Monday, November 06, 2017


Too long ago today, I was in the shower. Rick, my husband knocked at the door.

"Babette is here." Why, I wondered, would the green grocer on the corner come to see me in the early evening.

I threw clothes on, wrapped my hair in a towel.

"Barbara est morte." Babette said.

She couldn't be. Rick had taken her lunch. We often shared our leftovers.

She had walked down the street just a short time before chatting with people she passed.

She had had a doctor's appointment. She had told him a joke, lowered her head and died.

Babette, who had keys to Barb's house, handed me her agenda that she had retrieved. Not speaking English she thought I would be better contacting her family, whom I knew well.

I knew what I had to do. Call Wendy her daughter. Rick cautioned me to make she wasn't driving.

The village was in shock. She was part of the gospel choir, a store owner selling English books, African art and clothes. Everyone knew her, loved her. There was a long write up in the local paper about the village's loss.

She and I had been neighbors in three places. First in Boston. We watched she and her then husband move in carrying boxes and boxes of books. I knew anyone with that many books, I wanted to know. Later we owned condos in the same building in another part of Boston.

She and her husband had been anthropology professors. We all became friends.

Barbara went to Africa to continue her research in Lobi music and culture. Her marriage didn't survive it but the friendships did.

Eventually we ended up in France with a short walk of each other.

It takes more than a blog, but an encyclopedia to describe our friendship. Her wisdom gave me the courage to be better than I thought I was capable of being. Often the wisdom was condensed into a few short sentences or less, causing clicks of realization.

Nothing about her was ordinary. She was a big woman, who with three children, decided to go to junior college which led her finally to her doctorate. More than anything she wanted to help the poor women of Africa and accomplished more than any human could expect, but fell short of her own goals.

Alain Martin, leader of the gospel choir, sang What a Wonderful World at the crowded memorial captured her spirit with his beautiful voice. People came from the US and other places in France. She did make my world wonderful.

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