and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
December #3

Loss of friend makes this Christmas a little less merry
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, December 21, 2006

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year all your troubles will be out of sight. ...

Someday soon we all will be together
If the Fates allow,
Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow.

So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

That's the way I learned it as a teenager, and that's the way I still sing it, though most of the holiday world has moved on to a cheerier version:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light;
From now on our troubles will be out of sight. ...

Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow.

Hang a shining star
Upon the highest bough,
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

I love both the religious carols and the secular chestnuts roasting, bells jingling, and snowman "live as he could be"; along with anything with the word "joy" in it. But there have always been songs of longing, too, from Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" to Elvis' "Blue Christmas."

Christmas is like life. You can't have just the happy, candy-cane, "That's exactly what I wanted!" part; you have to find ways through the sad, salty-tear, coal-in-the-stocking segments.

There are delightful Christmases, and there are Christmases at the end of a year in which someone who usually shares your holiday has died.

My friend Pat Warnock (Republican, Marblehead) and I had always exchanged little gifts -- a tiny box of Sweet Sloops, a political humor book -- this time of year. But she died last week of various lung ailments related to her only bad habit, the one that kept her from being too good to be true.

I say this from the perspective of one who considered her feisty, partisan political attitude right and admirable. Some people of other persuasions disagreed; thankfully, she had more than enough character to earn their disapproval.

Some opponents became her friends; and her friends were legion. A compassionate conservative who disliked that defensive phrase, Pat was chicken soup when you were ill, sensible advice when you were uncertain, and time and boundless energy when you needed help with just about anything.

She was an advocate for the elderly long before she became a senior citizen herself. When I met her, soon after moving to Marblehead in the mid-'70s, she was battling the Marblehead selectmen over her appointment to the Council on Aging. It wasn't the last time she would argue with that board, the most recent time being on behalf of another fiscal conservative, Jack Buba, who didn't get reappointed, either, in his case to the Finance Committee.

A committed, traditional Republican, Pat tolerated a libertarian, independent friend, and was always willing to tell me when I was wrong about an issue. But we didn't disagree about much.

She was part of the small group of Marblehead activists who collected signatures for Proposition 2 in 1979, and later fought overrides on behalf of people on fixed incomes. Pat's customary seat at Town Meeting was down front on the right. We usually took turns going to the microphone and losing.

During the '80s, she became the secretary on Citizens for Limited Taxation's board of directors, working on various petitions for tax cuts, term limits and legislative rules reform. In her role as chairman of the Marblehead Republican Town Committee, she also collected signatures for numerous candidates and issues, including the Willie Horton-inspired petition to outlaw furloughs for convicted murderers. In her free nonpartisan time, she helped Chip Ford repeal the mandatory seat-belt law. Personal responsibility, like raindrops on roses, was one of her favorite things.

We talked often, so when she called one morning this fall, I told her I'd get back to her when I finished a news release I was writing. When I returned the call, she told me she had lung cancer and only a few months to live.

I thought she should have told me that immediately, but she said it was more important to get out some political message. She informed me that she was going to ease away from politics and properly prepare for death.

Thanksgiving weekend, I received an e-mail asking if I knew how to reach Joe Kennedy's Citizens Energy; she wanted to complain about its pro-Chavez Venezuela ad.

I e-mailed back, "Good job, easing yourself away from politics, Pat. Shouldn't you be listening to Christmas carols or something?"

She responded, "I keep trying, Barbara, but people keep doing such stupid or aggravating things!!"

I said, "Well, fine, let's both pledge not to die until they stop! Immortality is Us."

Pat later responded that she had found an e-mail address for Citizens Energy and would "drop them a note." Two days later, she forwarded advice on how to get the "federal excise tax refund credit."

She promised not to die until my broken foot improved enough that I could get to her funeral. Last Friday, I had my cast removed, on Saturday she was gone. Pat always kept her promises.

Someday soon we all will be together ... until then we'll have to muddle through somehow.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas, too.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence [RI] Journal and other newspapers.