On this, the 2nd anniversary of the day we lost my sister Barb to suicide, I feel like I have a whole lot on my heart to express.
First, I hope the folks reading this who know me and who are opposed to my outspoken progressive nature might realize that my beliefs are not simply liberal, independent or even democratic, yet HUMANITARIAN. And there’s a whole lot of life experience that shaped those beliefs. I’ve definitely chosen the road less traveled in this life and plan to keep doing so.
Barb was such a major influence in and on my life. She was the first born of us 4 girls and 10 years older than I, the youngest. My Mom went through a difficult time with my Dad when I was young so, Barb stepped in as a motherly figure until my late teen years, when I feel like our relationship transformed into a best friendship. She was the one who told me over and over to “just get a dog!” when I called her in a heartbroken state over relationship difficulties or endings. Unfortunately, she never had the opportunity to meet Mona. I know she would have fallen in love with her. Mona won’t be with me forever, but having her has irrevocably changed my life and I will never live without canine love in my life again! Thanks to my sis for the push to rely on the love of an unconditional vs. us flawed humans!
Barb taught me about Spirituality, about trusting my instincts, about determining right from wrong. She taught me how to respect differences of opinion and to engage in intelligent conversation. She also taught me to stand by my morals and ethics and to not take any shit from anyone! She introduced me to the wonderful city of San Francisco where I lived for 18 years after she, her husband and boys, much to her eternal discontent, left it and moved back to NY. I feel so fortunate to have lived in a place where all people were treated with respect no matter their race, creed, color or sexuality. Gratitude is forever etched in my heart and mind for the period of time I was able to enjoy a bohemian life in what I still believe is the most beautiful city in this country, if not the world. There’s good reason behind people proclaiming to have left their heart there. I certainly did.
In 2010, I left San Francisco for many reasons, but mainly because I was planning to get married and move to Europe to be with my long time partner. That relationship fell apart and so did I right along with it. My Spirit was crushed for multiple reasons and being back in Western NY after all those years away, I fell into a deep depression realizing that I was in a place where even though I was rooted/reared for the first 18 and formative years of my life, it felt completely foreign to me. I heard the word “nigger” uttered by an ex-boyfriend and cringed. I heard derogatory remarks about immigrants and gays all the time. I realized quickly that this wasn’t a place I fit in any longer. AT ALL… My life and beliefs had become anything but conservative and DEFINITELY in no way, shape or form racist or feeling as though us pasty whites are or have ever been superior to anyone else!!! Living in major cities like Brooklyn, San Francisco and Oakland for decades will do that to you as diversity abounds and different cultures and colors of skin are cherished, not abhorred. Also, I feel honored and fortunate to have spent ample time with and in Native American ceremonies. It was with the only original inhabitants of our country that I learned how much we MUST have immense gratitude for and cherish and respect our mother earth for she sustains ALL life! Without her health, we are simply going to perish.
My favorite sister and I were estranged for the last year of her life for a few reasons, my addictions, her discontent with how I was living (or dying) but basically because her drug addiction had taken such a toll that the person I knew and loved all those years was barely recognizable, a mere shadow of the extremely bright light she used to be. And even though she had attempted suicide once before and lived to be honest with her doctors, they still kept giving her opioids and benzodiazepines like they were candy. Honestly, Barb didn’t take her own life because she was depressed. She was one the most intelligent, funny and upbeat persons I have ever known. The drugs stole her optimism. They stole her energy. She was in pain. Most importantly, she felt like she had accomplished what her “why” was in her life by raising her two sons and seeing them both partnered and happy. It simply was… in her eyes… her time to go… Understanding this all doesn’t take away the pain of missing her every single day, but I do believe she stayed as long as she could considering the condition she was in. It took a lot of courage to do what she did. Unfortunately, it left all of us behind in a lot of pain. Matter not the reasoning behind it, the survivors of suicide are always devastated and damaged.
Lastly, I have Barb to thank for my adventurous travel spirit and the ability to just pick up and go. The first time I was leaving the country on a solo adventure from my then home in Brooklyn in 1988 with just a backpack and a ticket to Switzerland where I knew no one, but had planned to travel by train to the then Yugoslavia (now Croatia) to meet my father’s family to find out more about him and our homeland, I will never forget my phone conversation with Barb the night before. I kept telling her I just couldn’t do it, that I was scared to death to get on a plane and go where I knew no one and had no definite plans. She basically said “(“A” = short for Aunt) if you don’t get on that plane, I am going to come down there and drag your ass on it!” And so I did. And so I had the first of many, many, amazing adventures. And so I realized that the USA was not the center of the Universe. We are but a speck of dust in a big wide world of interesting diverse people, cultures and places. Travel has been the best education of my life, hence my addiction to it.
As much as I will never regret being near my parents during the last years of their lives and present when they passed, I am definitely ready to go back to the left/West where I feel like I am in good company and surrounded by folks with common PROGRESSIVE beliefs about the importance of diversity and the well being of the planet and it’s inhabitants. If I shall be referred to further as the “radical left,” so be it! I am proud to be a humanitarian and a bohemian with much respect for and thanks to my sister Barb’s influence.
My wish for you Sis is that you are having lots of deep belly laughs wherever you are… maybe hanging with George Carlin? Dad? Mom? Somehow, I know you’re close by. Just know I plan to live this next segment of my life to the very fullest with you in mind and heart. And definitely NEVER EVER again will I live without a dog! ~Namasté “B” #BarbaraRuof