This week’s guest is a dear, dear friend of mine, Barbara Rubin. We met years ago, while attending a workshop called The Experience. It was a time when both of us were searching for some meaning in our lives and found each other. While we live in different cities, our lives will forever be connected. This is her amazing letter….
I was always so touched you invited me right away to call you by your first name. I was raised to call folks my parents’ age and older “Mr.” or “Mrs.” so-and-so. You made me feel like we’d been friends for ages. Hard to believe it was really only a few weeks.
When the hospice director first introduced us I didn’t know what to expect. I knew I wanted to be a volunteer at the agency for a while, but I’d never worked with hospice patients before, and was pretty anxious. “How would we spend those couple of hours each week?” “What on earth would we talk about?” I didn’t know how to talk about dying.
You liked having me wheel you out to the pool so we could get out of your wife’s hair. You laughed so hard telling me how you knew you were getting on her nerves recently, especially on days your pain pills weren’t helping you very much anymore. You asked me about my master’s degree coursework and why it had meaning for me. You asked me how I got along with my parents and what kinds of arguments we had. You wanted my thoughts on the crazy local political scene. You got the most riled up about how South Florida drivers were the worst you’d ever seen in your 85 years. (I was too embarrassed to tell you I was among that “worst” demographic.) By watching you and listening to you, no one would ever have known how severe your cancer was.
One day during one of our poolside talks I remember getting up the nerve to ask you for some advice. “Sol, what can you share about how to truly live a meaningful life?” You paused and said, “Barbara, it’s this: just know in life if you can’t go under, go over.” That was your way of explaining never sweat the small stuff. I never heard it described so eloquently before.
It wasn’t my regular day to visit you, but I remember something told me to rush to the Hospice center to see you. I got there and thought you had to be at the pool since your bed was made up so nicely. As I turned to leave your room I wondered where all your family pictures had gone.
I cried uncontrollably when your nurse told me you had passed away a few hours earlier. I was happy your body was now at peace, but selfishly I was grieving the loss of our deep and unexpected friendship.
You changed my life, Sol. “If you can’t go under, go over” has remained a mantra of mine for these past 30 years. You taught me what resilience and perspective are all about. If it’s not working one way, try another. Laugh when you need a break from the pain. Be interested in others and how they see the world. Give advice freely when asked.
Oh, and sometimes you can call your elders by their first name, too.
During the past 9 months Barbara Rubin has begun her second career working behind the scenes in film and theatre production. She is currently Assistant to the Director for the all-teen cast, teen-directed zombie love story, called Zombie Crush-A Teenage Zomedy. Learn more at www.zombiecrushmovie.com and www.LinkedIn.com/in/BarbaraRubin