Darn, I knew this was
going to happen someday.
If you’re reading this,
“Second star to the right
and on ‘til morning” — now I never have to grow up, much less grow
I was in the autumn of my
life. I figure that the years until I became a mother were spring,
then there was summer til about 50, then autumn til death, which may
be a lot like winter: you hibernate until the next spring comes
around and you get another chance to enjoy the seasons. Unless
autumn gets extended because you don’t die when you really ought to,
and hang around deteriorating because the government thinks you
don’t have a right to die when you want.
If, despite my living will
and various plans to control my dying, I end up hanging around, then
I curse the government for the last time, though certainly not the
When I was a teenager I
saw my favorite play on television for the first time. In the final
act of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” Emily has died, but gets to go
back for one last look around. When she returns to the cemetery
where other souls are waiting “for something they know is coming,”
she cries “Oh earth, you’re too wonderful for anyone to realize
you,” then asks the Stage Manager, “Do any human beings ever realize
life as they live it, every, every minute?”
Anderson in a photo taken Sept. 17, 1981
He replies that some do,
the saints and poets, maybe.
I made up my mind right
then and there to be a poet (no, not a saint; don’t be silly). I did
write some poetry. However, that’s not what he meant.
Poets are people who pay
attention. I think I did pretty much realize life as I lived it. And
certainly I lived it as I wanted, at least til recently, when I wish
I had more time to participate in local events.
Not that I made a lot of
decisions: I rarely opened doors, preferring to enjoy what I was
doing until I wandered through a door that happened to be ajar into
a new adventure. But I did know from childhood that I wanted to
write, fall in love, have a son named Lance, and travel in Europe.
I actually married two
wonderful men who made excellent ex-husbands, had a good long-term
relationship with my friend John, and spent an intriguing autumn
with my partner Chip Ford. My son Lance and his wife Mary gave me
twin grandchildren Aidan and Maya — the frosting on the cake of my
life. And I lived in Greece and traveled throughout Europe; also
crossed the United States several times and visited Mexico, Canada
Along with a recent
wonderful family visit to my hometown area in western Pennsylvania,
these were my favorite vacation places: Mexico, Delphi, Hawaii,
Paris, Mesa Verde, the ancestral farm in Croatia, Death Valley and
Safari West with my family, fjords in Ireland and Norway, the Great
Barrier Reef, and the mountain in Switzerland that I climbed alone
one day and found God. If you’re interested, God is a glacier which
melts into an icy stream that flows to the sea, nourishing all that
it touches and eventually recycling itself into snow falling on a
glacier. Well, maybe you had to have been there.
Having promised Peter Pan
that I wouldn’t grow up, I could never answer the question “what do
you want to be when...,” but volunteer activism became a lifetime
career as a taxpayer advocate, which let me hang out with the lost
boys and fight pirates.
Spent quality time with my
cats and in my Marblehead garden; enjoyed reading, television and
music, good conversation with family and friends, food and ice cream
sodas. Enjoyed almost everything, come to think of it; mother said
this was genetic, a gift from my father.
After all that, it would
seem ungrateful to complain about having to die, wouldn’t it.
Must mention the excellent
care I received, (as I write this), from Dr. Dennis O’Connor, my
chiropractor; the Partners System, especially the North Shore Cancer
Center, and must tell you to check out the Urgent Care Center in
Danvers, go online and make a same-day appointment for a sudden
problem (not emergency). We on the North Shore are fortunate not to
have to drive into Boston!
Thank you, The Salem News
and Eagle-Tribune, for running my columns, and to those who read
There will be no memorial
service but if anyone wants to honor my memory, please remind Gov.
Charlie Baker that when he was running for office, he promised my
friend Gerald Amirault and his family that getting Gerald off parole
and his ankle bracelet would be a first order of business. So far he
has broken his promise, and keeping it is my dying wish.
Barbara Anderson of
Marblehead was a weekly columnist for the Salem News and
Eagle-Tribune Publishing Company.
Barbara also added her final poem to her "self-obituary,"
published at the papers' discretion:
by Barbara Anderson
Souls drift free above the moon,
beyond the galaxy,
outside the universe;
Waiting without desire, within contentment, on the milk carton of
God's potential people.
With no mem'ry of last lives,
lost bodies, lust for life,
lest they feel regret, which is useless in this limbo-place:
sure we make mistakes, as we learn to earn eternal joy;
There's always another chance.
Should one sense a longing, somewhere, for a child
A memory of life on earth can tickle a soul's feet,
causing it to laugh while kicking, "leave me alone, it's lovely
I'm not ready to return."
Yet without eyes, it sees a smile,
without ears, it hears a song,
without nose and tongue, it knows vanilla;
And the soul quivers,
Perhaps I'll drift into the universe,
inside the galaxy
though staying above the moon
until a concept turns conception; man and woman, eager aides.
Wait to see if it's for me,
watch it grow, let it be born.
Then I'll choose to sink to earth,
enter its eyes, ears, nose, mouth, heart,
become its soul;
Or maybe I'll wait and catch the next one.