04 June 2010

Farewell Barbara. You Will Be Missed.

Just two weeks ago my dear Auntie Barbara from Liverpool passed away, succumbing to four inoperable brain tumors that had been found just weeks earlier. It was sudden, saddening, and not at all expected. I was asked to deliver the Eulogy and in memory of her, I've decided to post it here along with a few photos of Barbara. Here goes:

Good afternoon. I am Kyle Taylor. While I am officially Barbara’s second cousin twice removed, I – like so many of us here today – truly know that what constituted Barbara’s “family” was not bound by titles, norms, or rules. She was a supportive sister, a loving mother, a doting grandmother and, in my case, a fun auntie to every person in her life. We were all her family, and she ours. My grandparents are Ron and Joan Taylor, whom I believe most of you probably met once or twice. Unfortunately, they could not be here but my grandmother wanted me to share some of her fondest memories with you.

Although they lived six thousand miles apart, Barb and Joan were like sisters both physically and emotionally. When Joan would come to visit they would go for walks along the hiking trail behind Barb’s house and people would ask if they were twins. They both wore glasses, they were both rather petite, and they both shared a certain optimism and energy that was magnetic.

Barbara loved to visit Southern California and went over as often as she could. There was invariably a family barbecue, which gave so many family members an opportunity to really get to know Barbara. After a few glasses of wine, the stories of her adventurous past both traveling around the world and working as a barmaid (which was quite adventurous if you asked Barbara) would remind all of us just how fascinating and diverse a life Barbara led. On one hand she was a member of the Frank Sinatra Society. On the other hand, she loved, loved, loved, Wrestling and the World Wrestling Federation. Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, and her favorite, The British Bulldog. When I was talking to family and friends about Barbara, her cousin Brian reminisced about his fondest memory: “I’ll never forget,” he said, “watching TV in the living room and ‘God Save The Queen’ came on. She stood up right there in the living room and hummed along!” She was so very proud of her British heritage.

Barbara also loved Las Vegas and I fondly remember her telling me, with complete seriousness, that it may be “the most exciting place on Earth.” One of the hotels - The Treasure Island - was fronted by a massive body of water. Each evening there would be a battle on this lake between a British Ship and an American ship, supposedly depicting America’s War of Independence. Because Las Vegas is in America, The British ship invariably lost, of course, and vanished beneath the waves. Barbara would say everytime, “that’s just impossible. That would never happen. It’s a British ship. They don’t sink!” Immediately thereafter the British ship would reappear, the Captain still standing at attention on the deck. Barb would always applauded like crazy, other tourists eyeing her with confused looks on their faces.

Though she did really enjoy visiting America, her home, her life, her love was Britain. I think everyone who knew her was, at some point, amazed by the shear number of people she knew! When Joan visited they would always go shopping in Liverpool and you couldn’t walk five feet without running into someone she knew. “Oh hi there,” she’d shout while waving. After a brief chat you’d walk away and she would whisper, “that’s just so and so. We do bowls together,” or “we go for lunch on a Sunday” or “we travel together” or “goodness, I don’t remember how I know her!”

She wasn’t just a Brit, she was a Liverpool Lady. Her knowledge, love, and appreciation for the significance and importance of this city – her city – was remarkable. Every time I visited there would always be a Beatles tour on the agenda. Her favorite story to tell about me was – without question – the time I came to visit with several friends from University. We had been traveling non-stop for days and all squeezed into her tiny little car. “I was driving them around pointing out Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, and so on,” she’d say, already laughing at the story’s punch-line. “It was just so quiet in the car as I went along, I thought they must be deep in thought. Then I stopped at a red light and turned around to check. It wasn’t that they were deep in thought, they were just asleep,” she’d finish, chuckling wholeheartedly.

But that was Barbara – warm, loving, and so very generous. Staying with her was like being in a five star hotel. She was a fantastic cook, and every dinnertime would find you sat around the table with a full Sunday lunch laid before you. The silver was placed appropriately next to the plate, the glassware was sparkling, the plates had been warmed, and she would eat with a poise and grace of a English Baroness, ever concerned about whether you’d had enough and had enjoyed the meal.

Whatever the task, her instinct was to serve and to share, and to have fun while doing it. I think what took all of us by surprise was the suddenness by which she was taken from us. So many of us have stories that start “just a few months ago we were chatting” and “I just spoke to her and everything seemed fine.” I think these moments are where we can learn something from her passing just as we learned so much from her life.

Life is fragile, and unexpected, and often happens without fair warning. That means we must live each moment as Barbara did – to its fullest. I wonder whether any of us can think of a time when Barbara reservedly passed on something she genuinely wanted to do. I know I can’t, and I believe the best way we can honor her memory and celebrate her life is to remind ourselves everyday that because we don’t know what tomorrow may bring, we must live this moment without apology, without reservation, and without fear of what people might think if we applaud as the British Ship reemerges from the sea. This is how her memory will live on with each and every one of us, and this is how we can go forward not just mourning her loss, but being uplifted, motivated, and inspired by her truly brilliant life.