WILLIAMSTOWN — Thanks to my friend Mary, a column I wrote bridged the miles between a loved one and myself.
"You really should send this to Barbara," Mary said, giving me her copy of a column in which I had described my cousin Barbara's and my visits to an open-air market when we were growing up In New York.
I enclosed the column in a Christmas card I mailed to Barbara in New York. "I love the story," Barbara wrote in the Christmas card I received from her.
Barbara was carrying that column in her handbag when she was admitted to a hospital with kidney failure in the beginning of March.
God took Barbara to heaven before I had a chance to say "goodbye."
"I'm sorry I wasn't there ..." I said when speaking to Maureen, Barbara's first-born and my godchild.
"You were there," Maureen said. Then she explained how the column I had sent to Barbara affected her last lucid minutes with her six children, who had gathered at her bedside.
"Mom smiled as she talked about the story. She remembered the names of all the people and the fun you had together. We (my siblings and I) read the story, and had a wonderful conversation with Mom," Maureen said.
Barbara and I were like sisters, and I still find myself thinking "I have to call Barbie and tell her..."
Happy memories of Barbara give me some comfort. Now an Easter we enjoyed together stands out in my memory.
When I was a little girl looking long and hard at Easter baskets displayed in stores, I wished and wished. But I never found an Easter basket waiting for me when I woke up Easter morning.
I suppose Mother felt money was better spent on clothes to put on our backs than on sweets to stuff our stomachs, as she always bought my two sisters and me new outfits for Easter.
Barbara's paternal grandmother, Mrs. Reed, gave her an Easter basket every year.
All my grandparents were dead, and I envied Barbara having a grandmother to visit in the country, a grandmother to tell her tales of the long ago, a grandmother to bake her favorite double chocolate layer cake.
I was about 6 years old the Holy Thursday that Mother told me that Mrs. Reed had invited me to spend Easter with her family.
How excited I was as we rode to the place I only knew as "the country," Uncle Willie driving, Aunt Irene beside him, Barbara and I next to each other in the back seat and her brother Harold on the end. "Don't be teasing your sister," Aunt Irene cautioned Harold as we piled into the car.
Soon after we arrived at the Reeds, Barbara and I scampered to the back garden to play. Mrs. Reed came with us to "get a breath of fresh air." I admired the tulips and other flowers that carpeted the ground in color, and Mrs. Reed said, "I'll have Grandpa cut some for you to take home."
When the time came to eat dinner, Grandma Reed motioned Barbara to a chair at the table on which there was an Easter basket. Then she motioned me to the chair next to Barbara's, but I did not move.
She's made a mistake, I thought, that chair is meant for Harold — it has an Easter basket on it. "Go ahead, sit down," Grandma Reed said as she picked up the basket and handed it to me. "Happy Easter honey."
My joy was two-fold: My wish for an Easter basket had come true and I had been shown the kindness of a loving grandmother — something that never would have happened if Barbara had not asked her grandmother to invite me to her home for Easter.
Happy Easter in heaven, Barbie.
Phyllis McGuire writes from her home in Williamstown.