As I write Barbara Loveland (Gillians) is being laid to rest in the old Ardclach churchyard overlooking Findhorn river. A convoy of cars and buses left The Park earlier for this last goodbye. It is bright and sparkly this morning.
Late yesterday afternoon a stream of mourners glanced their way through the rain to Universal Hall for Barbara’s funeral/blessing service. Barbara lay in the centre of The Hall flanked by a semi-circle of friends and carers.
The hour long service, led by interfaith minister and community resident Angie Boulafrag, was deeply moving; respectful, joyful, profound, poetic and for me a good blend of reverence and lightness. In one word, love.
I could not take my eyes off a picture of Barbara that framed the proceedings. It is with this article and, in response to those who have asked for more details, I include a funeral address given by Gillian Paschkes-Bell. As you will read Gillian invited Barbara to live in her house on The Field.
“This piece is not an obituary of Barbara’s life as a whole. Those of you who knew her all have your own stories and memories. But I thought there would be people who would like to know a bit more about her last weeks.
Barbara came to stay with us — myself, Duncan, Alix and Joanna — for a bit of tender-loving- care to get over a viral infection, so we thought. She’d not been feeling at all well since the middle of December. After a few weeks she’d gone to the doctor, who’d given her antibiotics. But still her constant small, dry cough persisted, along with continual exhaustion. Which was worse, she wondered, the cough or the exhaustion? I think the exhaustion won.
When it became clear Barbara wasn’t getting better, she went back to the doctor, who commissioned a series of tests. On 18 March, around two months since she first came to stay, I took her to Raigmore Hospital where we heard that she had advanced lung cancer, which had also spread into other organs.
Barbara greeted the news with excitement. This was the ultimate challenge, she said, and she was going to get through it. She knew that the only way through would be a miracle and, until a few hours before her death, that was what she hoped for. But at the same time, she took the practical step of making a will.
Barbara needed a week to take in the news of her diagnosis before she felt able to share it with anyone outside the house which had now become her home. Her announcement to the Community came through the Rainbow Bridge on 25 March. The response was a showering of many signs of love, through flowers, messages, calls, cards, gifts and offers of help. Barbara’s sister, Marianne, came from Australia, and Cricket came from California, to look after her. While we were waiting for them to arrive, we held her in the house, with the help of dear friends in the Community, healers and the medics.
To accept being the focus of so much love was, consciously for Barbara, a major part of her process of inner healing. But she found that her efforts to receive visits and phone calls left her depleted. She wanted to engage, but did not have the physical strength to do so. Increasingly, she kept what remaining strength she had for her healing process. This meant that she refused many offers of visits and, consciously, she released anxiety over the possibility that her friends might take offence. I believe this attitude was part of a process of reclamation of power that culminated in the hours before her death and in fact was the healing Barbara needed on the spiritual and emotional planes.
My last two contacts with Barbara came in the form of a prayer and a question. The evening before she died Barbara asked me to pray with her, but it was she who led the prayer, giving thanks for the day that had passed, its blessings – and its challenges. The following morning she asked me, “What is my condition?”
I described her physical state.
“Then…. I’m fighting for my life?” she concluded.
I recognised that indeed she was still fighting.
“Yes,” I said.
“I had no idea,” Barbara replied.
It was an amazing response from one who was as weak as it is possible for a human being to be. Until then, Barbara had accepted the possibility of her death, but not its actuality. Having finally understood that she was dying, she then, for some reason, expected to pass away at 10 o’clock in the morning, but she lived until quarter to four in the afternoon, on Friday April 29th, dozing quite comfortably.
Judith Berry was sitting with Barbara when she died, holding her hand, and repeating over and over that she was held in love, had nothing to fear and could go towards the light. When she was ready, she took a little extra breath, and released it. Duncan was the only other person in the house and he came upstairs and also took Barbara’s hand, telling her goodbye and saying that he loved her. Barbara responded with a little upsurging movement. She slightly raised her head, twice. By the time Marianne came to her a few minutes later, she had gone”.