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Remembering Barbara Seranella

Generosity of spirit.

That's what comes through in the tributes to Barbara, in the online reminiscences and private memories, the accounts of how kind she was to newbies, how thoughtful to friends, how utterly charming to everyone.  She made each of us feel special in such a casual and matter-of-fact way that it seemed we might actually be special. 

Because Barbara was always straight.  When she talked about her reckless youth, her recovery, her illness, her publishing experiences, her triumphs and disappointments—there was never any doubt to her sincerity.  She called things as she saw them and her vision was clear.

She was gravely ill for a long time before her liver transplants, and the mystery world held its collective breath as we waited for reports from the hospital after what turned out to be not her transplant, but her first transplant, the one that didn't take.  It all sounded so hopeless and so terrifying, and then suddenly there was a second transplant and that one seemed to work, seem being the operative word here because it never really did the job we all were hoping it would.

It made her a little better for a little while, but it didn't make her well.

But it did give us the chance to see her again, to love her in public, to recognize her talents and once again experience the smile that could light up even the darkest room.  It's that smile I'm remembering now, when the room seems very dark indeed.

At the end of last year, she wrote an op-ed piece for the L.A. Times that recounted being "in the midst of a 'courageous battle,' the kind you read about in the obits once the battle is over (read: 'lost')."  She began by stating simply: "I want my health back," told the story of her physical travails, and concluded with an upbeat, "Bring on the new year." 

She hoped the new year would bring a third transplant, one that really would return her long-elusive health.  

The new year lasted exactly three weeks.

In a way, she got to eulogize herself, without being sloppy or maudlin.  She didn't talk about the awards and the recognition and the bestseller lists.  She talked about what she had learned to appreciate, about loving tools and fixing things, about surviving experiences that nobody ought to endure. 

And then she made an incredible statement: "So I am the lucky one.  Odd as this might sound, I wouldn't change a thing.  I earned my suffering and the wisdom attached."

This sets an impossible standard for the rest of us, of course.  And while she was right about a lot of things, I don't think she called that one quite correctly.

We were the lucky ones, for having the opportunity to know her.


All content © 2005-11 by Taffy Cannon.