Barbara’s departure in super slo-mo, as the disease slowly ate away at her brain, and robbed her of her faculties, one by one. While the agony was beyond words, there were memorable moments that still bring a smile. A silver-lining to the experience was that it persuaded me of the immortality of the soul.

(Will not try to explain it here…just saying.)

Conversation was virtually non-existent at this point, and reading for Barbara unthinkable. But one day I had a notion to look for a book at Barnes & Noble, and asked her if she wanted to come with me…as if she had a choice. Cheerfully she agreed, and rode along. We got separated in the store, and I never found what I was looking for, but when I relocated her, she held a paper-back in her hands, with a very beautiful woman, with big-hair and knowing-eyes, looking out from the cover.

“She’s pretty,” Barbara managed to say, gazing dreamily at the picture.

I agreed, then read the title: Communicating with the Dead, by renowned psychic so-and-so.

“Do you want me to buy it?” I asked, startled.

“Yeah,” she said thoughtfully. I took it, paid for it, and we never said another word about it, but it was as if she had handed me her card and said, “I can’t talk now. Call me later.” I took it home, put it on the shelf, and made a mental note to read it sometime after she passed.

Using the stove was the only big no-no around the house. More than once, she had put a pot or frying pan on the stove, intending to cook something, only to walk away and never return. The pans would get red-hot and smoke. The kids and I somehow managed to drum-it-into-her not to use the stove unsupervised. She could cook if she had help, but not alone.

One Saturday morning, breakfast was leisurely and one of the kids asked me if they could have marshmallows for breakfast. It’s well known that marshmallows do not a healthy meal make, but comes a time you have to let the little things slide, so I agreed, although I ate something else. First Amber, then Lyle, helped themselves to the marshmallow-bag and chowed down on the Breakfast of Campers. Eventually, Barbara came into the kitchen, and the bag was passed to her. She picked out a marshmallow, looked at it thoughtfully, then asked timidly:

“Is it okay to fry a marshmallow?”

I burst out laughing at the innocence of the question. Of course it was okay. Traditionally, they’re roasted, but you can cook them any way you want. Martha Stewart recently did a segment on preparing chicken-fried marshmallow, a variation of deep-fried marshmallow, popular in the South. But not understanding my laughter, Barbara lost interest in frying the marshmallow. She ate hers raw, like the kids.

At the time, I worked out-of-the-house, but had to go to customer sites two or three times a week. When I did, I would hire a care-giver from an agency to sit with her. One care-giver Barbara particularly liked, and we would request her when available. One time with her favorite there, I came back to a do not try this at home situation. Barbara showed me a joint they had rolled out of my stash, but that they couldn’t keep lit when they went to smoke it. It turns out, they had found a bag of ground-up hemp-seed, not pot! I had a good laugh. Guess neither one of them had very good eye-sight or noses, and they were trying to smoke pure seed…which will not stay lit.

In late May of 1996, we were having lunch at a favorite bagel shop nearby. She hardly touched hers. “Are you not hungry?” I asked. “I’m tired,” she replied. When we got home, I helped her to bed. She never got back up on her own.

Soon, school was out, and I was not looking forward to the long, hot summer. The kids had not had much of a “life” lately, as most “family-life” revolved around taking care of Mom, in one way or another. So for Flag Day, June 14, I arranged a summer “outing;” something fun to do. Had a friend drive me and the kids to Sedona to play at slide-rock. Barbara’s favorite care-giver was not available, so another gal stayed with her while we were out. We frolicked in the water for quite a while, all four of us going down the slide multiple times. About mid-afternoon, the sky clouded up and it began to rain. We decided it was time to leave. We grabbed something to eat in town, then drove home. The sun came out.

When we got home, the care-giver’s car was not in front, and I knew something was up. When we got inside, all there was a note: So sorry…Barbara’s at JC Lincoln. We drove there and found our way to the morgue. I think Amber and Lyle were too shattered to look at her much, but I drank in one long, last look, and was amazed. Frozen into her face was the most peaceful look I had ever seen. Lying down while looking up, she saw angels coming down stairs. I could see by her expression that that was the last thing she saw in life: angels descending to get her. And she was so relieved; she was so glad to see them.

We drove home slowly, the silence deafening. Each of us alone in our sadness. I didn’t dare try to comfort Amber or Lyle with words. I turned on the radio. Counting Blue Cars came on. It was the first time I’d heard it:

Must of been mid-afternoon
I could tell by how far the child’s shadow stretched out
And he walked with a purpose, in his sneakers, down the street
He had many questions, like children often do                                He said 


Tell me all your thoughts on God
And tell me am I very far?

Must of been late afternoon
As on our way the sun broke free of the clouds
We count only blue cars, skip the cracks, in the street
And ask many questions like children often do                                We said


Tell me all your thoughts on God
‘Cause I would really like to meet her
And ask her why we’re who we are
Tell me all your thoughts on God
‘Cause I am on my way to see her
So tell me am I very far?
Am I very far now?

So many tears poured down my cheeks, I don’t know how I could see to find my way home.

Barbara Bradley Wilson

Barbara Bradley Wilson


[link to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10]